What's New

 

We have some exciting changes this year to report. Our friend and hero, Bob Sutor, is graciously stepping aside to make room for a new banjo playing addition to the group, Pastor Steven Simpson. He brings with him, a smoking banjo, great baritone voice, delightful stage presence and six feet, six inches of bone and muscle. We plan to continue playing with Bob when time and circumstances permit but apparently one out-of-tune banjo at a time is all that is permited in the world of bluegrass. But seriously folks, Bob will be greatly missed and Steven is most extremely welcome.

 

As some of you may know, our long time fiddle player and only bonafide talent has retired from the band and moved to the great southern state of Florida. We prefer to think of him as our fiddle player emeritus. And in that context we hope to continue to have opportunites to perform with him from time to time. However, we now pass the bow to the new generation of players, with an awesome addition to our line up. Max Huhn, 20 year old fiddle playing prodigy, college student and all around really great guy. We've been working with him since the end of last summer and we're lucky to have him

 

Now when Rick informed us of his decision to migrate south in 2017 we almost imediately thought of contacting a friend and mentor of Mark's. Working with us now since early last year, one of the local bluegrass music scenes perenial favorites, dobro player Mark Arnold has been sharing his talents with the band. Judging by the positive comments we've received since Mark's addition, we made the right choice. A six piece bluegrass band is a mighty band indeed.

 

We are coming back to Rose Tree Park Summer Concert series for another special time to share and perform for our local community, in one of it's most beautiful and traditional performance venues. We hope to have Rick Shryock come up and join us as well as a possible surprise performer for the night. Itís one of the best places to relax with friends and hang out under the summer stars while listening to some great music. Check out the schedule page for dates and times.

 

Background

 

The Rockdale Boys have been playing together as a group since 2003. The genesis of the band took place when Mark Sutherland and Bob Alek, two long time residents of Rockdale, met at Mark's birthday celebration. Harry Gambrill was also present with a banjo on his knee. A jam session occurred (Mark's birthday wish) and all three felt a spiritual as well as a musical connection. Dan Hughs joined the band after a short parade of bass players, and added a fourth voice along with a solid sense of timing and tempo. To complete the band, veteran fiddle player Rick Shryock joined the musical line-up in the summer of 2007. His blazing fiddle, strong vocal and a fine sense of how bluegrass music should be played, transformed the sound into something truly inspired and not to be missed. After many years Dan moved out of the area and Debbie Durant joined the band on bass and vocals. Another long-time bluegrass player, she is also a talented song writer and singer.

 

The boys have mostly been performing for church benefits and at local festivals and events. The music is a mix of traditional Bluegrass, Gospel and some original compositions.

 

For a more information on each band member, please scroll down to read a short biography.

 

Mark Sutherland - Mandolin, Vocals

 

An accomplished bluegrass musician and composer, Mark has been playing mandolin, guitar, and harmonica for many years. Songs like;

My Mama Prayed', 'Crossin' the Creek' and 'Ol' Rockdale' have become favorites with the boys and with their audience. Some of Mark's influences include the Beatles, The Allman Brothers, and Doyle Lawson. Along with his song writing skills, his ability to arrange the bands music, his fine vocal and harmony, and his encyclopedic knowledge of both traditional and gospel bluegrass, has made the Rockdale Boys a true musical force and inspiration in the area.

 

 

Debbie Durant- Bass, Vocals

 

A proud sister of the South, Debbie was born and raised in Virginia. She's a talented song writer, singer, and keeper of the time with her bass. Debbie is a
member of the Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music and a veteran Bluegrass player from the area of her adopted home in Pennsylvania. She has added a new dimension to the music of the Rockdale Boys and we
are blessed to have her with us.

 

 

Bob Alek - Guitar, Vocals

 

Bob has been playing music from a very early age. Starting with the trumpet and the drums and later taking up the guitar, harmonica, flute and fiddle as well as singing lead vocal in several rock bands in the last century. His guitar playing has evolved from a jazz style to rock and then finally to bluegrass over the last 35 years. His lead vocal can be heard on many of their songs. The blend of Bob and Mark's harmony give the Rockdale Boys a unique sound not often heard in this type of music.

 

 

Steven Simpson - Banjo, Vocals

An ordained minister serving St. Paul’s United Church of Christ
in Amityville, Pennsylvania, Steven joined the Rockdale Boys in 2018. He’s a singer, song-writer, emcee, performer, praise band
leader, salsa-dancer(!), and multi-instrumentalist who plays mandolin, guitar, dobro, bass, and ukulele in addition to banjo.
He is a founding member of Crow Hill, a Bluegrass band in
Berks County, PA and plays upright bass with 3Tall Guys, a country blues/folk rock/jazz trio in Reading, PA.

 

Rick Shryock - Fiddle, emeritus

Rick studied classical viola at a young age, and played
rock & roll. In the mid 70's he performed on the Chicago
folk music scene with swing band, The Casualaires. In the late 70's Rick played lead guitar and fiddle with Nashville songwriter, Dave Gibson. They recorded radio commercials and originals, and were the house band at Nashville North, opening shows for Alabama, Hank Williams, Jr, Buck Owens and Ferlin Husky.
Rick relocated to Philadelphia in 1982 and joined the
Rockdale Boys in 2007. He is also active performing with
several other bands in the area.

 


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