Bluegrass jamborees draw crowds in Mount Sterling

Messenger photo by John Crutchfield Randy Murphy (left) on guitar and Mike Tone on dobro play crowd favorites with the house band at the new Sterling Bluegrass Jamboree. Over 100 people attended one of the most recent performances. The jamboree takes place each Saturday night in the former Mount Sterling Elementary building. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Music starts at 7. Admission is a $5 donation at the door.
Messenger photo by John Crutchfield
Randy Murphy (left) on guitar and Mike Tone on dobro play crowd favorites with the house band at the new Sterling Bluegrass Jamboree. Over 100 people attended one of the most recent performances. The jamboree takes place each Saturday night in the former Mount Sterling Elementary building. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Music starts at 7. Admission is a $5 donation at the door.

(Posted Aug. 11, 2014)

By John Crutchfield, Staff Writer

Bluegrass has been called “the music of the people” due to its humble Appalachian origin and themes of the common life. Bluegrass is now more homegrown than ever with the advent of the Sterling Bluegrass Jamboree.

The weekly bluegrass fest—held each Saturday at 7 p.m. in the former Mount Sterling Elementary building—is the brainchild of Kenny Curry.

Curry is known throughout central Ohio for his bluegrass “jams.” According to Curry, a “jam” is an occasion when a group of musicians all show up at once and play together in an impromptu fashion. Curry said he’s had as many as 30 musicians on stage at one time. For the past 15 years or more, bluegrass musicians and writers have sought out Curry’s jams as a way to get stage time, share new material and just enjoy making the music they love.

The Sterling Bluegrass Jamboree is a new format.

“This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Curry said.

The idea is to move beyond the jam format and provide fans—at least 100 of whom gathered at the last jamboree—with more of a show and feature established bands.

The house band, which plays when other acts are not scheduled, is comprised of a core of players though not everyone is always available. This is to say, the house band is a little different each week. This variability is true to the nature and spirit of bluegrass. Each player brings a little something different to the mix. The house band includes but is not limited too: Randy Murphy, Mike Tone, Dwight Wright, Randy Little, Bill Fleming, Damon Hixson, Virgil Murphy and Rick Johnson.

Musicians who just show up with instruments in hand cannot expect to be given stage time. Then again, Curry admits, if a band needs a bass player or fiddle, they might pick someone up. If it sounds a little messy, that’s fine; bluegrass is a blend of structure and invention.

Musicians who want to play at the jamboree must contact Curry at (614) 323-6938 before the show to get their act on the schedule. In the weeks to come, Curry has bands from Kentucky and West Virginia scheduled as well as local and regional bands. He is also planning a bluegrass gospel night in the fall.

The Sterling Bluegrass Jamboree serves two purposes, Curry said.

“The big thing I’m trying to do is bring the sponsors together so the building can be put to use. They want to see the building used for something,” he said.

Among the sponsors are Whiteside Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep, Tony’s Coneys, Split Rock Golf Club, Sterling Pharmacy, Dairy Freeze and Ben & Joy’s.

“I also want something going that the community can do that doesn’t cost much,” Curry said. A $5 donation is collected at the door to help pay the bands. The sponsors, concessions and a 50/50 raffle go to support the venue.

Down the road, Curry envisions a main stage featuring scheduled acts with jams going on in other parts of the building and perhaps workshops for emerging musicians and songwriters, as well.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the music starts at 7 every Saturday night. The former Mount Sterling Elementary building is located at 94 W. Main St. For more information, contact Kenny Curry at sterlingbluegrassjamboree@gmail.com or at (614) 323-6938.

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