TERRE HAUTE — Bluegrass fans came from all four corners of the Wabash Valley to see Nashville, Tenn.-based band The Grascals in concert Friday night in Union Christian Church.
Jo-Ann Jones of Clinton was “pew dancing” in the second row in front of the sold-out crowd.
“No one likes to sit next to me,” Jones said during the intermission. “I don’t sit still when I listen to bluegrass music. I’m from Nashville, Tenn. It takes me back to my childhood.”
Jones brought along her daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter to the concert. “I love bluegrass, especially the instrumentals,” said granddaughter Summer Koenig of Clinton.
Guitarist and co-lead singer Terry Eldredge, who grew up in Vigo County, got a big hug from Rosalee Smith during a meet and great at intermission. “His mom and dad were neighbors with me,” Smith said. “I guess I’ve known him ever since he was born. He used to come play [music] at our church … New Hope Church in Paris, Ill.”
Also during the break, Eldredge met back up with childhood friends Joe Archer, longtime Terre Haute musician Teddy Laughrey and Jack Daniel. Daniel said he and Eldredge lived about ¼ mile from each other as kids growing up in West Terre Haute. They also “hung out many years in Nashville” before he became a professional chef and left "Music City."
Cathy Cox Ramsey and Audrey Miller Harbison of West Terre Haute were excited to pose for a meet and greet photo with the “nicest kid on earth" from their high school days. They graduated with Eldredge in 1981 from West Vigo.
Louie Popejoy, along with Laura Pounds, Bud Jeffers and church pastor Mark Grayless, opened the two-hour concert in the church at 5350 E. Hulman Drive on Terre Haute's east side. The Grascals performed in the same venue on Feb. 8, 2013. That was the first performance for Eldredge in his home county with The Grascals, and his first in any format in decades.
Eldredge’s father and extended family members, his West Vigo fifth-grade teachers Mrs. Billings and Mrs. Wilguess, about 12 former classmates, church members, and other bluegrass lovers from across the Wabash Valley packed the church sanctuary again Friday night. Elderly couple Joyce and Carl Trump of Flat Rock, Ill., said The Grascals performance was well worth the one hour and 15 minute drive.
By the end of the night, The Grascals had made a lasting impression on Jeff Selby-Whitesell of Knightsville, a young mandolin player under the tutelage of Popejoy. His moment to remember came after the concert during a meet and greet with The Grascals mandolinist Danny Roberts.
Terry Eldredge grew up in western Vigo County in a musical family that hosted weekly jam sessions at their home. He graduated from West Vigo High School and moved to Nashville to pursue a music career. There, he played bass, guitar and sang with a gamut of country and bluegrass acts — Grand Ole Opry icons Lonzo and Oscar, the Osborne Brothers, Larry Cordle, Lonesome Standard Time and Dolly Parton’s Blue-niques.
He and other veterans of the Music City circuit formed The Grascals in 2004, and their debut, self-titled album in 2005 earned Grammy nominations. Since then, they’ve played to huge audiences around the country, and their subsequent albums have consistently topped bluegrass charts. Their latest album is “Life Finds a Way.” They’ve been joined in concert and on recordings by Parton, Hank Williams Jr., Dierks Bentley, the late George Jones and others. They’ve appeared on television’s “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and others.
The band’s current lineup features Eldredge, fellow co-lead vocalist and guitarist Jamie Johnson, vocalist-bassist Terry Smith, fiddler Adam Haynes, mandolinist Danny Roberts and banjoist and singer Kristin Scott Benson.
Tribune-Star columnist Mark Bennett contributed to this report.