The Travelin’ McCourys Stop in Florida
By Sean Donovan
The Travelin’ McCourys are living up to their name. They’re back on the road for more tour dates in 2018. The band has played world-renowned venues such as Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, The Greek Theater in LA, The Grand Ole Opry in Tennessee, and Carnegie Hall in NY; yet when I asked Ronnie McCoury what upcoming venue he was looking most forward to playing, he said, “I’ve driven through Ponte Vedra, Florida probably dozens of times, but I’ve never played there. I hear that the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall is quite nice, so I’m really excited to play there for the first time this Saturday night.”
The Travelin’ McCourys played 73 shows last year, 60 or so with their father, Del McCoury, the legendary bluegrass musician. Ronnie laughed as he recalled some past memories of touring during the winter. “We were stuck in the Atlanta airport and every single flight on the board was cancelled due to snow. We had a big indoor show at a resort in Big Sky, Montana the next day. There was just no way we could make it. Luckily, it was a multi-day show, and the organizer said we could just come the next day.” So heading south to Florida this time of year is good logistical planning for them.
In regard to how it feels to be the son of a legend, Ronnie’s humble roots are evident and his appreciation for his upbringing is profound. “My dad was just like any other dad, except he liked playing music. He inspired me and my brother. He put me in the band and I just started playing rhythm at age 14. I finally realized when I was about 20, that we should go to Nashville and try to make it in music. My father encouraged me to start my own band and it was so cool to be able to build this thing together with his guidance. When we started our band, The Travelin’ McCourys, eight years ago, people thought we would be just another iteration of The Del McCoury Band. So we really worked on refining some songs and creating new arrangements. That’s kind of when we really found our sound.”
Ronnie and his band were certainly able to do just that and carve their niche in the bluegrass world. He fondly recounted the evolution of this music genre and how they have made their mark on it. “Bluegrass came to fruition in the mid-40’s as an amalgamation of jazz and gospel. My father was right in there with them at the forefront of the bluegrass music inception. Now, we are staying true to our roots while remaining fresh and relevant in the music scene.”
The Travelin’ McCourys have had the pleasure of playing with so many of the bluegrass greats, as well as modern artists like Phish, who are quite diverse and draw from a wide variety of genres, including funk, folk, psychedelic rock, pop, jazz and country.
Learning from others and building on their success has allowed The Travelin’ McCourys to put their unique sound and spin on remakes such as Passenger’s hit song, Let Her Go. Ronnie chuckled when I asked him what inspired him to remake that particular song. “My daughter had it on her playlist and she introduced me to the song, just as I did for my father back in the day when I was playing Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and so on. My philosophy is that a good song can be done any style, any way.”
Even though the band was on the road close to 150 days last year, when they’re home, they are writing and recording. In fact, there’s a new Travelin’ McCourys album due out in the spring of this year. Ronnie has also been working on a documentary about his father, that will hopefully be completed in 2018 as well.
“My dad is going to be 79 this year and he is a big inspiration to me. To see him continue to keep doing what he’s doing, it gets in your blood. At age 50, I’m renewed and ready to keep making music for years to come. I’ve been in the best bluegrass band that I could possibly be in with my dad, and now to build my own band, is incredibly exciting.”
I could feel the enthusiasm and passion for music in Ronnie’s voice. It was contagious – and now I’m incredibly excited to see this unique band live in concert this Saturday, January 20th at 8 p.m.20 at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall.