Terry Eldredge, a guitarist in and founding member of the bluegrass group The Grascals, spoke recently with Louisville.com in advance of the band's appearance this Saturday night as part of Hank Williams Jr.'s Rowdy Friends 2010 tour, which also includes special guests Jamey Johnson and Eric Church, at the Kentucky Exposition Center's  Freedom Hall (937 Phillips Lane).
Tickets are on sale by phone at 800-345-7000, online at Ticketmaster.com  or in person at Freedom Hall's box office.
Louisville.com: You guys are based just a couple of hours south of us in Nashville. Have you been up to Louisville much?
Eldredge: Yeah, quite a bit. They used to have the IBMA up there, the International Bluegrass Music Association. They had it there at the Galt House I guess for about 10 years I think and then they moved it. Well, at first started in Owensboro, but then they moved it from Owensboro and now they’ve got it down here in Nashville. But yeah, we’ve played quite a few dates and stuff up there.
Louisville.com: You guys are touring with Hank Williams Jr. and you’ve got a song with him on the new album, "The Famous Lefty Flynns.'" How did that collaboration come about?
Eldredge: Our manager and publicist, Kurt Webster, is Hank Junior’s publicist too. He had played Hank some of our music off our albums and Hank loved it. He'd written a song about 20 years ago called, “All the Roads Opened to my Heart." Hank has always wanted to cut that but he said he never ever heard the right conglomeration, or whatever you want to call it, of musicians to play the song. He said he tried to record it two or three times, but he never got it right or never liked that way it was cut. He heard us and he said, “That’s it. That’s the sound. That’s what I want on that song.” We went in and just recorded with him and it was great. It went wonderful and then, in turn, he came in our new album that came out at the end of March. He did a song that his daddy, Hank Sr. of course, and Bill Monroe wrote at the Opry at the Ryman auditorium one night called “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome."
Louisville.com: Now, was that his choice to do that song with you guys? Did you weigh in on that at all?
Eldredge: Well, we just asked him if he would record a song with us. That was actually, as far as the choice of the song, that was our choice. But, he knew the song and we were just like, “Man, would you please come do that with us?” And he was like, “Absolutely.” It’s cool but the cut’s really good because we did bluegrass of course, but we also put steel on it. It’s really cool. It’s like paying homage tribute to his dad on the country side, but also the feel of it is Monroe too, Bill Monroe.
Louisville.com: You guys have had a lot experience opening, doing it for Dolly Parton, and now going back out doing it for Hank Williams Jr. Is that a different experience than headlining your own shows?
Eldredge: Well yeah, kind of. The main difference, Zach, is because we’re getting to play--Hank’s letting us, and the same with Dolly--they let us get to play to a whole different genre of people which more likely we wouldn’t play for. We’re getting to introduce our bluegrass music to a whole different genre of people that probably would not know of us. It’s a good thing.
Louisville.com: Do you see that your fan base picks up a little bit after you open for people?
Eldredge: Oh yeah, absolutely. Yes. It most definitely helps us out in the end because it gets folks in the bluegrass music because they’ll come see us at festivals because one of our main things is we play bluegrass at festivals, of course. So, we see a lot of fans that’ll come and see us at bluegrass festivals that hadn’t necessarily been to bluegrass festivals before.
Louisville.com: How many times have you played The Opry?
Eldredge: We’ve probably done it 107 times. Last year, I think we played it 23 times I think it was. But, what was cool is that it was our first time to get to play the Opry, as far as the Grascals, was at the Ryman. Actually, it was on TV too. It was broadcast. We were supposed to do it with Dolly, and she got sick and got laryngitis. But, they were kind enough to let us go ahead and do it ourselves. So, I mean not only that we got to do the Opry, it was at the Ryman auditorium and also televised.
Louisville.com: On the new album the first track is, “Last Train to Clarksville,” The Monkees cover? How did that come about? It’s a great version of the song.
Eldredge: The first banjo player that played with us, he had mentioned that song before. We just kind of like, “Yeah, whatever, whatever.” When we’re doing this new album we was trying to find something different to do than that. I don’t remember exactly who mentioned it. I think it was Jamie [Johnson, a guitarist in The Gracals]. We ran through it once and he was like, “Man, yeah! That’s freaking great. It fits perfect.”
Louisville.com: How does the band select which songs it'll record? Eldredge: We’re like a democracy. All of us bring stuff to the table and if we all liked it, then we’ll do it. We pretty much know if a song’s, we try to find the best songs we can get obviously. It’s pretty much a unanimous vote of everybody will pretty much be like, “Yeah, that’s good. I think we ought to do that song.”
Louisville.com: A lot of bluegrass groups just cover rock bands. For example, there’s a group called Hayseed Dixie that does AC/DC covers. Do you think that cheapens the genre at all or do you think that’s a great way to expose people to what you’re doing?
Eldredge: I think it’s great. It’s just going back to what I was saying. If any song fits us or fits whoever is doing the stuff, if it fits their music, what’s wrong with doing it? What’s wrong with doing a rock and roll song? What’s wrong with doing a blues song? I don’t see anything wrong with that at all. I think it’s great. I think it widens the venue. It widens world music. It just goes to show you what they say, music’s the international language. There might be some hardcore fans out there that think it does but I don't see anything wrong with it.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Grascals