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L-R John Cowan, Bela Fleck, Pat Flynn, Sam Bush
Sam Bush extended the musical capabilities of the mandolin and the fiddle to incorporate a seamless blend of bluegrass, rock, jazz, and reggae. As the founder and leader of the New Grass Revival, Bush pioneered and guided the evolution of modern hill country music. Together with the bluegrass supergroup Strength in Numbers, he pushed the traditions even further. During a five-year stint with the Nash Ramblers, he provided a diverse range of textures for the songs of Emmylou Harris. On his own, Bush has continued to explore an eclectic musical spectrum.
Newgrass Revival, formed in 1972 by four former members of the Bluegrass Alliance, flourished in a decade when numerous groups took traditional bluegrass and changed it to varying degrees. The group was successful enough to have the group's name become a generic label: "newgrass." The band's image, with long hair and occasionally electrified instruments, as well as its musical material contrasted greatly with standard (traditional) bluegrass like that played by Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, the Lilly Brothers, and Lester Flatt's band. In terms of longevity, popularity, and exposure, the Revival, with its hip reputation, was perhaps the most successful in competition against II Generation, Seldom Scene, the Country Gentlemen, and others.
The origins of New Grass Revival lay in the Bluegrass Alliance, which Sam Bush (vocals, fiddle, guitar, mandolin) and Courtney Johnson (banjo, vocals) joined in 1970. At the time, the Alliance also featured bassist Ebo Walker and fiddler Lonnie Peerce. Within a year after Bush's and Johnson's arrival, Curtis Burch (dobro, guitar, vocals) joined the band. In 1972, Peerce left the band, and the remaining members decided to continue under a new name -- New Grass Revival. The band released their eponymous debut, Arrival of the New Grass Revival, later that year on Starday Records.

After the release of their debut, Walker parted ways with the band, and the group replaced him with Butch Robbins, who was only with the band for a short time. He was replaced by John Cowan, an Evansville, IN, native. This lineup was stable throughout the '70s, recording a number of albums for Flying Fish Records. As their name suggested, New Grass Revival never played traditional bluegrass -- all of the members brought elements of rock & roll, jazz, and blues to the group's sound. Consequently, certain portions of the bluegrass community scorned them, but they also gained a devoted following of listeners who believed they were moving the genre in a new, fresh direction.

In 1981, Johnson and Burch left the band, claiming they were tired of touring. Bush and Cowan continued the group, replacing them with banjoist B�la Fleck and mandolinist/guitarist Pat Flynn. New Grass Revival moved to Sugar Hill Records in 1984 and released their first album featuring the new lineup, On the Boulevard. Two years later, the band signed with EMI Records and released an eponymous album, which proved to be their breakthrough into the mainstream. Two of the singles from the album -- "What You Do to Me" and "Ain't That Peculiar" -- were minor hits on the country charts, and Fleck's showcase "Seven by Seven" was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental. Hold to a Dream, released in 1987, was just as successful as its predecessor, featuring the hits "Unconditional Love" and "Can't Stop Now," which both nearly made the Top 40.

In 1989, New Grass Revival released their third major-label album, Friday Night in America, which was yet another commercial success. "Callin' Baton Rouge" became their first Top 40 single, followed by the number 58 hit "You Plant Your Fields." Even though the band was more popular than ever, Bush decided to pull the plug on the group after the release of Friday Night in America. Bush became a session musician, and Fleck went onto a very successful and respected solo career. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & David Vinopal, All Music Guide
Curtis was born in Montgomery, Aalabama and learned to play guitar from his father when he was 10 years old. In 1971, Curtis moved to Nashville, Tennessee in search of a musical career. After doing odd jobs for George Gruhn and Randy Wood at "GTR." he teamed up with Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, and John Cowan to form the New Grass Revival.
"He was a great banjo player, very innovative, very much into playing all different kinds of music and expressing them on the banjo - jazz and other things in his music," Hartford said.
Born Dec. 20, 1939, in Barren County, Ky., Johnson began playing guitar at the age of 7, but didn't pick up the banjo until age 25. In the late 1960s, Johnson - heavily influenced by bluegrass pioneer Ralph Stanley - joined Poor Richard's Almanac, which included fiddle and mandolin player Sam Bush.
In 1970, Johnson and Bush broke away to join Bluegrass Alliance, with Lonnie Peerce on fiddle and Ebo Walker on bass. In 1971, the group added guitarist Curtis Burch.
In 1972, they disbanded. Johnson, Bush and Burch created New Grass Revival.
Johnson recorded several albums for Flying Fish Records with New Grass, and continued touring through the 1970s with the band. During part of that time, they served as the backing band for Leon Russell.

