Bluegrass Today is authored by John Lawless and Brance Gillihan (detailed bios below). While maintaining no pretense about journalistic credentials, the authors’ many years of experience in, and intimate familiarity with the bluegrass music industry on multiple levels makes them well suited to manage and edit this site.
We will, as the opportunity arises, include content provided by persons other than the blog’s primary authors. These outside contributors will be ones we trust to provide reliable, verifiable content in a responsible way.
Guest Contributions will be published folks inside the industry have something of interest to share, but will not be regular authors in the same sense as John and Brance. We will also consider contributions from our readers. During times such as the IBMA World of Bluegrass, these outside contributors will be of great help in keeping up with all that happens that week.
Born and raised in Norfolk, VA, John Lawless now lives in Roanoke where he manages AcuTab Publications, a business dedicated to producing high quality instructional materials for serious students of bluegrass instruments. From it’s humble beginnings as a true “spare bedroom” endeavor AcuTab has since earned a reputation for publishing the very finest transcriptions books and DVD instructional presentations in the bluegrass field. Though AcuTab started by publishing tab books for banjo, they have since moved into books, videos and DVDs for guitar, mandolin and dobro as well.
John is personally featured in two banjo video/DVD releases from AcuTab and was “instrumental” in the production of Knee Deep In Bluegrass, a CD featuring the many artists whose work has been the subject of AcuTab releases, and which was voted as the Instrumental Album Of The Year for 2001 by the International Bluegrass Music Association. He is also the producer of the second Huber Banjos CD, Cuppa ‘Jo.
In recent years, as a full time staff at AcuTab has afforded more time to pursue his music, John has been performing and recording more actively. He has been a featured member of the Roanoke-based band Acoustic Endeavors since 2000, and can be heard on their two critically-acclaimed, but narrowly-distributed CDs, Coming Of Age… again and Sneak Preview. He is also featured on the popular Team Flathead CD from Huber Banjos, and his own recent solo CD project, Five & Dime on Copper Creek Records which features his original banjo compositions.
John is featured in a cover story in the May 2004 issue of Banjo NewsLetter, the premier publication for players and fans of the five string banjo. Written by Bill Evans, a noted banjo player as well as historian and ethnomusicologist, the article includes a wide-ranging interview with John about his music and his success both with AcuTab, and as the director of marketing for Huber Banjos from the time the line was launched in 2001 until Huber elected to bring sales and marketing “in house” in September of 2005. John and AcuTab have been profiled in the past in both Bluegrass Unlimited and Bluegrass Now magazines, and John has contributed a number of articles to prominent bluegrass publications as an author, including Bluegrass Unlimited, Banjo NewsLetter and 5 String Quarterly.
Growing up in Missouri Brance listened to some bluegrass and old-time, but didn’t really discover the music until he heard a bluegrass radio show broadcasting from Tulsa, OK. Shortly after falling in love with the music he quit his job and moved to Levelland, TX. There Brance attended the bluegrass music program at South Plains College. While he was there Brance discovered the recording studio, switched majors and studied sound technology and video production. Leaving Texas, he moved to Nashville, TN where he worked on the road in Lori Morgan’s crew. But what he really wanted to do was run his own studio. In the summer of 2000 Brance moved from Nashville to Pulaski, VA to start Clear Blue Productions.
Clear Blue Productions has now grown to be the studio of choice for bluegrass video and DVD production handling the production of projects that have been released by Rebel Records, Mel Bay, Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, AcuTab Publications, and Texas Music and Video. In addition to DVD production Brance has also engineered a lot of great bluegrass audio recordings, including projects by: Huber Banjos, LED39, David Grier, Tim Stafford, Larry Keel, Alan Munde, Billy Joe Foster, and FGM Records.
In spite of his busy schedule in the studio Brance makes time to play as well. He fronts his own band LED39 which has one CD available and a new gospel project in the works. LED39 doesn’t perform much, but when they do you never know who might show up to play with Brance, but you do know it will be good.