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March 2024
Vol. 23, No. 6

Bluegrass Corner

A Grand Time Was Had by All at Summergrass!

by Dwight WordenSeptember 2017

Summergrass celebrated its 15th birthday with a bang last month, over the weekend of August 18-20. The weather was perfect, the music was stellar, the jamming was non-stop, and the smiles were everywhere. Headliner Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass delivered with super strong traditional bluegrass. For those who follow bluegrass closely, we know there is a “California style” bluegrass that differs from the traditional Appalachian style presented by Danny Paisley. The California style is typically smoother (think Laurie Lewis) while the Appalachian style focuses more on hard rhythm and raw emotional singing. If you like the latter, there is no one better than Danny Paisley. He is the “real deal,” as noted in Wikipedia:

This band was started by Bob Paisley after leaving Ted Lundy and the Southern Mountain Boys [1][. By 1979 they were known as Bob Paisley and the Southern Grass.[2][3][4] They were soon joined by Bob’s son, Danny Paisley, and Ted Lundy’s sons T.J. and Bobby Lundy; following Ted’s Sudden death in 1980.[5] The final configuration of the group was completed by mandolinist Don Eldreth. In 2004, after years of fighting cancer, Bob Paisley passed away, and Bob’s son Danny Paisley took over the group. Since that time they have been internationally touring as Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass. In 2009 the group received the Song of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) for the song “Don’t Throw Mama’s Flowers Away,” written by Chris Stuart and Ivan Rosenberg. Also, in 2016 Danny Paisley received the IBMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year award. The group has also received multiple nominations from the IBMA.

Chris Jones and the Nightdrivers, with Patrick Sauber and Meagan Lynch sitting in, along with Bluegrass Etc., Nu Blu, and Sideline were also in top form rounding out the headliner bands. These great groups were complemented by equally accomplished local and regional bands including MohaviSoul, Prairie Sky, Chris Cerna and Bluegrass Republic, Front Porch Music Preservation Society, the Brombies, and the Vulcan Mountain Boys. The audience for the main stage had a great time enjoying the outstanding performances.
Summergrass also presented numerous workshops and its traditional Kids Camp (taught by Chris Jones and the Nightdrivers), culminating in a main stage show on Sunday. For many, however, the highlight of Summergrass was the near non-stop jamming in the camping area and in the various nooks and crannies of the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum. One could walk and hear a different jam group every few feet in the main camping area, especially at the Glen Bailey Campsite, hosting the “Thursday Night Pickers,” which saw a never-ending series of guests sitting in. Many, including me, had a hard time pulling away from the jams to attend the main stage!

The San Diego Bluegrass Society and the North San Diego County Bluegrass and Folk Club, two local non-profits, launched Summergrass in 2003. It had four overall goals: (1) to bring top-notch national bands to San Diego; (2) to provide an opportunity to showcase the talent of local bands on a big stage; (3) to provide an educational opportunity for all ages by way of free workshops, and for kids through a Kids Camp; (4) to provide a great, and affordable, experience for fans.

We think it has succeeded on every front. Over the past 15 years Summergrass has: hosted more than 50,000 fans; presented more than 50 bands including most of the top national bands such as the Gibson Brothers, Blue Highway, Lonesome River Band, the Nashville Bluegrass Band, and many more; Summergrass has educated about 400 kids passing through Kids Camp, many on Summergrass scholarships, and several of whom have gone on to national stardom as adults, including Christian Ward and John Mailander, among others. All told, roughly, a quarter million dollars has been spent on bands over 15 years, with all Summergrass revenues plowed back into non-profit programs. That record should bring pride to all of us.

Finally, we note with big thanks and a bit of sadness that Mike and Vonnie Tatar who have served for many years as the folks in charge of Summergrass, are moving to Tennessee this fall. The good news is they will continue to work on Summergrass from their new home, at least through next year’s 2018 festival, which they will spearhead. We are looking for someone (or someones) who might be interested in taking on leadership roles to keep Summergrass going in 2019 and beyond. If that appeals to you, let us know at and we will put you in touch with the Tatars who are prepared to mentor those who are interested.

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