Nothing says welcome to Kentucky on a hot day quite like foot-stomping, knee-slapping Bluegrass music pumping onto the streets as people locate parade seats. That is exactly what downtown Louisville Derby parade goers got to experience outside of Uncle Slayton’s along Broadway Thursday as the White Russians performed Bluegrass standards to a crowd gathered outside. The show was not an average everyday happening at Uncle Slayton’s, as the venue rolled up a huge bay door and threw up the canopy for shade so that the public could experience the Kentucky tradition going on inside.
The White Russians are a five-piece Bluegrass group based out of Louisville headed by fiddle player Amos Hopkins who says he enjoys educating listeners on older roots and standards derived from old time Appalachia. The set list included fiddle tunes such as “June Apple,” which he named his daughter after, as well as folk tune “Turkey in the Straw” and other classics from famous Bluegrass pioneers Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs. “A good song is a good song is a good song,” says Hopkins and “if it’s a great song, we will play it.” The group also includes vocalist Jess Langer, banjoist Kyle Ellison, upright bass player Justin Cecil and mandolin player Bobby Parton, all which help to round out the fabulous five.
Why did the group settle on the name the White Russians? When asked if the name came from the drink Amos Hopkins replied “sort of,” while continuing the story of how the name was selected. The main idea came from the underground cult-classic favorite, The Big Lebowski. “Every gig we would go by a different name from the movie because we are all huge fans. We went by the Nihilists, then the Royal We’s, and then the White Russians, the later finally stuck.” Ironically enough, you can catch the group later this year as they once again bring music to the streets this summer for Louisville’s annual Big Lebowski Fest. The festival seems like a very comfortable place to be in, if you are a White Russian.
photo courtesy of Christopher Boone