Ramblin’ Rhodes: Audience keeps growing for Steep Canyon Rangers

Woody Platt, co-founder of the bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers, is grateful to local music fans for following the group since its performances 12 years ago at Stillwater Tap Room on Broad Street.


That led to shows at the much, much larger Imperial Theatre for the Morris Museum of Art’s Budweiser True Music Southern Soul &Song series.

And now the group is heading for the even larger Bell Auditorium to perform with Symphony Orchestra Augusta at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27.

Tickets are $43.52, $21.30 and $10.19 at soaugusta.org or by calling (706) 826-4705.

Since its first Augusta show in 2005, Steep Canyon Rangers have performed in the nation’s most prestigious music halls and been seen by millions on such iconic TV programs as Austin City Limits and the annual A Capitol Fourth celebration on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Much of that popularity has resulted from the band’s concert shows and recordings with Steve Martin, the banjo-playing comedian and movie actor who achieved star status as a Saturday Night Live TV series regular.

“That definitely was a nerve-racking time,” Platt observed in a recent call of the live PBS broadcast with Martin at the 2011 Fourth of July celebration attended by about 200,000 people.

“We did our best to hold it together,” he humbly commented.

Fans would agree the band has been more than holding it together since its formation in late 1999 by students at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

SCR’s first album, Old Dreams and New Dreams, was released in 2001 backed up with an expanding performance base.

Platt said Stillwater Tap Room was one of the first Georgia shows outside of regular appearances at the Red Light Café in Atlanta on Thursday nights.

“We’ve grown a lot since then,” Platt said; adding that he was confident that jumping in size to Bell Auditorium with Symphony Orchestra Augusta will be a good thing.

“We have to trust the buyer to know their marketing and drawing powers, and we like reaching a whole different group of people like symphony fans who may not know us,” Platt said.

That has included performing at the Hollywood Bowl with Martin and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., with the National Symphony Orchestra.

As if doing shows with world-famous Martin wasn’t enough, beginning in late 2016 the band also began adding Martin’s Saturday Night Live co-star and close friend Martin Short with more dates booked for the rest of this year.

“Martin (Short) first of all is an unbelievable comedian, and he’s a good singer who brings along his own piano player,” Platt said. “He’s a big Frank Sinatra fan.”

Platt said the magical chemistry on stage with Steep Canyon Rangers performing with Short was “instantaneous” with Martin appearing “even more comfortable” on stage with his long-time good friend.

On the recording side, Platt said the Grammy Award-winning band just finished a yet-untitled album with “just us and Steve with no special guests” that should be out in the fall.

The band by itself plans to go back in the studio in July to begin working on an album due out in early 2018 as a follow-up to its 2015 album RADIO produced by the legendary Dobro player Jerry Douglas.

Guitar-player Platt also has been working on the side with Cody Siniard, a country music singer from Brevard, N.C. You can keep up with him at codysiniardmusic.com.

And for relaxation, Platt still loves to be a trout-fishing guide on the French Broad River in western North Carolina, which he has been doing for some 20 years.

Asked if his customers realize that their fishing guide is a world-famous bluegrass musician, Platt replied, “Occasionally somebody will put it together or figure it out. But mostly I’m now taking out people who know me because of the band.”


JEFF BARNES IN EDGEFIELD: Jeff Barnes will be presenting his An American Salute to Country Legends show at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at the Discovery Center, 405 Main St., in Edgefield, S.C., to benefit the Edgefield County Historical Society. Tickets are $12. Barnes will sing hits by Conway Twitty, Alabama, George Strait, George Jones, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks and others.


ERYN’S 29TH BIRTHDAY: Help celebrate local music star Eryn Eubanks’ 29th birthday from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at St. Luke’s church, 3081 Wheeler Road, in Augusta.

It’s free and there will be lots of bluegrass, folk and country music jamming by Eubanks and her Family Fold band as well as anyone else who wants to join in playing.

The heavily popular and ultra-sweet artist who plays about 15 instruments (not all at the same time, of course) also can be heard 8 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 28, at SouthBound Smokehouse, 1855 Central Ave., in Augusta.


WINSTON SLADE HELPING VETERANS: Lincoln County, Ga., resident Winston Slade is showcasing his new sound at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 29, at American Legion Post 63, 90 Milledge Road, in Augusta. Tickets are $20 with proceeds going to improvements for the post building.

Slade’s new single I’m The One comes from working with songwriter Rivers Rutherford (Brooks &Dunn’s Ain’t Nothing ’Bout You) and producer Rodney Mills (Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, Atlanta Rhythm Section). It is sort of rock country meets N’SYNC or the Back Street Boys.


TERRI GIBBS’ NEW ALBUM: Local resident Terri Gibbs, who shot to international fame with her MCA Records single Somebody’s Knockin’, has been working on a new album with gospel music artist David L. Cook.

The new CD To Sum It All Up features the title track written by Cook who also sings background vocals. It will be available through CD Baby, iTunes and others.

Gibbs was the first artist to win the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award and also won the Academy of Country Music’s Best New Female Vocalist award.


BRENDA LEE BACK ON TOUR: After taking some time off the road, country and classic rock star Brenda Lee is back on tour.

The nearest local appearances announced have been for the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday, June 11, and the Anderson Music Hall in Hiawassee, Ga., during the Georgia Mountain Fair on Saturday, July 22, with shows at 2 and 8 p.m. Visit georgiamountain fairgrounds.com.

THE MALPASS BROTHERS RETURNING: Fans of traditional country music will be glad to know The Malpass Brothers are returning to Evans. Augusta Amusements Inc. is presenting the duo influenced by Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Porter Wagoner, George Jones and other country legends at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $35 at augustaamusements.com or (706) 726-0366.

in concert

WHO: Steep Canyon Rangers with Symphony Orchestra Augusta

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27

WHERE: Bell Auditorium

TICKETS: $43.52, $21.30 and $10.19; soaugusta.org; (706) 826-4705

upcoming music festivals

FIFTH ANNUAL LITTLE ROY & LIZZY MUSIC FESTIVAL: May 4-6, at Elijah Clark State Park, Georgia Highway 378, east of Lincolnton, Ga. Performers include Connie Smith, Rhonda Vincent, Daryle Singletary and the Oak Ridge Boys in addition to Marty Raybon, Jeff & Sheri Easter, The Marksmen, The Band Kelley, Leroy Troy, The Rebekah Long Band, The Chuck Wagon Gang, The Jeff Little Trio, The Doug Flowers Band, The Moron Brothers and The Inspirations, Little Roy Lewis and Lizzy Long. Tickets are $45 advance, $55 at gate on May 4-5 and $50 advance, $60 at gate on May 6 or $25 daily for ages 7-13. Visit adamsbluegrass.com.

24TH ANNUAL BLIND WILLIE McTELL BLUES FESTIVAL: May 6, one mile north off Exit 172 off Interstate 20, at Thomson, Ga. Featured acts are The Wood Brothers, Mingo Fishtrap, Sugar Ray & The Bluetones, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jay Landreth Trio and Marcus King Band. Tickets are $40 at the gate; ages 12 and younger admitted free. Visit blindwillie.com.

NINTH ANNUAL JEFF & SHERI EASTER HOMECOMING MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND FESTIVAL: May 11-13, The Lewis Family Home Place, 1935 Lewis Family Road/Washington Road northwest of Lincolnton, Ga. Performers include Triumphant Quartet, The Little Roy & Lizzy Long Show, Ivan Parker, Lewis Tradition, Karen Peck & New River, The Primitive Quartet and Jeff and Sheri Easter. Tickets are $20 per day with ages 12 and younger admitted free. Visit jeffandsherieaster.com.

11th ANNUAL AIKEN BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL: May 12-13, Aiken County Fair­grounds, 1566 Columbia Highway North. Performers include Doug & The Henrys, The Herman Clan, Guitacolypse Now, ABF Super Jam, The Infamous Stringdusters, Gipsy Moon Band, Brad Parsons Band; Lindsay Lou & The Ladies with Jenny Keel, Mimi Naja, Allie Kral and Mackenzie Page; ABF Super Jam, Larry Keel Experience, Billy Strings and Fruition. Tickets are $20 advance, $25 at gate on Friday; $30 advance, $35 at gate on Saturday; $50 advance, $60 at gate for the weekend. Visit aikenbluegrassfestival.org.

EIGHTH ANNUAL PAPA JOE’S BANJO-B-QUE MUSIC FESTIVAL: May 26-27, Evans Towne Center Park. Performers include Greensky Bluegrass, Avett Brothers, The Defibulators, Hog Slop String Band, Villain Family, West King String Band, The High Divers, The Ramblin’ Fevers, Natchez Tracers, Cicada Rhythm, Harvest Thieves, Niles Foley, Kyshona Armstrong, The Little Roy & Lizzy Show, Larry Jones & The Spirits, Royal Johnson, Mason Jars, Delta Cane, Porter Oaks. Tickets are $35 Friday and $45 Saturday. VIP and weekend tickets available. Visit banjobque.com.