Multi-Grammy award winner to headline 50th annual Covered Bridge Celebration

Published 9:40 am Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Contributed Photo/Anthony Ladd  Marty Raybon is considered by many to be the voice of country music, and that voice, with long time banjo-picking partner will perform on the Covered Bridge Celebration stage.

Contributed Photo/Anthony Ladd
Marty Raybon is considered by many to be the voice of country music, and that voice, with long time banjo-picking partner will perform on the Covered Bridge Celebration stage.

With a voice that many country music fans recognize instantly, whether it’s paired with pickers, a contemporary Christian ensemble or most well-known, the country band Shenandoah, Marty Raybon’s vocals bridge gaps between styles and generations. The Grammy, Country Music Association, Dove, International Bluegrass Music, Academy of Country Music and Billboard Awards winner was happy to schedule his only open Saturday right here in Elizabethton to headline the 50th annual Covered Bridge Celebration along with the well-traveled Elizabethton banjoist Daniel Grindstaff.
“We’re excited to have someone of his caliber here with us, and also the fact that he can cross so many different genres of music — that’s how this festival all started with the music on the bridge with Country Music Days,” said Tonya Stevens, executive director of the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce. “For our 50th, we wanted to do our best to make sure we hit the home run with that, and I think we have.”
Raybon has performed thousands of live concerts, produced top selling albums and claims over 25 top singles. Some of his most familiar hits include “Two Dozen Roses,” “I Want to Be Loved Like That,” “Next to You, Next to Me,” and others.
Stevens said scheduling an artist like Raybon takes community effort and the dedication of people like Grindstaff.
“It really tickles me that I am able to use some past experience to help out with something that I am currently involved in — that is a real blessing to me,” said Grindstaff.
Grindstaff said Raybon loves playing outdoor shows in closely-knit communities, and he would know since they’ve been friends for years.
The two met after an Osborne Brothers show in which Grindstaff was playing banjo. Raybon came out of his dressing room to hear the band, and Grindstaff introduced himself. Two months later, they were touring together.
Though Grindstaff had some family that played music, he is primarily self-taught. He began performing on the Grand Ole Opry stage at age 18, playing with Jim and Jesse McReynolds, the longest active brother duet in country music history.
One weekend at age 21, he received a call from Sonny Osborne, who had torn his rotator cuff. Sonny asked him to come to Nashville.
“I said, ‘What for?’ I thought maybe he needed me to paint his house or something,” Grindstaff recalled. “He told me to come play banjo, wear a suit and be there at 7.”
Grindstaff had been listening to their music since age 12, but he didn’t know what their song list was till after they had been introduced on stage for the 40th anniversary of their performances at the Opry. The Osborne Brothers made “Rocky Top” famous and have been requested by numerous presidents to perform.
Grindstaff asked if they wanted to run over any of the songs before they went out, and they said they knew their parts.
“I had never struck a note with them in my life,” Grindstaff said. “I didn’t know what songs we were doing or anything. I’m standing next to my idol just telling myself I can do it.”
After the show, Sonny said “If you made it through that, you could play with us anytime.”
Then he toured for a decade with them, playing over 400 shows.
Grindstaff said the Osborne Brothers were Raybon’s idol, and that performing with the legends has truly been a blessing. The demand to be on the road drove him away from the desire to play music full time. To have more time with his family, he performs occasionally at the Opry and other venues around the country and works as an agent with Farm Bureau Insurance in Elizabethton. This has not stifled his passion and talent for picking, to which Raybon can attest.
“Daniel Grindstaff is without a doubt one of the best technique five-string banjo players in bluegrass music today,” said Raybon. “His artistic performance up and down the neck prove that; he is very tasteful and knows where and when to play. That is a characteristic that great players have, and he’s one of them.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox