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.
‘Music For All’ recital May 2 with Fusion Theater at Boys and Girls Club
The Blues at the Crossroads Festival and Indiana State University’s Community School of the Arts will present “Music For All,” a recital featuring the talents of Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club students. Also on-stage will be students from West Vigo Middle School participating in CSA’s Fusion Theater program.
- Concert listings: April 17, 2014
Folk group Speedbumps to perform free show at The Woods April 14
The Speedbumps, an indie folk group and Independent Music Awards winner, is scheduled to play at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College on Monday.
ISU, South singers on stage at NYC’s Lincoln Center on April 12
A group of Indiana State students embarked on a trip of a lifetime as they boarded a bus on Tuesday on their way to perform at Lincoln Center in New York City.
The Sycamores, along with 21 students from Terre Haute South Vigo High School, are to perform Saturday.
ISU Symphony giving free concert on April 17
The Indiana State University Symphony Orchestra will present a free concert at 7:30 p.m. April 17 in Tilson Auditorium at ISU.
Boot City act to perform Ray Price tribute April 12
Fiddle player and vocalist Dennis Stroughmatt will perform a tribute to country legend Ray Price at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the Boot City Opry.
- Concert listings: April 10, 2014
ISU Faculty Brass Quintet to perform April 3
The Indiana State University School of Music Faculty Brass Quintet will perform a variety of works during a performance at 7:30 p.m. today in the Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts Recital Hall.
The quintet includes Robert Waugh and Edward Ludma on trumpet, Brian Kilp on horn, Randy Mitchell on trombone and Glen Dimick on tuba.
Opry opens season April 5 with Lloyd Wood
Lloyd Wood and his band will open the eighth season of the Boot City Opry in Terre Haute at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Wood has performed one or more shows each year at the Opry since its initial opening in 2006 and continues to be one of the most popular performers at the Opry.
- Concert listings: April 3, 2014
ISU to present March 28 Spring Choral Concert
Indiana State University’s Spring Choral Showcase Concert will provide patrons a preview to a program destined for the Big Apple. The concert, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday in the University Hall Theater, will feature the Women’s Choir, Sycamore Singers and Concert Choir.
- Concert listings: March 27, 2014
- Concert listings: March 20, 2014
Rose-Hulman students, faculty to perform ‘Engineers in Concert’
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students and faculty members will once again showcase their musical and dancing talents in the college’s annual “Engineers in Concert” performance on Friday in the Hatfield Hall Theater.
Five by Design, Richie Cole are ‘Cool and Swingin’ March 22
Back by popular demand, Five by Design returns to Terre Haute March 22 with a new show featuring alto saxophone legend Richie Cole. “Cool and Swingin’” begins at 7:30 p.m. in Tilson Auditorium at Indiana State University.
- Concert listings: March 13, 2014
- Concert listings: March 6, 2014
- Concert listings: Feb. 27, 2014
- Concert listings: Feb. 20, 2014
Band to perform Feb. 15 with tribute artist
Casey-Westfield High School band will perform with Elvis tribute artist Travis James at a fundraising concert scheduled 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, in the school at 306 E. Edgar Ave., in Casey.
‘An Evening of Romantic Music’ Feb. 22 with the Terre Haute Symphony
The Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra’s next concert coincides with Valentine’s Day weekend so music director Dr. David Bowden has put together “An Evening of Romantic Music.”
Denise Gamez, guest vocalist, will perform a medley of songs including “Can’t Help Loving Dat Man,” “I Hate Men,” and “The Man I Love” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in ISU’s Tilson Auditorium. The program will include Gershwin’s Overture to Girl Crazy and, perhaps, the most romantic piece ever written, Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2.
- Concert listings: Feb. 13, 2014
John Spicknall Jazz Piano Trio at ISU Feb. 16
The John Spicknall Jazz Piano Trio will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Recital Hall of Indiana State University’s Richard Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts.
- Concert listings: Feb. 6, 2014
Woods Chorale and Madrigals to perform March 10 in New York
The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Chorale and Madrigals, a select ensemble composed of 24 of the school’s most talented voices, is scheduled to perform at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City to commemorate International Women’s Day in March.
Great American Songbook concert Feb. 4 showcases singers, songwriters
In a celebration of great songwriters and singers, faculty and students of Indiana State University’s School of Music will bring to life a collection of well-loved standards during a free performance at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the University Hall Theater.
Winter Choral Festival Feb. 7 to feature Cantus
Lincoln Trail College is scheduled to present Cantus as guest artist for its 2014 Winter Festival on Feb. 7.
Members of Cantus, a men’s vocal ensemble, performs without a conductor, and rehearse as chamber musicians, each contributing to the entirety of the artistic process.
- Concert listings: Jan. 30, 2014
Concert Jan. 29 to feature ISU Wind Orchestra
Vincennes University will present a guest concert featuring the Indiana State University Wind Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 29 at the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center.
Admission is free. The Skelton Center is on the Vincennes University campus at 20 Red Skelton Blvd.
Masterworks Chorale searching for vocalists
Indiana State University’s Masterworks Chorale, a community choir that serves the Wabash Valley, is looking for vocalists who love choral music and are interested in performing.
The 70- to 75-voice ensemble, which performs major choral works each semester, comprises Indiana State students, faculty and staff, and community members.
- More Concerts Headlines
- ‘Music For All’ recital May 2 with Fusion Theater at Boys and Girls Club