TERRE HAUTE —
A club in New York City or the front room of the Eldredges’ house near West Terre Haute.
The setting never fazed Terry Eldredge, even as a teenager. He could play music anywhere, bold and confident.
“He was never bashful,” recalled Louis Popejoy, a renowned Terre Haute musician and one of Eldredge’s early mentors.
More than 30 years ago, Popejoy fronted a bluegrass quartet that included Terry and his older brother, Grady, that toured the country, including the Big Apple and other East Coast locales. The bright lights and audiences didn’t shake Eldredge.
“I’m a 13-year-old boy, never been out of West Terre Haute, and there I was in downtown New York City,” Eldredge remembered, chuckling. “I didn’t really feel under pressure.”
And why would he? For years, Eldredge, his siblings, his folks, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends would host community jam sessions in their house every weekend. “I’ll bet you there wasn’t a night that there wasn’t somebody out there playing,” Popejoy said.
Eldredge confirmed that memory. “It was almost like a mini festival at my house,” he said.
Indeed, the roots of Terry Eldredge’s life in music run deep in Vigo County, his home community, where he was born, raised, performed with bands in pizza parlors and bars, sang in the West Vigo High School choir, graduated and immediately headed off to Nashville, Tenn. Three decades later, he’s coming back to his hometown to sing and strum on stage with his world-popular, Grammy-nominated band, The Grascals. The concert — at 8 p.m. Feb. 8, in Union Christian Church on Terre Haute’s east side — marks Eldredge’s first local show in more than 25 years.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said in a telephone interview from Nashville last week.
That said, Eldredge couldn’t help but look back a bit, too. He grew up across the street from West Vigo High School in a house full of musicians, from his Aunt Vera — a former Illinois radio show singer — to his immediate family.
Popejoy, who’s been teaching kids and adults to play almost any instrument with strings for 50 years, gave Eldredge’s brother, Grady, lessons, and they eventually rehearsed together with a group at the Eldredges’ house.
“And then we’d hear something coming out of the back bedroom, and it was Terry, beating on his guitar and singing along,” Popejoy said.
Terry took a few mandolin lessons from Popejoy, but grew more interested in the upright bass that Terry’s brother, Payton, played. Those bass-playing skills led Eldredge to pursue a career in Nashville. Just an 18-year-old high school senior, he landed a job as bassist for the veteran Grand Ole Opry act Lonzo and Oscar. The job involved sacrifice. Eldredge had to miss his West Vigo graduation ceremony to play the Opry that same day, but he did indeed earn his diploma.
Eldredge delivered guitar, bass and vocals as a band member for a string of notable artists as the years passed in Nashville, from the Osborne Brothers to Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time, Benny Martin, Josh Graves and Chubby Wise. Eldredge released two solo albums in 1992 and ’94, impressing critics with the second. Amid a 2003 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards (IBMA) nomination for Bass Player of the Year and his work as a member of Dolly Parton’s Blue-niques, a prime opportunity opened.
In 2004, Eldredge and some fellow Nashville musicians decided to form a bluegrass band that could bring the niche genre to wider audiences. Having passed his 40th birthday, Eldredge also wanted his cohorts to understand he intended the group to last. “I wanted this to be the band I retired with,” he said. They agreed, formed The Grascals, and — fueled by Parton’s outspoken support — became the hottest bluegrass outfit in America.
Parton and the exposure generated by genre-specific Sirius XM satellite radio stations has solidified The Grascals’ staying power that Eldredge sought.
“I think we’ve got a good foundation,” he said. “We just need to keep building on it.”
The structure includes three Grammy Award nominations spawned from the seven albums they’ve recorded in the past nine years. They’re up for Bluegrass Album of the Year in the 2013 Grammys for their “Life Finds a Way” disc released last year. They’ve won numerous bluegrass awards, but not a Grammy, yet. They’ll learn the outcome on Feb. 10, two days after they play Terre Haute.
“That is very flattering,” Eldredge said of the nomination, “but it can be very humbling, too, especially if you don’t win.”
