Charlie Cushman was born just north of Nashville in Clarksville, Tennessee. He became interested in the banjo like so many others, after seeing and hearing Earl Scruggs on television in the Flatt and Scruggs Show. He took some formal lessons but soon began learning everything he could on his own. By the time he was ten years old he was already playing on a local radio show, and by 14, Charlie was playing six days a week on the Carl Tipton Show on WLAC-TV. Fast forward a few decades (which included stints with Mel Tillis, Jimmy Martin, and years as a multi-instrumentalist at Opryland, not to mention a prolific studio career) - these days Charlie is doing his heroes proud by playing in what many people are calling the greatest touring traditional bluegrass band in the country, the Earls of Leicester. Charlie is also known as one of the finest banjo set-up professionals anywhere. If you factor in his incredible rapport with people, customers, and students, and his love for teaching, you can't deny that Charlie Cushman is a bluegrass banjo legend in the making.
"I got my first guitar when I was 11," he says. "I liked playing it but I liked it just about as much as I liked anything else. I liked to read, I liked to play guitar, I liked to go out and play catch with my brother. It was that kind of thing, really, until I heard bluegrass. When I heard Lester Flatt play on TV, I went nuts for it. For Christmas I got a banjo. My dad says he got me a banjo at 13 and I didn't come out of my room until I was 21, which is partly true."
In October 1991, Ron Block joined Alison Krauss and Union Station, with members Barry Bales, Tim Stafford, and Adam Steffey. The following year, the group recorded the album Every Time You Say Goodbye. Now considered a modern bluegrass classic, the album earned a 1993 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album, the first of an astounding 14 Grammys Block would take home thus far. Other early highlights of Block's tenure with AKUS include touring with megastar Garth Brooks, and, of course, the O Brother, Where Art Thou phenomenon, which would put the banjo player on the big screen and also on concert stages with the Down from the Mountain Tour, featuring performers from the O Brother soundtrack. In 2009, the group performed for the President of the United States at the White House. With more than 20 years of touring as part of Union Station, Block most recently went "on the road again" with the legendary Willie Nelson for a 2014-15 tour that continued to expand the group's diverse and enthusiastic audience.
Gina Clowes’ innovative and unique musicianship and songwriting, although based in traditional music modalities, breaks free from the assumed constructs and makes a new musical statement that's influenced by emotion, is played with the highest skill, and expresses an enormous verve and vitality.
With an intent to use the banjo as a medium of personal expression, Clowes moves through varied modes of musical treatments. Although she's known mainly known for her work as the banjo player for Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, she has a long history with her banjo. Born and raised in Front Royal, Virginia, Gina began touring up and down the east coast in her tween years with her siblings, earning countless ribbons from fiddlers conventions, a strong reputation in the regional bluegrass scene, and a stamp from Bluegrass Today as “absurdly talented”. She later played in a number of regional acts (Blue Light Special, New Girls Nite Out, On the Run, Bud’s Collective) and has made her international touring exposure with Chris Jones and the Night Drivers soon after joining the group. She is sought after as a teacher privately and at camps across the country. Her new album, True Colors, was released in September 2017 and debuted at #13 on Bluegrass Billboard Charts. Gina was featured on the cover of Banjo Newsletter in the December 2017 issue, along with her original tune "Saylor's Creek".