Here at Dollywood we have several different talented bands, groups and performers who keep you all entertained while you’re at the park. One of my personal favorites is our very own Smoky Mountain String Band—and let me tell you, they are just as entertaining off stage as they are on.
As a Dollywood Publicist, one of my roles is to promote Dollywood and our other attractions on local television stations throughout the region. Over the last week, I took a couple of days and brought the band along with me. Barbeque & Bluegrass has officially started and what better way to promote the festival than giving viewers a taste of our resident bluegrass band.
Now, there are some logistics involved when taking a band on a mini road trip… like how many cars do we need where are we going to stop to feed them on the way. But before we get into that…there are five members of the band and we usually take four with us. Let me introduce you to them:
Roger Helton is an original member of the Smoky Mountain String Band, which started in 2004. He plays a wide variety of instruments but this season is primarily playing resophonic guitar and fiddle.
Next up is Jerry Butler. This is Jerry’s sixth season with the band. He plays guitar, sings lead and harmonies. He also does most of the emcee parts of the show at the park and the interviews when we take the band on the road to TV stations.
Kerry Kooch is the band’s bass player. He is in his sixth season as well.
Jason Bales is in his second season playing for the band. He plays the banjo.
Last, but not least is Ashley Bradley. Ashley started her entertainment career right here at Dollywood back in 2005 and is currently playing her sixth season with the Smoky Mountain String Band. She sings and plays the fiddle.
Now that I’ve introduced you to everyone, let’s get back to our trip. During the beginning of the season, Dollywood is closed on Tuesdays, so, for two Tuesdays in a row my co-worker Wes and I took these guys and gal to Chattanooga and the Tri-Cities. These trips start early… 6:15 a.m. to be exact. We start by meeting just off exit 407, getting breakfast and then hitting the open road.
Between the two trips, I really got to know Jason, Roger and Ashley because they were in the car with me… and let me tell you, that was an adventure in itself. There is absolutely nothing shy about these guys and I learned a whole lot. Jason sat up front with me and talked the most. He will be the first to tell you he likes to talk. One of the really cool things about the Smoky Mountain String Band is that they have had incredible musical careers inside and outside of the park, playing with not only Dolly, but also other greats during their time. Most of the car ride was full of stories from the past and cool anecdotes. If you get a chance to talk with these guys or Ashley while you’re at the park, definitely take the opportunity.
The band was a huge hit once we got to the TV stations. Reporters, anchors and other show guests came out just to watch and listen to them perform. It was a real treat for me as well. Sometimes I take for granted just how incredible our talent really is at the park, so it’s really nice to be able to just take in the music and see them really shine and show what is so special about our entertainment at the park.
One thing I did learn about the band during my trips is that the members are just like you would expect in a way. Bluegrass is such an incredible tradition and almost a way of life here in the Smoky Mountains and these guys and Ashley really embody the spirit of the music. You can tell they really love it even off the stage. They are just regular friendly, downhome, southern folks who happen to be incredible musicians.
The Smoky Mountain String Band plays five days a week. To find out their schedule and see them on your next visit, click here.