Travelin’ McCourys will headline PCMR bluegrass festival
Ryan Summerlin August 8, 2014
If you’re the son of the multi-International Bluegrass Association award-winner Del McCoury, you know you have some big shoes to fill if you decide to play music.
But for McCoury’s youngest, Rob, playing the banjo just seemed like a fun thing to do.
"I do remember when I must have been 8 years old we were at Sunset Park, a famous music park in West Grove, Pennsylvania, where everyone from Roy Acuff to Hank Williams had played," McCoury told The Park Record during a phone interview from Hendersonville, Tennessee. "The Grand Ole’ Opry act that came in was the Osborne Brothers. I had seen them before, but at that particular time, it seemed the idea of me playing the banjo clicked. I mean, to see Sonny Osborne, one of the best banjo players in the world, was inspiring to me."
Park City will get a chance to see Rob and his brother Ronnie when the Travelin’ McCoury’s headline Park City Mountain Resort’s Pickin’ at Park City Bluegrass and Barbecue Festival on Saturday, Aug. 9. The event, which will also feature local favorites Lash LaRue and the Cold Creek Band, will run from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. and is free to the public.
McCoury said after he began learning to play the banjo, becoming a full-time musician still wasn’t a priority for him.
"I knew once we got a taste for it and started playing that we wanted to do it, but there were a lot of really good bluegrass musicians around us and them, and even dad, were part-time musicians," he said. "They would work their day job and play at nights or weekends. So that’s what I thought we would do, because it was hard to make a living."
However, McCoury’s mother and father had another plan.
"Once they had us all raised, I’m the youngest, my dad and my mom spearheaded the idea of going to Nashville," McCoury said. "We went to buy a house, because dad wanted us to get down there and play some session work.
"The stars aligned and we got our foot in the door with writers, publishers and record labels," McCoury said. "It’s been living the dream ever since."
The younger McCoury’s eventually joined their father’s band and, a few years ago, formed the Travelin’ McCourys.
Since then, they have performed with everyone from the Allman Brothers Band to Phish and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans.
"It’s always fun to play with great musicians and it gets you out of your comfort zone," McCoury said. "Marty Stuart said, ‘If you can play bluegrass and play it well, you can play any kind of music you want to play,’ and that’s because bluegrass is challenging.
"Bluegrass music is also a blend from the music that came from the reels and jigs of Ireland and Scotland," he said.
Bluegrass was one of the styles that spawned rock ‘n’ roll, according to McCoury.
"Carl Perkins said all he was trying to do was play Bill Monore’s mandolin licks on the guitar," he said. "Chuck Berry would come to Nashville and, at the time ,wasn’t allowed to go into the Grand Ole Opry, but he would sit outside and listen through the window to Bill Monroe and try to do that on the guitar. "What I’m trying to say, music is all connected in some way or another, so playing with other musicians makes sense."
The performance at PCMR will include some classic bluegrass gems, some new songs and some obscure tunes that will be included on McCoury’s new solo album, "Fire String Flame Thrower."
The album is scheduled for release on Aug. 19, but it was a long time in the making, McCoury said.
"I had wanted to do a solo album for a long time and actually started getting material together from not-so-famous banjo players and songs you don’t hear a lot any more 10 years ago," he explained. "I put it on the backburner for a while, and then three years ago, my mom told me that I needed to do the record. My wife, who is my biggest cheerleader, agreed and told me to block time off to get it done. I think it still wouldn’t be finished if it hadn’t been for her."
McCoury said he is thankful for the love of music his family instilled in his life.
"There was music always around the house," he said. "Whoever was in dad’s band at the time would come over and play music, but he also played a lot of local shows back then and we would go and see him play. As far as I remember, I’ve always liked the music. Now I need to make sure I can play songs from the new album so we can play them live for Park City."
Park City Mountain Resort will host Pickin’ at Park City Bluegrass and Barbecue Festival on Saturday, Aug. 9, from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. The event will feature live music by Lash LaRue, Cold Creek and the Travelin’ McCourys. The event will feature a craft beer garden and a barbecue. The concerts are free. For more information, visit www.mountaintownmusic.org .