New Essex Bluegrass Band: Members

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Paul Brewer

Paul Brewer. Photo: Paul sings the lead on most of the songs, and occasionally baritone, and plays rhythm guitar. He first heard bluegrass music in the 1960s, fell in love with it, and has remained devoted to its traditional form ever since. On meeting Terry Hymers in 1989 the two of them formed the Chelmer Valley Bluegrass Band with Phill Morley, the founder of British Bluegrass News, on banjo and later Ivor Ottley on fiddle and Alan Saxby on bass. When this band folded Paul and Terry continued to sing and play together until they joined with Greg Wright to create the New Essex Bluegrass Band.

Paul loves all the bluegrass instruments, and has a collection of Martin guitars as well as a mandolin, Dobro and double bass, but holds steadfastly to the belief that singing is the key to the music. He has attended every Sore Fingers Summer School since it started in 1996, usually joining the singing class, and is thrilled to have met and sung with nearly all his favourite bluegrass singers, including Jody Stecher, Kate Brislin, Keith Little, Kathy Kallick and Lynn Morriss. He shares his extensive knowledge of bluegrass with others at SFSS by acting as tutor to the student bands.

Terry Hymers

Terry Hymers. Photo: Terry got into Bluegrass at the early age of about 10 due to his father being a banjo picker who styled himself on Earl Scruggs. After hearing a Bill Monroe album on the record player one night, Terry was so taken by Bill's style of playing that he got the 'bug'.... then he got a mandolin! Completely self-taught by ear, playing along to bluegrass albums from the likes of Jim & Jesse, Country Gazette, The Osborne Brothers and obviously Bill Monroe, he made his first public appearance playing with his father at a pub in Essex. Since then Terry has played in a number of bands throughout the Essex region until meeting Paul Brewer at a picking session one evening in 1989 which ultimately led to the forming of The New Essex Bluegrass Band.

Terry plays mandolin and sings tenor harmonies with Paul, and together they reproduce many of the closest brother duet harmonies to be found in bluegrass. Terry is also considered by many as the ideal bluegrass mandolin player, and was described by Frank Wakefield as having a ‘perfect right hand’ during Frank’s last UK tour.

Marc Noel-Johnson

Marc Noel-Johnson. width= Marc got into Bluegrass after hearing John Hartford playing banjo on The Byrd’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo and the Country Gazette album, Don’t Give up Your Day Job. Hearing Tony Rice’s first album sealed the deal and he was completely hooked. After playing some guest electric guitar with Telephone Bill and the Smooth Operators, Marc formed a country band with multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hale and also played in several Cambridge bands before taking up the mandolin and being asked to join the Radio Cowboys and beginning a long musical association with John Holder and Pete Sayers. In the mid nineties he began a long stint playing electric bass in two different rock and roll bands and eventually re-joined the Radio Cowboys on upright bass. Despite these diversions, he is at heart a guitarist with an interest in vintage instruments, boutique guitar amps and recording techniques of the sixties and seventies despite running ProTools on an iMac in his studio.

Marc plays bass and provides the baritone harmony line. In the real world, he is currently employed writing reviews for an on-line magazine.

Grahame Turner

Grahame TurnerGrahame joined the band in 2008 after Dixon left and despite a past (and possibly a present) that includes large motorcycles and the desire to dress as a garden gnome, plays a tasteful and sensitive banjo. He has promised several times to send me some appropriate biographical details, but as these are yet to arrive, we will have to make do with idle ramblings. I do know that in his day job he makes exquisite invitation cards of such beauty that refined ladies cry and only gentlemen who own oil wells can afford to order enough of them to have more than two or three friends round.

Grahame's first attempt at band uniform (picture, left) was generally considered a good start, incorporating, as it does, a hat, a shirt, trousers and footwear. We did eventually get him to wear our standard kit. He was worried that his friends would poke fun at him until we pointed out that none of his friends would recognise him.

Greg Smith

Greg Smith. Photo: Greg started out as a classical violinist, but got separated from that path at Cambridge University where he became interested in fiddling and was part of several bands including Cobblers Last, the Cambridge Crofters and Camus. To help pay his way through college, Greg played in several Ceilidh bands and took up calling dances. His interest in bluegrass was sparked when he was introduced to Pete Sayers and the Radio Cowboys in the 90s. He joined The New Essex Bluegrass Band in 2005 on the fiddle and is sometimes allowed to sing bass in the gospel numbers. In his spare time from bluegrass, Greg also plays with the Great Eastern Ceilidh Company. If you can ever persuade the band to remove their hats, Greg is easily recognisable as the only one with his own head of hair.

Last updated: Saturday, 2nd April, 2011, GPS