From Wednesday’s Life section of The Oklahoman.
Gatlin Brothers headlining 15th Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival
Starting Thursday, the three-day Guthrie event will feature a full lineup of acoustic musicians, workshops, children’s activities, youth music contests and more.
GUTHRIE — Country music stars the Gatlin Brothers will be among the thousands of music lovers from around the world who will make the pilgrimage this week to the 15th annual Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival.
Frontman Larry Gatlin made his debut at the Guthrie event last year, but this year, his siblings Steve and Rudy Gatlin will join him, bringing their signature three-part harmonies, family-band chemistry and impressive collection of hits such as “All the Gold in California,” “Broken Lady” and “Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer to You)” to the Cottonwood Creek festival grounds.
“He enjoyed it so much last year that he wanted to bring his brothers this year, and I said, ‘We can arrange that.’ That was a no-brainer,” said internationally renowned Guthrie fiddler Byron Berline, the event’s founder and organizer, with a laugh. “Our fans did really enjoy him coming out to the festival.”
Opening Thursday, the three-day Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival will again live up to its name, with three fan-favorite European bands making highly anticipated returns. Swiss band the Kruger Brothers will headline the festival Friday night and precede the Gatlin Brothers Saturday night. The Bluegrass Boogiemen from Holland and Fragment from the Czech Republic also will play two sets each during the festival.
“We get people from New York to L.A. who come to the festival,” Berlin said, adding he expects 3,000 to 5,000 attendees.
“We’ve had people from Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Japan — and Texas. It’s a neat deal. They just come and make a vacation out of it.”
In addition to traditional bluegrass, the festival will showcase a variety of acoustic music, from Hankerin’ 4 Hank’s Hank Williams tribute and Jim Garling’s cowboy songs to Frenchie Burke’s Cajun fiddling and the Red Dirt Rangers’ eponymous music. Berline’s band will play all three days, and the event will include an open mike, random band jam and workshops.
Best known as leaders of the countrypolitan movement of the 1970s and ‘80s, the Gatlin Brothers recently received the Academy of Country Music’s Pioneer Award along with Oklahoman Garth Brooks. The Grammy-winning trio released in 2009 “Pilgrimage,” a storytelling album paying tribute to the late, great Johnny Cash, who mentored the band of brothers in the early ‘70s. The album was produced by Cash’s son John Carter Cash and includes the single, “Johnny Cash Is Dead (And His House Burned Down).” The Gatlin Brothers’ most recent single, “Americans, That’s Who,” salutes U.S. military personnel stationed around the world, in particular those who tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden earlier this year.
The Gatlin Brothers won’t be the only musicians playing for the first time at the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival. Another family group, the Quebe Sisters Band of Fort Worth, Texas, will make their debut at the festival on Friday.
“There’s three of them, and they sing real tight harmonies and they all play fiddles,” Berline said. “They’re terrific.”
Bluegrass festival favorites Jerry Butler & The Blu-J’s will appear in the lineup of the Guthrie event for the first time, and Berline expects local fans will be particularly excited to see the band’s mandolin player, Bobby Clark. A former founding member of the popular Williams & Clark Expedition, Clark is an Oklahoma native who joined Butler’s group two years ago.
“It’s an added bonus that he’s now in the band. He’s well known in the Oklahoma City area. He had a band with Vince Gill in high school,” Berline said.
The Austin, Texas-based bluegrass band Third Rail are new to the event’s lineup, but band member JP Shafer won the festival’s youth mandolin contest last year.
“They’re a young group, very talented and really popular,” Berline said. “Our whole mission for the festival is to promote the music, especially to the youth and make them more educated about acoustic music. So it’s important to have them play, too.”
Along with young musician contests, the festival will feature a children’s tent with live music and hands-on arts and crafts and main-stage performances by winners of Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival scholarships. Instrument auctions at 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday will help fund more scholarships for musically talented youths to take private lessons or attend music camps.
“The festival is really good for the whole state, and not just Guthrie,” Berline said. “It’s a good mission, and it’s good for the bluegrass community.”
15th annual Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival
When: Activities begin at 9 a.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday.
Where: Festival grounds on Cottonwood Creek, State Highway 33 at U.S. 77, Guthrie.
Admission: Advance tickets are $25 for Thursday, $30 for Friday, $35 for Saturday, or $70 for a three-day pass. Tickets at the gate are $30 for Thursday, $40 for Friday or Saturday, or $80 for a three-day pass.
Information: 282-4446 or www.oibf.com.