Since 1974, Lucketts has been a destination for bluegrass music fans who gather in the auditorium of the villages’ National Historic Landmark school building each week to hear some of the industry’s top performers. Over the years, local, regional, and national bands from Ralph Stanley to Doyle Lawson to the Seldom Scene to The Country Gentlemen to Nothin’ Fancy have played on the Lucketts stage.
This month, the stage is moving outside.
The inaugural Lucketts Bluegrass Festival on Sept. 14 will feature four bands as part of a day-long celebration of the historical art form.
The tradition is rooted in challenge faced by E.J. Spence and his family band in the early 1970s. During the winter the only stages available to performers were in a bars and taverns. One day Spence ran into a member of the Lucketts Civic Association on a Leesburg street and his band was invited to play at the recently closed, under-used school building. That chance meeting led to what is known today as the longest continual scheduled bluegrass concert series in the world. The series is a partnership between the volunteer nonprofit Lucketts Bluegrass Foundation and the school, now a county government-run community center.
On the bill for the inaugural Bluegrass Festival are:
• The Grascals, a six-piece band from Nashville that has achieved acclaim for performing on the Grand Ole Opry more than 150 times and at bluegrass festivals all over the country. They performed twice for President George W. Bush and at President Barrack Obama’s inaugural ball. They’ve earned three Grammy nominations and two Entertainer of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. In 2019, the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music awarded the band Bluegrass Band of the Year and Instrumental Group of the Year.
• Michael Cleveland, playing with his band Flamekeeper, is the International Bluegrass Music Association’s most awarded fiddle player, with 11 Fiddle Player of the Year trophies to his credit. In 2018, he was inducted into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame. Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper has been named the Instrumental Group of the Year five times.
• The Hillbilly Gypsies, led by the husband and wife team of Trae and Jamie Lynn Buckner, perform their own brand of old-time bluegrass and West Virginia mountain music. They have become a crowd favorite at the Lucketts Bluegrass Concert Series and perform regularly at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons.
• Man About a Horse plays traditional bluegrass instruments, but their music is not always traditional bluegrass. The Philadelphia-based group infuses their sound with references to blues, funk and rock. Man About a Horse won the 2018 FreshGrass Band Award and was nominated for an IBMA Band Momentum Award in 2018.
Tickets for the festival range from $30 to $75. For tickets, T-shirts and other details, go to: festival.luckettsbluegrass.org.