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January Jams: Del McCoury & The Travelin’ McCourys

Bluegrass | For Fans Of: Del McCoury, Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, Hot Rize, Grateful Dead, good music!

Genre: Bluegrass
For Fans Of: Del McCoury, Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, Hot Rize, Grateful Dead, good music!
Even among the pantheon of music’s finest artists, Del McCoury stands alone. From the nascent sound of bluegrass that charmed hardscrabble hillbilly honkytonks, rural schoolhouse stages, and the crowning glory of the Grand Ole Opry to the present-day culture-buzz of viral videos and digital streams, Del is the living link. On primetime and late-night television talk shows, there is Del. From headlining sold-out concerts to music festivals of all genres, including one carrying his namesake, there is Del. Where audiences number in the tens of thousands, and admirers as diverse as country-rock icon Steve Earle and jamband royalty Phish count as two among hundreds, there is Del.

Del McCoury

Genre: Bluegrass
For Fans Of: Del McCoury, Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, Hot Rize, Grateful Dead, good music!

Even among the pantheon of music’s finest artists, Del McCoury stands alone. From the nascent sound of bluegrass that charmed hardscrabble hillbilly honkytonks, rural schoolhouse stages, and the crowning glory of the Grand Ole Opry to the present-day culture-buzz of viral videos and digital streams, Del is the living link. On primetime and late-night television talk shows, there is Del. From headlining sold-out concerts to music festivals of all genres, including one carrying his namesake, there is Del. Where audiences number in the tens of thousands, and admirers as diverse as country-rock icon Steve Earle and jam-band royalty Phish count as two among hundreds, there is Del.
Emerging from humble beginnings in York County, PA nearly eighty years ago, Del was not the likeliest of candidates for legendary status. As a teen, he was captivated by the banjo playing of one of its masters, Earl Scruggs, and decided he’d be a banjo picker, too. The Baltimore/Washington, D.C. bar scene of the early 1960s was lively and rough. Del caught a break. More than a break, really. It was an opportunity of a lifetime; joining Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in early 1963. Considered the Father of Bluegrass, Monroe transformed McCoury, moving him from the banjo to guitar, anointing him lead singer, and providing him with a priceless trove of bluegrass tutelage direct from the source.
Countless hours of recording sessions and miles of tireless touring dotted the decades. Del carried on, and carried with him the hallowed traditions of the form and its dedicated following. The passing years became certificates of authenticity. So, in the sea of grunge and R&B that dominated the music scene of the mid-1990s, it was special, perhaps even startling, to see: There was Del.
Now helming the Del McCoury Band, with sons Ronnie and Rob, the ensemble did and continues to represent in a larger, growing musical community a peerless torchbearer for the entire sweep and scope of bluegrass history. Those many years, not to mention a good-natured willingness to stay alert to the latest sounds and opportunities around him, earned McCoury a whole new generation of fans, including some in unlikely places.
“I’m just doing what’s natural,” says Del. “When young musicians ask me what they should do I always tell them, ‘You do whatever’s inside of you. Do what you do best.’"
No surprise that contemporary, bluegrass-bred stars sang his praises; marquee names like Vince Gill and Alison Krauss (who first met Del at a bluegrass festival when she subbed for his missing fiddler). Yet, here too was rocker Earle recording and touring with the group. Here was Phish jamming onstage with the boys. Here was the band on TV, or headlining rock clubs and college campuses; the can’t-miss appearances at country and jazz festivals. There was Del.
“We don’t have a setlist,” says Del. “We try and work in the new songs, but a lot of times it’s just requests from the audience. It’s more interesting for the band, for me, and for the audience because nobody knows what’s coming next.”
Almost unimaginable, McCoury’s sixth decade in a half-century of bluegrass bliss brings new triumphs, new collaborations, and new music. With but a single change in membership in twenty seven years The Del McCoury Band shows unprecedented stability as well as garnering the respect and admiration of the industry for its unmistakable work: nine IBMA Entertainer of the Year trophies; in 2003, Del’s awarded membership in the cast of the legendary Grand Ole Opry; the band’s first Best Bluegrass Album Grammy award, in ’05, followed by a second Grammy win in 2014, (not to mention double-digit nominations).
“I know (having the same band) helped with my success. It keeps your sound constant,” says Del. “We really enjoy what we’re doing.” The group traveled with the groundbreaking post-O Brother "Down From The Mountain" tour, and performed with Gill, recording on his Grammy-winning These Days, as well as country sensation Dierks Bentley. In addition to becoming something of a regular at the wildly popular Bonnaroo Music Festival, they’ve also curated and expanded Del’s annual namesake festival. One of the premier string-band events in the country, the multi-day, multi-stage DelFest showcases the new lions of the genre such as Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, and Old Crow Medicine Show, and legends like Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, and Bobby Osborne, plus a diversity of artists like Phish frontman Trey Anastasio and blues-rock veterans Gov’t Mule to Americana darlings The Wood Brothers and Rhiannon Giddens. “DelFest is a great accomplishment,” says Del. “I never thought it would be as successful as it is."