The lineup has changed slightly since The Grascals’ first two Grammy nominations in 2006 and 2007. Fiddle player Jimmy Mattingly, who grew up in Terre Haute, left to tour full-time with Parton, and Jeremy Abshire now handles that role. The band’s first female member, Kristin Scott Benson, plays banjo, flanked by original members Eldredge on lead vocals and guitar, fellow Hoosier Jamie Johnson on co-lead vocals and guitar, Terry Smith on bass, and Danny Roberts on mandolin.
They lean on a mix of old-time music standards, gospel, originals, and improbable covers of tunes of almost any style, ranging from The Monkees to Elvis, Waylon Jennings and James Taylor. “There’s nothing in a genre we won’t try,” Eldredge said emphatically.
They’re also uninhibited about instrumentation. While their core arrangement remains traditional, all acoustic, The Grascals have included occasional drums, electric guitars and non-bluegrass instruments. “If there was something we were recording and wanted to put an oboe on it, and it fits, we’d do it. I don’t know what that would be. Maybe ‘I Am the Walrus,’ coo-coo-ca-joob,” he said, laughing.
The band is also experimenting with its workload. They are attempting to record two albums simultaneously — one conventional, and the other all gospel. “It’s gonna be a task, but we’re gonna try to do them both at once,” Eldredge said. Add to that their current tour, and life as a Grascal is busy. They enjoyed time at home over the holidays, a special treat for Eldredge, who married his longtime girlfriend, Catherine, on June 9, 2011. Still, he hasn’t lost the joy for making music on the road.
A show in Terre Haute, though, has remained a void on his resume. Mark Grayless, pastor at Union Christian Church in Terre Haute — the site of the Feb. 8 concert — wanted to correct that, and sought to host a Grascals gig. “Somebody did well, and they deserved to play in their own hometown,” Grayless said of Eldredge’s success.
One of The Grascals’ most high-profile gigs in years will happen Monday night, when the band performs in Washington, D.C., during celebrations surrounding President Obama’s inauguration. They’ll play at 7 that night at the Native Nations Inaugural Ball at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. Eldredge’s co-lead singer, Johnson, is a member of the Chippewa First Nation of Sarnia, Ontario. It will mark their first concert in the nation’s capital since a going-away party for President George W. Bush.
Eldredge, now 49, admits he remains awed by the places and people he — a guy from West Terre Haute — encounters. “All I know is that I’m glad to be here, thank the Lord,” he said.
At Home on Stage: Upcoming concert brings Grammy-nominated band and singer-guitarist back to Terre Haute
TERRE HAUTE —
A club in New York City or the front room of the Eldredges’ house near West Terre Haute.
Concert band to add a little bluegrass July 20
The Brazil Concert Band is scheduled to present “OK! … Yellow Hammer!” on Sunday at the special time of 7 p.m. at Forest Park.
Marlinaires to return July 19 to Opry
After a three-year absence, The Marlinaires will return to the Boot City Opry stage at 7 p.m. Saturday. A general admission ticket is $15.
The Lesters Gospel group to perform July 21
The Lesters, also known as “St. Louis’ First Family of Gospel Music,” will present an evening of music at 7 p.m. Monday at The Marshall (Ind.) Baptist Church, 204 E. Guion Road (Indiana 236) in Marshall.
- Concert listings: July 17, 2014
Jamin’ for the Cure July 25 at Fairbanks Park
Jamin’ for the Cure, set for 6 p.m. until midnight July 25 in Fairbanks Park, will feature area bands Dicky James, Blue Town, Acoustic Dogg and Southland. There also will be three area food vendors and a beer garden.
Gymnasium Heide-Ost Symphonic Band to perform July 18-19 at festival
Terre Haute Community Band Inc. has been selected to host the Gymnasium Heide-Ost Symphonic Band from Germany at the fourth annual “On the Banks of the Wabash” Community Band Festival on July 18 and 19 in Fairbanks Park.
