Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers were featured in this week’s Chattanooga Now. This is going to be one great Sunday Bluegrass Matinee!
Joe Mullins and Co. ramble into Barking Legs
If you go
› What: Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers in concert.
› When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28.
› Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
› Admission: $15 single tickets, $25 for two.
› Phone: 423-624-5347.
› Venue website: barkinglegs.org.
› Artist website: radioramblers.com.
› 2012: Emerging Artist of the Year for Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers
› 2006: Album of the Year for “Celebration of Life: Musicians Against Childhood Cancer” (an ensemble production)
› 2001: Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year for “Knee-Deep in Bluegrass: The AcuTab Sessions”
› 1998: Song of the Year for “Lonesome Old Home” (with Longview)
› 1998: Recorded Event of the Year for “Longview” (with Longview)
2015: “The Blues Are Still the Blues” (with Traditional Grass)
2014: “Another Day From Life” (with The Radio Ramblers)
2012: “Hall of Fame Bluegrass!” (with Junior Sisk)
2012: “Life Goes On: Musicians Against Childhood Cancer” / “Foggy Mountain Special” (various artists) / “They’re Playing My Song” (with The Radio Ramblers)<p>2010: “Rambler’s Call” / “Hymns From the Hills” (both with The Radio Ramblers)
2007: “Tuned In” (with The Radio Ramblers)
1999: “High Lonesome” (with Longview)
1997: “Longview” (with Longview)
1993: “I Believe in the Old-Time Way” (with The Traditional Grass)
To hear Joe Mullins tell the tale, he might as well have come into the world wearing nothing but finger picks.
“I was born doing this,” quips the vocalist, banjo player and founder of Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers, an Ohio-based bluegrass/gospel quintet.
The Ramblers are on the cusp of their 10th anniversary, but Mullins’ bluegrass career began decades earlier thanks to his father, Paul “Moon” Mullins, a radio broadcaster and fiddler whose work in both realms made family friends of pioneering bluegrass artists.
“I was the most fortunate kid in the world to get to regularly see the Osborne Brothers and Ralph Stanley and Don Reno and all the great bluegrass bands in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s,” Mullins says. “I had access to them all, regularly. I was fortunate to be an insider from when I was born.”
Growing up halfway between Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, Mullins studied these giants of the genre, during performances and in person, and fell in love with their music. In the 1980s, that passion saw him follow in his father’s footsteps onto the stage and into the radio booth.
In 2010, the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America nominated Mullins as the Broadcaster and Promoter of the Year, and his station, WBZI-FM, was given a nod as the Bluegrass Radio Station of the Year. In 2011, he won the former award.
By the time Mullins founded the Radio Ramblers in 2006, he’d spent more than a decade running a four-station radio network in Ohio, and he leveraged his connections within the local scene to help fill out the fledgling band’s schedule. When the Ramblers’ second album, “Ramblers Call,” came out in 2010, however, he says he realized there was the potential to step up to a grander arena.
“I knew it was good enough to have a place on the national stage,” Mullins says. “One of the record labels [Rebel Records] picked it up in 2010, and it’s been a whirlwind since then.”
In 2012, the Ramblers earned recognition from the International Bluegrass Music Association as the organization’s Emerging Artist of the Year. The following year, they made their debut on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, to which they have returned as regular guests, according to the band’s website.
On Sunday, Feb. 28, the band will make its first stop in Chattanooga during a concert at Barking Legs Theater.
As much as he honors and respects the bluegrass pioneers who surrounded him growing up, Mullins says he strives to ensure the Radio Ramblers’ music — whether original material or a cover — embodies a heartfelt sincerity and accessible simplicity that is uniquely their own.
“Oftentimes it’s really hard to enjoy a song, for me, if it has too many chords and too many words,” he says. “Simplicity really works; three chords and the truth still works.
“When it comes to the Radio Ramblers, I don’t leave out, ‘How is the harmony going to be arranged? Can we sing this and have people believe it? Can we sing it and make it our own?’ We’re not going to go out and do the same songs that Larry Sparks or Ralph Stanley or Bill Monroe were doing 50 years ago. We’ll have a fresh presentation of current material.”
Contact Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at@PhillipsCTFP.