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Del McDel McCoury Hall of Fame Induction

The Travelin' McCourys DelFest

And, when Sony Music came calling, post-Hurricane Katrina, proposing a collaboration with New Orleans’ revered Preservation Hall Jazz Band, there was Del. If there was ever a collection of recordings confirming McCoury’s wide-ranging impact and spirit of musical comradery, it would be American Legacies. A wonderfully fulfilling cross-section of traditional bluegrass and the Dixieland pomp of New Orleans, the album typified the Del McCoury Band’s evolution from bluegrass vanguard to an American treasure.
“All music is related. Bill Monroe went to New Orleans and listened to jazz players. Earl Scruggs- some of the tunes he recorded were from New Orleans,” says Del. “It all fits together if you’re willing to be open-minded.”
And like any genuine treasure, the gifts keep coming. On their latest release, Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass- a title that echoes his 1968 debut on Arhoolie Records, Del McCoury Sings Bluegrass- Del and the boys bring home another stellar collection of traditional bluegrass music. With 14 songs brimming with hot licks, classic songcraft, even some boundary-stretching electric guitar, and once again, Del’s matchless vocal delivery, the Del McCoury Band moves up the gold bar standard of bluegrass yet another notch. “What I like in a record is variety of moods, of tempos,” Del says. “I consider myself traditional at heart, but I don’t have any boundaries. I’m just a guy that likes to sing and play music. Whatever strikes me to do I’ll do it. Without wrecking things.” One listen and it’s clear as crystal. There is Del.

The Travelin McCourys

Congratulations to The Travelin’ McCourys on their GRAMMY win for “Best Bluegrass Album,” announced Sunday, February 10, 2019. The band’s eponymous debut album was released on May 25th of last year after decades of playing-- the GRAMMY award pointing to both the band’s work ethic and their innovative style of bluegrass which honors the genre’s tradition and drives it forward.
From a source deep, abundant, and pure the river flows. It’s there on the map, marking place and time. Yet, the river changes as it remains a constant, carving away at the edges, making new pathways, gaining strength as it progresses forward. The Travelin’ McCourys are that river.The McCoury brothers- Ronnie (mandolin) and Rob (banjo) - were born into the bluegrass tradition. Talk about a source abundant and pure: their father, Del, is among the most influential and successful musicians in the history of the genre. Years on the road with Dad in the Del McCoury Band honed their knife-edge chops, and encouraged the duo to imagine how traditional bluegrass could cut innovative pathways into 21st century music.
“If you put your mind, your skills, and your ability to it, I think you can make just about anything work on bluegrass instruments,” says Ronnie. “That’s a really fun part of this- figuring the new stuff out and surprising the audience.”
With fiddler Jason Carter, bassist Alan Bartram, and latest recruit Cody Kilby on guitar, they assembled a group that could take what they had in their DNA, take what traditions they learned and heard, and push the music forward. In fact, the band became the only group to have each of its members recognized with an International Bluegrass Music Association Award for their instrument at least once. There were peers, too, that could see bluegrass as both historic and progressive. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Allman Brothers Band, improv-rock kings Phish, and jamband contemporary Keller Williams were just a few that formed a mutual admiration society with the ensemble.
The band played the Allman’s Wanee Festival, and guitarist Warren Haynes’ Christmas jam- an annual holiday homecoming of Southern music. An early-years jam with the Lee Boys was hailed by many as the highlight of the evening, and with the video catching fire online, earned a legion of new, young fans of their supercharged combination of sacred steel, R&B, and bluegrass. There were unforgettable collaborations with country smash Dierks Bentley, and onstage magic, jamming with titans String Cheese Incident and Phish, cutting an album with Keller (Pick), and creating the Grateful Ball- a tribute concert-turned-tour bridging bluegrass with the iconic music of the Grateful Dead.
“That’s something that’s part of us being who we are,” says Ronnie. “It comes, too, with us plugging in. It gets louder, for sure. We can’t be another version of our dad’s band. It wouldn’t make any sense for us to do that.”
Their concerts became can’t-miss events, whether headlining historic venues or as festival favorites, drawing the love and respect of a growing fanbase craving their eclectic repertoire. At the 2016 edition of DelFest, an annual gathering of the genre’s best aptly named for the McCoury patriarch, the band delivered the take-away highlight. Rolling Stone called it “a sublime combination of rock and bluegrass, contemporary and classic, old and young. The best set of the festival...” The river was going new places, getting stronger. It was time to re-draw the map.
“We’ve tried to pick songs we think people are going to enjoy,” says Ronnie. “Something we learned from our dad is that a good song is a good song. It can be done in any way.”
So arrives the long-awaited, self-titled debut album from the quintet. A brilliantly executed set overflowing with inventive style, stellar musicianship, and, of course, plenty of burnin’ grass, the 14-song collection is a true culmination of their decades-long journey. From the headwaters of Bill Monroe and the waves of Jerry Garcia to a sound both rooted and revolutionary, soulful and transcending that belongs only to the Travelin’ McCourys.
“The album definitely shows what we’ve evolved into as a band. And, it’s a pretty good representation of what’s happening with the whole genre,” says Rob. “The old bluegrass material is something I love but it’s been done many times. We’re forging ahead with our own sound. That’s what you have to do to make it all work.”

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  • All previous tiers plus
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  • Additional customized benefits available upon request
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  • All previous tiers plus
  • Access to a VIP hotline for reservations
  • VIP Will-Call for tickets & intermission concessions
  • follow the creation of a production from start to finish
Stage Manager
  • All previous tiers plus
  • VIP parking
  • invitation to a dress rehearsal
Leading Role
  • All previous tiers plus
  • invitations for two complimentary seats at each opening performance at Gilliam Stage at Barter Theatre and Stage II, including galas
Scene Stealer
  • All previous tiers plus
  • invitation to watch the set being changed between performances
  • a production mini-poster signed by the cast
Supporting Role
  • All previous tiers plus
  • unlimited use of 15% discount for Barter’s Gift Shop & concessions (non-alcohol)
Understudy
  • All previous tiers plus
  • invitation to Theatre Thursdays, a luncheon & discussion series giving you an insider’s view of Barter Theatre
  • invitation to the 2020 season preview event
Player
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  • Behind the scenes tour
Curtain Raiser
  • listing in the souvenir program
  • biannual donor e-newsletter
  • window decal
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