Lonesome River Band Bios and History
When Sammy Shelor joined Lonesome River Band in 1990, he never envisioned himself leading the band only ten years later. Fresh off a six year stint with the popular Virginia Squires, Sam came on board along with Ronnie Bowman and before long, had recorded the landmark LRB CD, Carrying The Tradition with Dan Tyminski and Tim Austin. This recording quickly moved the band to headliner status, where they have remained ever since. When founder Tim Austin left in 1995 to focus on his studio, Sammy and Ronnie Bowman took over band management, and when Ronnie left in 2000, Sam found himself in charge, leading the band that had hired him fifteen years earlier.
Through changes in vocalists and rhythm sections, the constant in the wildly popular LRB sound has been Shelor’s insistent, driving banjo style. His peers in the International Bluegrass Music Association have voted him Banjo Player Of The Year on four separate occasions, and banjo pickers all over the world have studied Sammy’s tab books and instructional DVD from AcuTab.
Sammy got an early start with the banjo, when his grandfather fashioned him a banjo from an old pressure cooker lid when Sam was only four years old. His other grandfather then issued a challenge, promising to buy him a real banjo if the young Shelor would learn to play two songs. Sam met that mark in short order, and with the help of a family devoted both to him and to bluegrass music, he soon found himself entered in contests at fiddler’s conventions near his home in southwestern VA.
By age ten, he was performing in local bands and became a full time professional musician when he graduated from high school, joining The Heights Of Grass at age 19. That band eventually morphed into The Virginia Squires, and brought Sammy into contact with banjo legend Sonny Osborne, who helped shape the young picker’s approach to working as a pro banjo player. Sonny also showed Sam the importance of using a quality instrument, and introduced him to the sound of the pre-war flathead Gibson banjos that are now so highly prized by banjo players all over the world.
Since becoming a member of Lonesome River Band, Sammy has been featured on dozens of successful recordings, both with LRB and as a guest player. His solo project, Leading Roll, is still a popular title in the Sugar Hill Records catalog and his work on Knee Deep In Bluegrass for Rebel Records helped that project earn the Instrumental Album Of The Year award from the IBMA in 2001.
As a testament to Sammy’s prominence and influence in the banjo world, he has his own signature Sammy Shelor banjo fingerpicks, and a signature model banjo produced by Huber Banjos. His influence on amateur and semi-pro pickers can be demonstrated by a casual walk through the parking lots or jam sessions at any bluegrass event, where licks and phrases which Sam has added to the repertoire are heard alongside those contributed by Earl Scruggs and JD Crowe.
Sammy has received a multitude of awards and recognitions during his impressive career including his induction into the 2009 Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame and in 2011 won the 2nd Annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.
For more info, please visit BrandonRickman.com
Now in his second stint with Lonesome River band, guitarist and lead singer Brandon Rickman hails from the state of Missouri. A product of a musical family, Brandon grew up playing guitar, but picked up the upright bass just hours before playing his first show as a member of the esteemed bluegrass gospel group, New Tradition.
His distinctive singing and sturdy songwriting graced two previous LRB releases (Window Of Time and Head On Into Heartache) before he left to pursue songwriting full time in the fall of 2005. The lure of the road must have been too strong, as Brandon is now back with Lonesome River Band full time.
“Rickman’s a compelling singer, and framing himself in stripped down arrangements not only differentiates these tracks from those of the Lonesome River Band, but truly highlights the qualities of his voice as an individual.” Hyperbolium
Before first joining the Lonesome River Band, he spent the 2001 season appearing with the award-winning bluegrass singer and songwriter Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time.
June 30, 2009, Rural Rhythm Records released Brandon’s solo album, YOUNG MAN, OLD SOUL. This successful album appeared in WNCW Radio’s Top 50 CDs of the Year (2010) and received numerous other honors. Two singles, “Always Have Always Will” and “I Bought Her a Dog” appeared on the Bluegrass Unlimited Top 30 Song chart; and the track, “Wearin Her Knees Out Over Me” won the Strictly Country Magazine’s Song of the Year in 2010.
Mike Hartgrove is back for his second stint with LRB. He was a member of the band from ’02-’05, and rejoined the band in December 2008.
“Grove” is among the most experienced fiddlers in bluegrass music, having spent time with The Bluegrass Cardinals and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. He was also a founding member of IIIrd Tyme Out, with whom he toured and recorded for 11 years before joining Lonesome River Band in 2002. Mike has also performed with George Jones and Moe Bandy.
“Originally from Shelbina, Mo., and now living in Albemarle, N.C., where he has a full schedule of fiddle students, perhaps no fiddler in bluegrass has as long a history of playing behind great vocalists and harmony trios as Mike,” says Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine.
