Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Bluegrass Bassists and Drummers

I recognize that this is not the best forum to point out the passing of “The Professor” of Drummers… Neil Peart of Rush earlier this year.

I have been a huge fan of the band since 1980… and felt a shadow cross my heart upon hearing of this master… whom I consider to be a private and humble man who penned inspired lyrics (the lyricist of Rush)… and to whom it has been attributed… Neil Peart was your favorite drummer’s favorite drummer. Stated further, gifted players like Neil was… often innovate or redefine what excellence is on their instrument and influence… as Neil was recognized to be.

God Speed and rest in peace, Neil Peart.

As I considered Neil’s career… a question came to me.

As many of you know (as I freely admit), I am new to the genre of Bluegrass… having become a recent fan when picking up my Hallowback Banjo and Mandolin just a few years ago.

That said, it occurred to me just how critical but often overlooked (dare I say thankless but vital) Bassists and drummers are to Bluegrass music… where Guitar, Banjo, Mando, Fiddle, Dobro and voice are generally featured so prominently.

In this light, I ask the following questions:

  1. Are there prominent bassists/drummers (that aren’t singers who play bass or drums) that are recognized on these instruments? If so, who are the greats?

  2. Aside from traditional Bluegrass… Are their any Newgrass or Prog Bluegrass that allow these instruments to break through into - what I will call - equal recognition or exposure?

  3. Seems to me that at some point, there would be some opportunity for those rare and visionary artists to come into recognition by way of soloing and/or innovative, new songs…

  4. Even as such bands may exist, does this somehow then remove the band or style away from the Bluegrass genre… as it is so unusual or ground-breaking? If such bands exist, do they then become categorized differently as a result?

Please understand that this topic is meant with the utmost respect to the many talented artists who, through their work, enable and allow the other instruments to be featured.

Forgive me for asking what may be a taboo or obvious subject… but I have truly wondered… and look forward to the responses!


Drummers have been and shall remain officially excommunicated in most bluegrass bands, festivals, and albums. The snare is the mandolinist’s job and the kick is the bassist’s responsibility.

Bassists however are frequently given solo time but not enough recognition. Some names that stand out are Jeff Picker, Scott Mulvahill, Daniel Kelley, Jimmy Meyer, Geoff Saunders, Ethan Jodziewics, Kyser George, and Becky Buller. There’s so many more that I missed, but off the top of my head those ones are great. My favorite of those is Ethan, he’s just awesome


Edgar Meyer comes to mind as well. And Bryn Davies too.

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My favorite bassist is Mike Barber, he played upright with the Gibson Brothers but now he plays electric.


Ha! I knew I was missing one, but my mind was blanking

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Have you heard of a guy named Marty Stuart?

Well, Harry Stinson has been with Marty (both of whom we had the good fortune to see and meet in person here at his shoe in Michigan) for years!

Or maybe you don’t consider Marty to be “true” Bluegrass?

Point of note, Harry was the drummer who played with Earl Scruggs & Friends on Letterman… but maybe that doesn’t count either?

Don’t you be dissin’ Mr. Stuart @Dragonslayer or I might have to go report your comments to @BanjoBen so I can earn that elusive ‘Flag Post’ badge🏴 for slander against drummers.

Oh, wait… it looks like only 4 for have ever received that badge… but look who received it most recently… None other than @Dragonslayer himself!

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@Dragonslayer, be on notice (you have been so advised) :wink:.

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I wouldn’t go that far…

I was aware of this fact

I would never!

Oh my, what’s that?

Lol I didn’t say no drummers ever, I said they’re usually not welcome. I happen to appreciate a good drummer in bluegrass occasionally, but not all the time. Also if you have no mandolin it can be nice to have one. I know Ron Block did some recording with a drummer and no mandolin, and it was awesome (of course, it was Ron Block, so awesome is a redundant adjective) just saying usually no drummers, and it’s usually better that way. No disrespect meant to any pizza delivery bo… I mean drummers living or dead intended


I mean… I saw a post from @BanjoBen himself how highly he thought of Marty!

I flagged you… Sir. (All in good fun… ) as I want to think inclusivity is most appropriate that Exclusivity.

I mean… there could be some little drummer boy reading this RIGHT NOW who has dreams to be the “Neil Peart” of Bluegrass! :thinking:

You wouldn’t ever want to shatter his dreams now would ya? :grin:

Besides, you @Dragonslayer are such a good and talented kid, this might be my one and only chance to joint that exclusive ‘First Flag’ club of 4… to which you are the most recent inductee, no less!

Well, it is in all in @BanjoBen’s hands now…

Please @BanjoBen - tread lightly on him… :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: He’s a good ole boy… and a worthy, steadfast forum member!

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Oh I have the highest of respect for Mr. Stuart. Although given his past, anything he does can be considered country as a loophole…

Dang :joy::joy:
You realize I flagged an actual spam post?

Full disclosure, my first instrument was drums. So there is a drummer boy reading this right now…



Justice has been served…

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Thank you my dear friend… and next time, let’s look to empower rather than exclude… :facepunch::+1::candle::drum:

And it was you, my newly-discovered Little Drummer Boy (LDB) who cast the first stone? :pensive:

… Isn’t that an interesting twist of fate and karma?

Or did someone dash your dreams when you wanted to be - well, some version of Neil Peart?

I did not view any comment made as “casting a stone” I believe you read too much into my comment. I merely stated that most bluegrass fans, and by extension festivals, jams, and albums, prefer no drums. That’s how it’s always been, and these are the same people who dislike harmonicas, ukuleles, spoons, and washboards in bluegrass. This is not my opinion, just a statement of facts. I’m more open to non traditional instruments, if played tastefully and within the style.

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@Dragonslayer - Buddy,

Let me be clear… All that I said was in jest… to your “drummer excommunication” declaration.

Just as I didn’t really take that too seriously, I was totally playing with you on all the rest…

Well, except the part about Harry Stinson! THAT was serious! :rage:

I like Marty and Harry too much and freely admit my defensiveness too extreme when it comes to them - not that they need my defense in the least! Hahaha

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As to the revelation about your starting out as a drummer and contrasting it with the aforementioned excommunication comment…

I had hoped my dry sense of humor (as Evidence by my playful reference to you as LDB) would clearly communicate I was teasing you on that too!

All in good fun, my friend.

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Hey Guy’s just to try to calm things down a little. It has always been my understanding that drums played no part in bluegrass music. That role in the band was performed by the Mandolin & Banjo. That’s my understanding of Bill Monroe’s concept of what he. - The Father of Bluegrass - defined as his style of music. Anything with drums was considered Country Music NOT Bluegrass Music Having said that I do believe Bill had a female accordion player in his band for a time. But the lineup was Guitar, Mandolin, Fiddle, Bass and Banjo. Later on Dobro and in some small way Harmonica and that’s how many traditionalist still see it.

When I first began learning to play the banjo. The former founder of the now defunct Scottish Bluegrass Association was a strict bluegrass advocate following the similar strict style of music set out by Bill. Any individual or band infringement of that style was quickly rebuked and asked to leave.


Fascinating @Archie!

Thanks for clarifying… but again, I will stress that I was totally playing with Gunnar.

My apologies to @Dragonslayer if I was misunderstood.

So… I guess we are down to Bassists (Contra-bass) for this topic then.

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I would encourage all newcomers to bluegrass to read up on the history of the music. Checkout the many documentary videos on YouTube, Some really fascinating stuff out there and how the bluegrass community help support one another through some difficult and trying times.


I had thought so, but your use of emojis was misleading. If you’re just teasing and you use an angry face be sure to use a laughing one with it so we know :grin: