Family bands together to share their music

Published 12:10 am Sunday, May 26, 2024

A local family band, called The Brothers of Bluegrass and Paw, recently took their talents on the road appearing on the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.

The show is broadcast simultaneously on radio and television at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in Lexington, Kentucky, and the Salisbury family performed on the April 22 show during the WoodSongs with Kids segment of the program.

Core members of the band are Randy Whitley, who plays guitar along with three of his grandsons, Lucas Parker, who plays mandolin and is the vocalist of the group, Jacob Parker, playing banjo and Caleb Parker, playing bass fiddle. Their little sister Anna joins them occasionally and provides vocals and is also learning to play the piano, said her grandad.

In addition to these grandchildren, Whitley said there are younger ones that are showing an interest in learning music as well. Some are dragging around ukuleles and he recently bought a set of drums for another grandson, Bray, who is said was coming along nicely with them.

“Being able to just play and enjoy music with my grandchildren is the highlight of my life. There is nowhere I would rather be. Watching them learn and grow in music is everything. It’s so important to get kids off the TV, computers and cell phones and use the talent God has given them.”

Whitley said he first started playing drums when he was in the fourth grade and continued it in school. At the age of 12, he learned to play the guitar, and shared that his dad bought him an Epiphone acoustic, which he still has, from Carter’s music in Salisbury around 1971. He noted that he plans to hand the instrument down to Lucas when he wants it.

He continued learning other instruments including the mandolin, banjo and bass fiddle and has served as the grandchildren’s teacher. However, he said, “they have done a lot on their own as well.”

Through the years, those who have influenced Whitley in his music have included his uncle George, who got both him and his older brother Tommy Whitley started in bluegrass. Others who have influenced him have been Garland Shuping and Ralph Pennington.

Being a frequent viewer of the WoodSongs musical program, Whitley said he learned about the special spot they have on it for kids.

“They have a couple special artists there weekly, but then they will also have a youth or a youth band segment,” he said. 

When he saw that, he decided to contact them and sent some video of the group playing. Whitley received word very quickly that they had an opening if they wanted to come.

“We jumped on it and drove up there,” he said, and performed during the Monday night show and made a family trip out of the adventure.

Michael Johnathon, who serves as host for the show, came backstage and wanted to hear them play, said Whitley, who noted that later during a production meeting, Johnathon said the group was “very, very good.” Whitley said he thought that was kinda funny, “because we’re not all that.”

He did share how very proud he was of his grandchildren and the fact that they have learned to play and have influenced other children in their church, Westside Baptist, to learn and get up in front of people and play as well. 

“I know for a fact that it’s spreading in their church,” he said, “and that’s what we’re all about.”

In addition to the song they played for Johnathon, the family performed a second one onstage, titled, “Big Spike Hammer.”

Lucas said they had an amazing time performing at WoodSongs, and “it was an experience I’m sure none of us will ever forget. To think that The Brothers of Bluegrass would ever be on television seemed like a mere idea or dream. But thanks to the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, it became a reality.”

In addition to WoodSongs, Whitley said a Public Broadcasting Station came to Gold Hill on March 22 and spotlighted E.H. Montgomery General Store, owned and operated by Vivian Pennington-Hopkins.

They have an open jam session every Friday night, and the station came and filmed the store and the jam session on that particular Friday evening.

Whitley said they went early and were interviewed and played a couple songs there. And while the focus was not on them, he said they did get a mention and were seen on this show as well.

The group doesn’t have any other appearances planned at this time. They mostly practice and play at home, and they also play regularly at church, said Whitley. 

I am very proud of my children and grandchildren. Most of all would be their faith in Jesus. He is the reason we are able to do what we do and the talent these kids have,” he said, and “if you ask, they will tell you the same thing.”