This year (2015) marks 50 years of creating bluegrass music for the Santa Barbara band the Floyd County Boys. While chatting with them — their banter filled with inside jokes, laughter, stories, and more laughter —you get the sense that the Floyd County Boys aren’t just a band but a family.
The group’s origins go back to 1962, when Todd Grant (guitarist, lead vocal, and songwriter) met Phil Pritchard (string bass player, harmony and sometimes lead vocal), and the two began playing music together. After developing interest in bluegrass, the duo met banjo player, songwriter, lead vocal and baritone Chuck Flannery. That same year, 1965, the three musicians added fiddle player Doug Sherwood to the group. Naming themselves the Floyd County Boys, the band played pure bluegrass music from 1965 to 1970. “But bluegrass wasn’t cutting it, so we switched from bluegrass to electric bluegrass in ’71 to ’79,” said Flannery. In 1971, they played at Cold Spring Tavern for a whole summer. “We were one of the first bands to play regularly. We played Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon. It was so cool,” Pritchard added.
The “boys,” whose ages range from 68 to 81, still play bluegrass and some country and folk. “It’s an eclectic mix of all kinds of music, but it’s always presented in a bluegrass style,” said Grant. What also hasn’t changed in the past 50 years is their energy. After spending six months apart and living in different states, they are now in California to perform. “When we started playing, it just came back to us. Just like that … as if we’ve never been apart,” Grant said.
For the past 38 years, they have played at Ranchero Visitadores in Santa Ynez. During this annual gathering, they spend five days camping, jammin’ with other musicians, and having a ball. “We’re like kids at Disneyland,” said Pritchard. They have also played at festivals all over the world and meet annually in Texas to tour the state. Each member has his own quirkiness, and together they make a good crowd to be around. “We’ve always enjoyed each other’s company. It’s a friendship that’s lasted for 50 years, and there just happens to be a mutual love of music in the middle of it,” said Grant.
By Ginny Chung, The Independent