There were once two musicians who just kept meeting.
They worked at Savannah River Site. They had mutual friends. They saw each other at bluegrass festivals.
Then, finally, they decided to stop and spend some time together.
From this bond, guitar player and singer Darryl Hudson and bass player Ronnie Davis formed the Savannah River Bluegrass band, Hudson said.
Now, nearly 20 years later, Hudson and Davis still play, but with two other men, singers Gary Oxley and Steve Smith.
Oxley, also a mandolinist, and Smith, a banjo player, were in the Carolina Bluegrass Band together before they signed on with Hudson and Davis.
The group travels around Georgia and South Carolina, playing traditional bluegrass music.
One of its more recent appearances was at Maude Edenfield Park in North Augusta for the Music in Park series.
In 2002, the band released its first CD, Hudson said. It featured Davis and Hudson with former members Tom Lowery and George Pritchard. Lowery was the banjo player before Smith, Hudson said.
Pritchard was a fiddle player who was also part of the North Augusta radio station WGUS. He passed away in July 2010, Hudson said.
Local musician Roger Abernathy is another former band member, Davis said.
They all come from different places, Oxley being from the farthest away, Ohio. However, each was affected by bluegrass from early on. Hudson has been playing since he was 9, Davis since he was 12.
Oxley and Davis grew up in areas heavily influenced by bluegrass, while Hudson and Smith watched musical groups on TV.
Bluegrass is said to have started with Bill Monroe and his band the Blue Grass Boys, Hudson said.
“People think bluegrass is an old, old music, but, actually, bluegrass music is about 10 years older than rock ’n’ roll music,” he said.
Rock ’n’ roll revved up in the 1950s, while Monroe’s band started in the ’40s, according to the Country Music Television website.
Savannah River Bluegrass’ style takes off those of the earlier generations.
Instead taking over the whole stage and having their own microphones, each person gathers and moves around one microphone, Hudson said.
Also, “bluegrass is a user-friendly music,” Davis said.
The idea is you should be able to go to any bluegrass festival or concert and be able to just grab your instrument or microphone and perform with anyone, he said.
“It’s kind of standardized,” Hudson said.
Bluegrass is “something everybody can relate to and play,” Davis said.
And in addition to playing traditional bluegrass, these musicians play bluegrass gospel. They also tweak country music into more of a bluegrass style, Hudson said.
Going to one of their performances, you might hear the sounds of Hank Williams, Webb Pierce or Osborne Brothers. However, you could also hear some of their original compositions.
No one person takes over the song writing. Each member has his own voice in the process, Davis said.
All live in the area now, are married and have children, Hudson said.
“They are a great bluegrass band,” said Christian Schaumann, event organizer for Aiken’s Bluegrass Festival.
Savannah River Bluegrass is scheduled for the Seventh Annual All Day Haynes Bluegrass Festival on Sept. 28 in Batesburg-Leesville and the Piney Woods Bluegrass Festival on Oct. 5 in Glenwood, Ga.
It has played at the Aiken Bluegrass Festival, Rose Hill Estate on Greenville Street N.W., Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor in Columbia and Appling Opry and Waynesboro Opry in Georgia.
For more information, visit www.savannahriverbluegrass.com.
Stephanie Turner has a hand on all areas of production for the Aiken Standard, where she reports, edits and lays out pages. She graduated in July 2012 with a journalism degree from Valdosta State University and lives with her family in Evans, Ga.
Submitted Photo The Savannah River Bluegrass band is made up of Darryl Hudson on the guitar, Gary Oxley on the mandolin, Ronnie Davis on the upright bass and Steve Smith on the banjo.×
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