Rockin' The Region

 Basin Bluegrass Festival rocks the region this weekend by DJ Dave Hoffenberg

Submitted - Larry Efaw and the Bluegrass Mountaineers

The best, and most affordable festival around is the Basin Bluegrass Festival in Brandon, July 11-14. It’s been going strong for 28 years, with this being the 29. I’ve attended twice in the past and was blown away by all it had to offer. The music is exceptional. I didn’t know any of the bands going in, but they were all awesome. I sadly could not attend last summer so I’m excited to be able to attend this year. I now have some favorites I’ll try and see like Bloodroot Gap, Canaan’s Land, Cedar Ridge and the Greene Brothers.  It’s a family atmosphere with down-home bluegrass music, many of it jug style. You can find more information at basinbluegrassfestival.com.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Larry Efaw from “Larry Efaw & The Bluegrass Mountaineers”. I’ve yet to see them but I feel they’ll be added to my “Favorites List”. They perform twice on Friday at 2:30 and 8:45 p.m. They also perform twice on Saturday at 1:45 and 7 p.m. Music runs both days from 10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. It’s a shorter day on Sunday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Larry has played the BBG Festival a few times, and loves it, but this is their first since 2019. 

Larry hails from Pennsylvania and now lives in Ohio, but said, “I love playing the New England states. The people there really love the traditional bluegrass music.”

Larry and his band mostly play the first generation of bluegrass music. He said, “We’re a traditional bluegrass band, keep it like a family-style band. Bluegrass music is a family-style music. It doesn’t matter where we play or where we go, we’re just one big family. When I go up to Vermont, I see people I only see up in that area that I haven’t seen for 2-3 years and they invite us over to their camper to eat with them. It’s stuff like that, it’s one big family. I’m thankful for it, I love the people.”

The band is made up of Larry and four other musicians. Larry is on mandolin. He also has a guitarist, upright bassist, banjo and fiddler. Speaking of family, his 19 year-old grandson is on fiddle. Larry said, “I got him into it eight months ago. He’s doing a great job with us, it’s really awesome.” The rest of the guys aren’t family by blood, but they’re like family.

Larry treats his band well. He doesn’t expect them to put on a suit jacket if it’s hot out. He just wants them to look presentable. He’s going through a bit of a band change but is confident the new guys will work out well. He said, “Sometimes it’s hard to get who you’re happy with. You’re out on the road, going from festival to festival, it has to be enjoyable for everybody.” They play year-round, and all over the States and Canada. Larry added, “It’s going to take me a little while to regroup but I have great musicians with me, great people, and I can teach them and they can learn from me. It will take them a few shows and then they’ll be right up on top, right back where I was before. I’ve always had the same sound through the years and I know I can do that with this group I have with me now as well.”

Larry is also a promoter and likes to help out other festivals. He said, “I like to help out all the promoters I can possibly help because there’s a lot of festivals now, since covid, that have shut down and that’s a shame. Most festivals we’ve played this year have been up and I’m hoping Linda’s is as well.” Linda Berry runs the BBG Festival. Larry and I both agree that Linda is a wonderful woman. 

Larry is excited to be back and said, “It is a beautiful and gorgeous place. You can look up and see the mountains. The vendors are really good, you can get ice there, you can get anything you really need. The sandwiches are good. Everybody treats you just like family. It’s one of my favorite places to play.”

Larry started playing the mandolin when he was 7, playing in his dad’s band. He just turned 66 so he’s had an amazing career. He said, “I would stand in the back. When I learned to pick out, I’d step up to the mic and get out of it quicker than I should’ve. I was so nervous and scared. It wasn’t too long until I was taking a break on just about every song that there was. I was self-taught. My dad only knew 3 chords on the mandolin; G, C and D, and he showed them to me. The rest I learned by ear, and going around these festivals like these younger kids are now. I was talking to people, having them show me stuff, jamming with them and I learned a lot that way as well. Most of it I just learned by ear. Sitting and fooling with it at home. I can’t read music at all.”

They have one album out titled, “She Left Me Standing On a Mountain”. You’ll find them on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and others. They have a Facebook page under their name, and online at bluegrassmusic.info. On that site, you can get info on the band as well as the festival and cruises they do. They play a lot of his dad’s music. Larry said, “Dad was a great songwriter. We do an awful lot of his songs. I probably have 2,000-3,000 songs of his to go through and work up.” His dad was Edward Efaw but everyone knew him by his stage name “Beanpole”. He died last year at age 92. Larry played with his dad side-by-side for 45 plus years. Larry has been fronting the band for 15 years after his dad had to get off the road for health reasons. Larry said, “It was hard at first to go on without him. Dad would call me, he knew we were playing. Not a day would go by that I wouldn’t talk to dad two or three times a day. He would call to make sure everything was OK and I was doing OK. I’d tell him I missed him and he would say that he wished he could be there with me, but he can’t be. I have a lot of great memories and that’s all we really got to go by.” That to me is heart warming and very special. Larry has been married 40 years, has four kids and10 grand kids. He grew up with one brother and four sisters.

They’ve been fortunate to have played the Grand Ole Opry three times as guests, one of which was from legend Bill Monroe. They hope to be back soon. Larry said it’s absolutely amazing to play there. 

Larry loves the support they get. He ended by saying, “I love the audience, the people that come out and support the bluegrass music. They’re family to us. I can be so tired, some of these festivals are 15-18 hour days plus I’m the only one who drives the bus. I have a 45 foot Prevost Bus. I can be so tired that I don’t know where I’m at but once you hit that stage and you see the audience with smiles on their faces, you get it 100%. I went on stage with a bad toothache, once so sick I could barely stand up but when you hit that stage, the show must go on. We don’t let rain or anything like that hinder us. If the sound goes out, we’ll come off the stage and keep on playing. You just have to give it all you can. Give them people their money’s worth. After the show, we’ll hang out at the merch table and talk with people. I love that. I love people, and hearing their stories, just about everyone has a story.”

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