Greer's New River Bluegrass has a date at Dollywood

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Thursday, May 31, 2012

Enlarge photo

The photos for the New River Bluegrass cover were all shot in Greer. The CD is available at the group's website.

Courtesy New River Bluegrass band

The photos for the New River Bluegrass cover were all shot in Greer. The CD is available at the group's website.



Enlarge photo

Barry Long is among six members of the band that live in Greer. This weekend's performance at Dollywood has been maturing since Long began playing music in the sixth grade.

Courtesy New River Bluegrass band

Barry Long is among six members of the band that live in Greer. This weekend's performance at Dollywood has been maturing since Long began playing music in the sixth grade.



Enlarge photo

Mike Johnson was overheard playing guitar one day near where Barry Long was working. That relationship has nurtured into the New River Bluegrass band.

Courtesy New River Bluegrass band

Mike Johnson was overheard playing guitar one day near where Barry Long was working. That relationship has nurtured into the New River Bluegrass band.

The Greer-based New River Bluegrass group imagined the day they would be the featured act on a stage with other members of their genre. They may become someone's else imagination after this weekend.

The six-member group, all from Greer, will perform at Dollywood’s Barbecue & Bluegrass at Pigeon Forge, Tenn., this weekend. New River performs 40-minute shows at 3-, 4:30-, and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the Valley Stage.

“We never saw it coming,” said Barry Long, a member of the group. “The biggest change was the labels.”

“Heart On The Run” is their latest of four CDs that has gathered national attention.

The group was content playing in churches and partnering with their ministries to create added financial support that has dwindled since the Upstate has been struggling with a slow, recovering economy. “We want to encourage people when we play. And we want to lift them up through our gospel music,” Long said. “Our niche is ministering through our music.”

Members of New River Bluegrass, all with day jobs, are:

Barry Long – Banjo, dobro, vocals

Michael Johnson – Acoustic guitar, vocals

Dwayne Brown – Bass guitar, vocals

Chuck Price – Fiddle, bass guitar, vocals

Michael Mullins – Mandolin, vocals

Andy Smith – Acoustic guitar, vocals.

The label change came about when Crossroads music and New River partnered. New River joined the Pisgah Ridge label to produce and promote their music. “We did a recording at Crossroads and once we were on the Pisgah label our music was sent overseas. Singing News (a media clearing house for gospel music, news and concerts) picked us up and that was huge,” Long, 48, said.

The group had also been invited to the Silver Dollar Club in Bronson, Mo., but it was more economical and strategic to perform at Dollywood.

Long’s wife, Kelly, is the Greer branch manager of TD Bank on Wade Hampton Blvd. They met at a Future Farmers of America outing and Long was attached to his banjo playing since the sixth grade. “I’ve been playing in groups all my life,” Long said. With a laugh, he added, “I said I wouldn’t give up my blue grass music.”

Long, while at a job site, overheard member Mike Johnson on the radio playing the banjo.“I told Mike we need to play together some time.” That led to a relationship that has matured into New River Bluegrass.

“Making it this far was a goal but we didn’t know how much work it would take. I didn’t anticipate we would get this far,” Long said. “We know once we get to this level it’s hard to stay here. There hasn’t been much time to celebrate," Long said.

Dollywood, a family-oriented theme park, is the environment Long said the group embraces. “That organization is the real deal,” Long said. “We’re blessed we’ve been asked to travel.”

The group arrives at Pigeon Forge Friday night and gets to the park before it opens Saturday to set up equipment and get acclimated. Their performance is precise with little talking. “People are coming to hear music and we don’t think they want to hear a lot of talking. With a 40-minute program we don’t want to waste any time,” Long said.

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