Jon Weisberger "On The Road" with "Yesteryears"
With a century’s worth of collective bluegrass experience, three broadcasters and a couple of historians in the band, it’s no surprise that Chris Jones & the Night Drivers tend to be a pretty jaded bunch when it comes to choosing what to listen to when we’re riding down the road. In fact, a CD that can sit in the player from start to finish is a pretty rare thing, especially when our SiriusXM DJs want to check in to Bluegrass Junction to make sure that everything’s sounding like it should.
"Take it as a serious recommendation, then, when I note that "Yesteryears", a new Rebel compilation of material from Wytheville, Virginia’s McPeak Brothers has actually gotten more than one top-to-bottom spin on our recent road trips."
And don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them; you can blame that on the natural tendency of bluegrass radio and bluegrass writers to give short shrift to artists who fall between the first generation greats and the hard-working souls out there today. For as an act, the McPeak Brothers basically disappeared more than a decade ago.
But while they were around, the McPeaks had one of the best trios and one of the best collective ears for material of any group in the history of bluegrass. They were the guys who cut “Steel Rails” back when Alison wasn’t even in her teens; they cut “Lost River” when Michael Martin Murphey was still just the guy who sang “Wildfire”; they recorded “Shoulder To Shoulder” when Lynn Morris was just another struggling banjo picker; and they found “Back To Dixie” when Don Rigsby was still just an eastern Kentucky kid dreaming of being a Clinch Mountain Boy. And not only did they find this great stuff, they flat out killed it in the singing department, with smooth but punchy trios that left you, and still leave you, shaking your head and wishing you were that tight and that good—and they found killer guys to go into the studio with them, too, like Ricky Skaggs and Jerry Douglas and Jeff Midkiff and a really young Rickie Simpkins.
It’s easy to make the same mistake that all those great DJs and writers do. After all, we’ve got to learn from the guys who started it, right? And we’ve got to support the guys and gals who are out there on the road these days, too. But keep a little room open for artists like the McPeak Brothers and cool collections like Yesteryears, too. You’ll be glad you did.
The McPeak Brothers • "The McPeak Brothers were a popular bluegrass trio from Wytheville, VA, comprised of banjo/guitar player Dewey, bassist/guitarist Larry and guitarist/lead vocalist Mike. Their older brother Udell broke into music first when he joined the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers during the 1950s. In 1963, he, Dewey and Larry formed the first version of the McPeak Brothers. Soon after, Udell left to play with Red Smiley’s band and was replaced by Mike. Following the addition of fiddler Ernest Atkins and mandolin player Gus Ingo, the group began appearing weekly on a local radio show in 1969. The McPeaks made their recording debut in 1970 and cut their first album (Virginia, Where It All Began) two years later. They released a second effort, Bluegrass at Its Peak, in 1973. Atkins’ friendship with Mel Tillis helped the McPeaks get onto Tillis’ syndicated TV show, which led to a contract with RCA Victor and an album in 1974. They soon left the label and recorded three more albums on independent labels. Several McPeak Brothers tunes — "Somebody Socked It to Mine," "Simon Crutchfield’s Grave," and "Bobbi," — became quite popular with progressive bluegrass players. The group slowed down considerably during the mid-’80s and only played local engagements. They did cut a new album in 1992, though, and later put together an anthology containing the best of their independently released songs." ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi
Jon Weisberger of Chris Jones & The Night Drivers• A Night Driver since the beginning of 2003, Jon Weisberger holds down a dizzying array of positions in the world of bluegrass. In addition to his work with Chris, he has made appearances on bass with artists ranging from the legendary Jimmy Martin, Hazel Dickens and Roland White to Tony Trischka, Harley Allen, David Peterson and April Verch. As a songwriter, he has supplied material to many of today’s top artists, including Del McCoury, Doyle Lawson, Blue Highway, The Infamous Stringdusters, Mountain Heart, The Gibson Brothers, Terry Baucom, The Chapmans, Blue Moon Rising, Dwight McCall—and, of course, the Night Drivers.
Like his bandmates Chris Jones and Ned Luberecki, he’s involved in bluegrass radio, too, producing and appearing on a weekly syndicated show, The Blue Side Of Town With Del McCoury. Jon also writes occasional articles for publication, continuing an extensive bluegrass journalism career that earned him the IBMA’s Print Media Person of the Year award in 2001 and the Charlie Lamb Award For Excellence In Country Music Journalism in 2005.
In addition to his creative endeavors, Jon served two terms as a member of the IBMA’s Board of Directors, and was elected to the position of Vice Chair in 2010.
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“On The Road” presents their reflections & insights on recent releases as they travel.