Sit a spell: Jeff Jones, banjo, 29; Jarrod Walker, mandolin, 16; Tyler Walker, guitar, 14; Austin Wilder, guitar, 17; and Kalyn Hall, bass, 15. The band became prominent on the national bluegrass circuit more than 20 years ago, when DJ and beloved local musician Tom Henderson, 71, former owner of the Bluegrass Parlor on Busch Boulevard, formed a group with his music students. One of them, Jones, joined in 1996 and took over the band in 2003, following in Henderson's tradition.
Is Henderson still involved? "Back in 2003 Tom turned over leadership of the band to me and relinquished an active role in the band," Jones said. "Since then he has on occasion joined us on stage for a song if he happened to be at a festival or show we were playing at. ... I think any band, or even any bluegrass fan, in the area owes some thanks to Tom for all the work he has done promoting bluegrass and keeping it alive in the area."
Open to new experiences: "This past fall we had the chance to participate in the E-Fest in Sarasota," Jones said. "We were the only bluegrass/acoustic group at the event and were followed by a blues rock group, a hip-hop group, and a rockabilly band. I think the band would always welcome a chance to bring bluegrass to any situation where it would be welcomed with an open mind."
A varied set list: "I would say overall we have a fairly even mix of old and new songs with our vocals tending to be older and the instrumental tunes being more modern. We do traditional tunes by Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe, and we do more modern songs from Alison Krauss, and we even mix in some non bluegrass from groups like the Beatles. A few specific examples are Freeborn Man, an old Jimmy Martin vocal tune, also done more recently by Tony Rice, that Austin sings and tears up on the guitar; I Will, a Beatles tune that Kalyn does a great job singing and has a beautiful melodic banjo arrangement; and Potliquor, modern mandolin instrumental written by Jarrod."
What does each member like to do on a Saturday night that's not music-related?
Jeff: "Hang out at home with my wife and our new baby."
Jarrod: "Movies, hang out with friends, hunt and fish."
Tyler: Video games, hang out with friends, hunt and fish."
Austin: "Well I can't think of anything that I would like to go do on a Saturday night other than go play music, but if that's not an option, I'm sure I would just go see a movie or rent a movie.'"
Kalyn: "Hang out with friends, ride 4-wheelers, play Ping-Pong."
Hear them: 7 p.m. Saturday at the Florida Opry Bluegrass Special, 605 N Collins St., Plant City. $15. (813) 659-1849.