- Concert listings: July 10, 2014
Hip Trip Show coming to Opry June 28
Jhonny & Sallie will return to the Boot City Opry with their new Hip Trip Show on Saturday. The newly created show will feature the unforgettable and almost forgotten tunes from the groovy, hippie days of the 1960s.
Lunes Domingo and Pinball Heroes to perform June 27 at the Verve
The eclectic local musical ensemble Lunes Domingo will be up to its sonic tricks again Friday at the Verve in downtown Terre Haute. The 10 p.m. performance will showcase the group’s mix of jazz, funk and rock, which was forged in the Verve’s Monday Jazz Jam and honed over the first half of 2014.
Check out ‘Stars In A Velvety Sky’ with the Brazil Concert Band June 29
The Brazil Concert Band will present “Stars In A Velvety Sky” on Sunday at the special time of 7:30 p.m. in Forest Park.
Indie rock band to perform June 28 at Verve
Based out of Chicago, the indie rock outfit Bailiff has the ability to combine upbeat pop and blues melodies with heavy rock undertones to create a new kind of “dark pop.”
- Concert listings: June 26, 2014
The Marlins at Boot City Opry June 21
For more than 25 years, The Marlins have entertained audiences throughout the United States and Canada. Born into a musical family, brothers Gary, Jace, Rick and Robert are proficient at performing all kinds of music from old country to the Big Band sounds.
Marshall City Band having concert June 20
The Marshall City Band will perform a concert at 8 p.m. Friday on the lawn of Clark County Courthouse in Marshall, Ill.
Band to present ‘Father’s Day At The Park’ June 15
The Brazil Concert Band will present “Father’s Day At The Park” at 8 p.m. Sunday at Forest Park in Brazil, rain or shine.
New this season is “Bond … James Bond” with popular selections arranged by Stephen Bulla.
Rock ’n’ roll June 14 at Boot City Opry
Rock ’n’ roll music from the ’50s and ’60s returns to the Boot City Opry on Saturday.
Chicagoland’s The Ragtops will take the stage at 7 p.m.
- Concert listings: June 12, 2014
Ambrosini’s summer schedule chock-full of live music
The summer heat has arrived, and so has Ambrosini’s summer lineup for Finally Fridays.
Since launching the weekend starting event in January, Finally Fridays has become a big favorite, according to Steve Smith, Ambrosini’s owner.
‘Saving a Marionette, a Gypsy and Mr. Banks’ June 8 in Brazil
The Brazil Concert Band will present “Saving a Marionette, a Gypsy and Mr. Banks” at 8 p.m. Sunday in Forest Park at Brazil.
Southern gospel trio to perform June 13
Southern gospel trio Greater Vision will be in concert at 7 p.m. CDT June 13 in Cornerstone Baptist Church, 15197 U.S. 150, Paris, Ill.
Kopecky Family Band June 5 at Verve
The Kopecky Family Band will share the stage tonight at the Verve with Lunes Domingo, a local performance project offering high caliber, electric entertainment.
- Concert listings: June 5, 2014
- Concert listings: May 22, 2014
Bluegrass rounds out Rose series May 17
Grammy Award winners Steep Canyon Rangers will bring their bluegrass sound to Terre Haute at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday when Hatfield Hall at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology presents its performing arts series season finale. The group will be joined by 2013 Grammy nominees Della Mae, an all-female bluegrass sensation that has garnered a lot of attention since its debut release, “I Built This Heart,” in 2011.
Lunes Domingo, live at The Verve May 16
Lunes Domingo will return Friday to The Verve on Wabash Avenue.
Lunes Domingo is a performance project offering high caliber, eclectic, live entertainment in the heart of downtown Terre Haute.
- Concert listings: May 15, 2014
Louisiana piano pumper at Opry MAY 10
Louisiana piano pumper Chris Girton will take the Boot City Opry stage at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Piano-rock artist to perform May 10 at Verve
Piano-rock artist Zach Vinson will perform Saturday in The Verve at 677 Wabash Ave. in Terre Haute.
- Concert listings: May 8, 2014
- Concert listings: May 1, 2014
- More Concerts Headlines
- Concert band to add a little bluegrass July 20