John Cowan got his start in Louisville, where he played in scrappy rock outfits like Everyday People and Louisville Sound Department. In 1974, he auditioned as a bassist and vocalist for New Grass Revival, and together with Sam Bush and later bandmates B�la Fleck and Pat Flynn, led the charge of the 1980s' bluegrass revival.
Bluegrass and country guitarist and songwriter Pat Flynn first gained attention as a member of New Grass Revival, appearing on the group's albums Live (1984), On the Boulevard (1984), New Grass Revival (1986), Hold to a Dream (1987), and Friday Night in America (1989), and writing songs included on these albums, including the title songs for On the Boulevard and Friday Night in America. "Do What You Gotta Do," which he wrote for Friday Night in America, was later recorded by Garth Brooks for his album Sevens (1997). Flynn played on the track, which initially made number 62 in the country charts; upon re-release it reached number 13 in the country charts and number 69 in the pop charts in 2000. After his stint in New Grass Revival, Flynn became a successful country session musician, appearing on recordings by the Bellamy Brothers, Mark Chesnutt, Nanci Griffith, Loretta Lynn, Kathy Mattea, Michael Martin Murphey, Leon Russell, George Strait, Randy Travis, Conway Twitty, and Lee Ann Womack, among many others, during the 1990s and 2000s. On August 10, 2004, he released his debut solo album, reQuest. ~ William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide

Most Popular albums

1994  The Best of New Grass Revival 

1994 Today's Bluegrass 
1989 Friday Night in America 
1987 Hold to a Dream 
1986 New Grass Revival 
1984 On the Boulevard 
1984 Live 
1981 Commonwealth 
1979 Barren County 
1977 Too Late to Turn Back Now 
1977 When the Storm Is Over 
1975 Fly Through the Country 
1972 The Arrival of the New Grass Revival 

Box Set/Compilation
2005 Grass Roots: The Best of New Grass Revival 
1994 The Best of New Grass Revival 
1991 Fly Through the Country/When the Storm Is Over 
1990 New Grass Anthology 

Also Appears On
2004 The Best of King & Starday Bluegrass 
2001 Cool Blue Rocks: Rock 'N' Roll in the Bluegrass Tradition 
2001 Rhythm & Bluegrass: Hank Wilson, Vol. 4 
1999 Generations of Bluegrass, Vol. 2: Shoulder to Shoulder 
1999 Generations of Bluegrass, Vol. 3: Legendary Pickers 
1999 Sacred Voices: An A Capella Gospel Collection 
1998 18 Wheels Rollin': Trucking Songs 
1998 Generations of Bluegrass, Vol. 1: Pickers & Fiddlers 
1996 Harley Davidson Country Road Songs
Premiere banjo player B�la Fleck is considered one of the most innovative pickers in the world and has done much to demonstrate the versatility of his instrument, which he uses to play everything from traditional bluegrass to progressive jazz. He was named after composer B�la Bartok and was born in New York City. Around age 15, Fleck became fascinated with the banjo after hearing Flatt & Scruggs' "Ballad of Jed Clampett" and Weissberg & Mandell's "Dueling Banjos," and his grandfather soon gave him one. While attending the High School of Music and Art in New York, Fleck worked on adapting bebop music for the banjo. Fleck always had diverse musical interests, and his own style was influenced by Tony Trischka, Earl Scruggs, Chick Corea, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, the Allman Brothers, Aretha Franklin, the Byrds, and Little Feat. After graduation, he joined the Tasty Licks, a group from Boston. They recorded two albums and dissolved in 1979. Afterwards, Fleck joined the Kentucky band Spectrum. That year, only five years after he took up the instrument, he made his solo recording debut with Crossing the Tracks, which the Readers' Poll in Frets magazine named Best Overall Album. In 1982, he joined New Grass Revival and stayed with them until the end of the decade.
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