There were so many people in the house, many were seated on folding chairs. The crowd witnessed an evening that displayed both the best of modern bluegrass music and its still strong ties to the genre's origins.
Michael Cleveland and his band, Flamekeeper, also walked off with an armload of awards, including those for best instrumental group and best instrumental recorded performance.
In addition, Cleveland was named the top fiddler, and Flamekeeper members Jesse Brock and Marshall Wilborn captured the mandolin and bass prizes, respectively.
The musical performances were so varied and lively, they constantly threatened to shift the spotlight from the award presentations. The lineup of players included the
The Grascals brought tears to many an eye with their doleful delivery of "The Devil Knew My Grandma Well," a song that's certain to echo through bluegrass festivals for years to come.
The clear musical highlight of the evening, however, was the finale in which the new International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame inductees, the Dillards and the three surviving members of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, joined Hot Rize to belt out the classics with which they are now most closely identified -- "The Old Home Place" and "Pain in My Heart."
Many artists who didn't perform served as presenters during the three-hour production.
"I have no idea how those Internet rumors about the other banjo players got around," mused comedian-actor-writer-picker Steve Martin when he came out to present an award. It helped to know that Martin was in the running for banjo player of the year (a prize that later went to the Grascals' Kristin Scott Benson).
After he completed his presentation, Martin turned to his co-presenter and fellow banjo luminary
Judging from the roar of the crowd, Benson was a favorite for the banjo award. When someone from the Grascals shouted, "We love you!" during her acceptance remarks, she shot back, "I'm glad you love me because you're not ever going to get rid of me."
Tim Stafford of
Mimicking the craggy-voiced Stanley to a T, Stafford droned, "Oh, Claire, won't you sing a song with me so we can win recorded event of the year?"
The two also announced the guitar player award, prompting Stafford, a guitarist himself, to characterize the guitar as "the king of instruments."
Presenter Sally Jones suggested the bass player award was given "to the player who's had the most patience in lugging a bass through airport security."
Besides pioneering the bluegrass sound, Lawson noted, the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers also incubated talents that would go on to distinguished careers of their own, among them the band's three surviving members -- Bobby Osborne of
"I wouldn't have no idea we'd draw this crowd on a Thursday night," Williams quipped in accepting the award.
Said Osborne, "I go back to the days my mommy had to run me off to school because I was trying to learn to play the guitar." He recalled his scholastic breaking point came from a teacher who insisted on calling him "Robert," even as he protested that his name was Bobby. Finally, he had enough. He said he looked out of the school window and said to himself, "Boy, I ain't never going to come back in here again -- and I never have."
Goins began by wishing his late brother, Ray, who died two years ago, "were here with me tonight." He told of taking the $3 he'd earned plowing, plus four hens and a rooster from home, and swapping them all for his first banjo.
McEuen recounted that he was a teenager in California when he fell under the musical sway of the Dillards, who had recently fled Salem, Mo., for the lights of Hollywood. It wasn't long, he said, until they had a record deal and a recurring role as the Darlings on The Andy Griffith Show.
"I learned from Rodney Dillard that in bluegrass, a lot of people die," McEuen observed with a grin. "Had they not come into my life, I would not have played the banjo. And had it not been for that, there wouldn't have been a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. And had it not been for that, there would have been no Will the Circle Be Unbroken."
Will the Circle Be Unbroken, the Dirt Band's 1972 album that featured a wide range of country and bluegrass guest artists, is generally credited with helping bring these more traditional forms of music to a new generation.
"We got this when we were still alive," exclaimed Rodney Dillard. "I am totally flabbergasted," his brother, Doug, agreed.
"We've been waiting for 50 years for somebody to think we did something," said the Dillards' bass man, Mitch Jayne. He read a letter of congratulation from their career booster, Andy Griffith, which said in part, "I can't be with you tonight because these days I can't travel much. ... You guys deserve the award. I'm glad I could use you guys in a positive way on my show."
Added mandolinist Dean Webb, who said he's now playing occasionally with a new band, "You may hear more about us."
Responding to Dailey & Vincent's entertainer of the year win, Vincent promised, "We'll do our best again this year to take [bluegrass] to the masses."
Here is the complete list of this year's IBMA winners:
Entertainer of the Year: Dailey & Vincent Male Vocalist: Dan Tyminski
Instrumental Recorded Performance: "Jerusalem Ridge," Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper (artist), Bill Monroe (writer), Jeff White and Michael Cleveland (producers)
Gospel Recorded Performance:
Instrumental Performers of the Year Banjo: Kristin Scott Benson Fiddle: Michael Cleveland Dobro: Rob Ickes Mandolin: Jesse Brock Bass: Marshall Wilborn Guitar: Josh Williams
Best Liner Notes for Recorded Project: Steve Martin (writer and artist), The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo
Best Graphic Design for Recorded Project: Greg Carr and Salli Ratts (designers), The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo, Steve Martin (artist)
International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame: The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, the Dillards
Distinguished Achievement Award: Hylo Brown, Pati Crooker, Jody Rainwater, Dick Spottswood, Joe Wilson
Bluegrass Event: Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Oak Hill, N.Y.
Bluegrass Broadcaster of the Year: Katy Daley, WAMU HD Radio/Washington, D.C., WAMU-FM/Reston, Va., and www.bluegrassscountry.org.
Print Media Person: Roger Siminoff, Siminoff's Luthiers Glossary, Banjo Newsletter and Bluegrass Breakdown