A couple times a month in the historic district of downtown Longmont, the furniture in the front room of the old Dickens Tavern makes way for a genuine bluegrass show with a group called Willie Bean and the Bluegrass Rangers.

The anticipation in the room is palpable as the crowd prepares to be taken back in time musically to the sounds of genuine bluegrass, originally created by the Monroe brothers Bill and Charlie. According to Begley, the likes of Del McCroury and Larry Sparks and have recently further refined bluegrass.

The Bluegrass Ranger, front man, Alan Begley, welcomes folks to another bluegrass show that would prove to be, "full of heart tugging songs, powerful vocal harmonies and tasteful instrument solo's from a classic bluegrass ensemble."

Some folks are dancing, some folks are laughing and some folks are just walking in with new smiles as the room fills with a blend of old timey music and laughter.

Many people come every week and wouldn't miss seeing the Bluegrass Rangers lay their hearts before them with songs, "about God, coal mines, trains, and conversations with the heart." After hearing these songs first hand, it is clear to see why this group's music touches the hearts of the folks who love the sound of Bluegrass.

Tony Greif plays banjo in the band and was born in Baltimore, MD. His mother used to sing him to sleep with songs from Frank Zappa, who was also born in Baltimore. In high school, he played lead guitar in a working top-40 band and never got to school before noon. Band practice began promptly at 1:00 pm, which might explain Tony's limited grasp of certain "facts" deemed important by some elite folks. Soon afterward, Tony heard the Seldom Scene play live in Alexandria, Virginia. After hearing "Wait a Minute", there was no going back to rock’n roll for Tony. He was hankering for bluegrass music, so he took up the dobro and then later the banjo. Tony also confesses to be a Flatt and Scruggs fan. He discovered their music, by watching "The Beverly Hillbillies" on TV.

Andy Blaylock plays bass fiddle with the “Rangers.” He spent his first 30 years in England growing up by the seaside with his first exposures to Bluegrass in the late 60's and early 70's watching the Beverly Hillbillies and later while watching the film Bonnie and Clyde. Live bluegrass music was rare in England, but one year in the 80's Andy attended the Edale Bluegrass Festival in Derbyshire England. He explained how fortunate he felt to see a few American bluegrass bands. One of the bands that stood out to Andy at the festival was Hot Rize. They sparked an interest in Bluegrass and Western Swing music for Andy that would not go away. He and some friends formed "The Steel City Pickers" in Sheffield England. Now Andy enjoys playing bass and singing for the Bluegrass Rangers.

Also on the Ranger roster playing mandolin is Jack Jostes. Jack says his favorite musicians include Johnny Cash, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Alan Jackson, and the Beatles. Jack joined Willie Bean in the late summer of 2011, and says he likes the songs that the band sings together. "I've always enjoyed country music because of the stories," he said, "and there's nothing like vocal harmony in a good spiritual song." The origins of Alan's connectivity to bluegrass began after listening to Carter Stanley and Bill Monroe sing "Sugar Coated Love" with Gordon Terry on fiddle from his families farm in Richmond, Virginia. He was hooked for good! Songs like "What would you give?" and "I'll Meet You in the Morning" imprinted bluegrass in his soul.

Alan said he studied bluegrass with bluegrass academy teachers Tim Stafford, John Moore, John Nunally, and Nick Forrester. In between Ranger shows, he has made cameo appearances with various bluegrass groups including, Ed Neff's Blue and Lonesome, Bean Creek, The Lonesome Wailers, Just Picked String Band and Steamboat Zephyr.

Turns out, Alan noted, that "a Bluegrass Ranger set pays respect to many of my early influences and heroes - Bill and Charlie Monroe, Peter Rowan, Larry Sparks, and Charles Sawtelle," as well as some of his current musical influences such as Open Road, Town Mountain, Spring Creek, Windy Hill, KC Groves and the Jaspers, Bonnie and the Clydes, Taylor Sims, Eric Thorin and the Matt Flinner Trio, Open Road, Grant Farm, Taarka, Highbeams, and Jordon Ramsey (Long Road Home).”

When Tony teamed up with Alan to form Willie Bean and the Bluegrass Rangers, Alan had been telling old stories about his great grandfather Captain Willie Bean in between songs. He was an original settler in Bean Station Tennessee. Inspired by the stories of pioneering, the band adopted the name Willie Bean and added the Bluegrass Rangers as a tribute to the pioneering spirit of the Bean Family and the good old days.

To keep their music fresh, the Rangers have featured a number of different artists, including: Kane Hollins (Backwoods Galaxy), Maggie Sallee (Voted Tavern Favorite!), Julie Guseroff (of She Said String Band), David Sneed (Rockygrass dobro finalist) , Cary Messinger (fiddle expert), Kathy Patton(bass - Steel Pennies), and Dave Patton (of banjo royalty- Steel Pennies and Coal Creek String Band).

Now mid 2012, Willie Bean and the Bluegrass Rangers have played local charity events, local radio shows and small music festivals around Colorado. Last spring they played a concert for the HOPE foundation at the Bertolin Barn and now they can be found at the Dickens Tavern on the first and third Wednesday's of every month with shows starting at 6pm. This spring, Willie Bean and the Bluegrass Rangers will be playing at the Denver Walk for the Cure for the Psoriasis Foundation on May 20th at Sloan's Lake. Current show updates can be found online on the band's Facebook page.


Edited by Mel Fenson from an interview with Alan Begley.



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