“We are excited about the addition of Barry Reed to the Lonesome River Band. He is a great acoustic bass player and singer and adds greatly to the LRB sound,” says band leader and this year’s IBMA Banjo Performer of the year’s nominee, Sammy Shelor.
Barry Reed, from Seymour, Tennessee, previously toured with Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper before taking some time off to start his family. “I’m really exited about joining LRB. These guys are great to work with and it has been a lot of fun already,” said Barry.
Randy lives in Strunk, Kentucky and began playing mandolin at age 8 with his Dad’s band, The Southfork Gentlemen. In 1986, Randy had a year-long stint with LARRY SPARKS and recorded a few cuts on his “Silver Reflections” album. He then exited the bluegrass scene for several years, performing in a rock band and later with a country group. Randy re-entered the bluegrass scene in 2003 as guitarist with Kentucky Wind.
He has owned and operated his own recording studio since 2001 called Southfork Recording Company working primarily with bluegrass and gospel projects.
HISTORY OF THE LONESOME RIVER BAND
Lonesome River Band has been one of the most popular and influential acts on the bluegrass festival and concert circuit since the release of their breakout CD, Carrying The Tradition, back in 1991. That band line-up included current LRB band leader Sammy Shelor, as well as Dan Tyminski, Ronnie Bowman and Lonesome River Band founder, Tim Austin. They recorded a second project for Rebel Records, Old Country Town, before Tyminski accepted a gig with Alison Krauss & Union Station, and Austin decided to leave the road to focus on his recording studio, Doobie Shea.
During his years with LRB, Sammy Shelor has enjoyed performing with such stellar musicians as Kenny Smith, Don Rigsby, Ron Stewart, Rickie Simpkins and Mike Hartgrove (who returned in 2005) – each of whom had moved on to pursue other musical endeavors. With each personnel change, Shelor looked for new musicians who could not only fill a spot that had been left vacant, but also bring in an artist with talents of their own.
The year 2001 brought a lot of new changes with the addition of Brandon Rickman and Jeff Parker along with fiddler Mike Hartgrove who had just left IIIrd Tyme Out, along with bassist Irl Hees. The band was rewarded rave reviews for Window of Time, the first recording with that band configuration. John Wade soon replaced Hees on bass, and the group the recorded Head On Into Heartache CD.
In 2005, Hartgrove left to join Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and Rickman chose to give up touring to spend more time focusing on songwriting, but more importantly much needed time with his family. With Jeff Parker’s contributions on mandolin and tenor vocals, this took LRB into the next generation returning to the bands aggressive, four piece sound that had brought them to prominence years earlier. Shelor brought on a strong picker and a distinctive singer, Barry Berrier on bass who had made a name singing lead and playing guitar with The Lost & Found. Shannon Slaughter then came on board after initially being hired to fill in during the search for a new guitar man.
In 2007, Hartgrove and Rickman returned to LRB much to the fan’s delight. Rural Rhythm Records released the band’s 12th career album, No Turning Back album in 2008. The album made its debut on Billboard’s Bluegrass Album Chart and included their hit song, “Them Blues,” that garnered seven #1s on various national radio charts.
LRB thrilled the audience with an impressive and well received opening performance of the 2009 IBMA Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. IBMA members placed the band in numerous categories including receiving Nominations for: Instrumental Performance of the Year for “Struttin to Ferrum”; Gospel Performance of the Year for “Darkness Wept”; and Sammy Shelor again being nominated for Banjo Performer of the Year.
In 2010, Rural Rhythm released Still Learning that included two chart singles, “Record Time Machine” and “Jack Up the Jail.” The album garnered the band a nomination for IBMA Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year for “Pretty Little Girl.” The same year, the band was part of another Rural Rhythm project, The All-Star Jam – Live At Graves Mountain that received significant attention from IBMA members: nomination for Album of the Year; nomination for Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year (for Sammy Shelor, Brandon Rickman and Mike Hartgrove’s work on “Ground Speed”); and a nomination for Recorded Event of the Year for the song, “Graves Mountain Memories” (by the Rural Rhythm All-Stars that included Sammy Shelor and Mike Hartgrove).
In 2011, Randy Jones joined the band on Mandolin and Lead & Harmony creating the current line-up of Sammy Shelor, Brandon Rickman, Mike Hartgrove and Barry Reed.
LRB was also part of other various artists’ projects on Rural Rhythm including: A Bill Monroe 100th Year Celebration – Live at Bean Blossom (2011) album that was produced by Sammy Shelor; the 2012 IBMA Recorded Event of the Year Award winning album Life Goes On (2012) by the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer benefiting St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN; and God Didn’t Choose Side: Civil War True Stories About Real People (2013) that made its debut at #6 on Billboard Bluegrass Album Chart; Various Artists.