Let the “Crabgrass” Grow

By Emerald Butler


Brothers Kevin (mandolin) and Andy (dobro) Crabtree were just sitting on the couch four years ago when they decided to start their Bluegrass band. After playing with various bands in their hometown area of Mansfield, Ohio, the brothers invited longtime friends Billy Sparks (bass) and Billy Conley (guitar) to complete the band. Since then, the Crabgrass bluegrass band has become well known in central Ohio for their family harmony, hard-driving tunes, and crowd-pleasing acapella’s.

Like many other pickers, playing bluegrass music has been a tradition passed down in the Crabtree family. The two Crabtree brothers began playing music at ages five and seven in their dad’s band Real Lite Grass. Unfortunately, their dad passed away before he could see the brothers perform with their band. “Our dad passed about four and a half years ago before we started this band. He never got to hear (Crabgrass), but he always loved to get to hear us play and sing. Mom passed away about two years ago in May. She did get to hear us the very first time we played.” However, Andy shared that he is thankful to still get to play music with his brother and the other boys who have become like family.
Before the boys got the notion to start the band, a local jam session follower named Paula would often tell the brothers that they needed to start one. “You guys need to start a band called Crabgrass,” Andy remembers Paula saying. “You should call it Crabgrass and that would just be phenomenal!” When the brothers finally did decide to start the band, Andy told his brother “if we don’t call it Crabgrass we’re going to get in trouble with Paula.” So, Crabgrass it was. Andy shared that Paula is currently in bad health, but she’s gotten to watch Crabgrass perform three times.



“Unfortunately, you make tens of dollars playing Bluegrass” Andy joked. Both of the Crabtree brothers drive trucks and the other boys work in factories, but Andy shared that they’re content to be playing music during the weekends. “I’m a realist, and we know it’s not going to be a career. We love music. We’ve all done it since we were young. Anytime we get an instrument or get a chance to sing it takes you back to your childhood or puts you at ease. We know that we all have to work for a living. We’re not going to have a bus. We’ve all got families and we don’t want to leave them anyway, so we just want to make music.”

The band already has several shows booked in Ohio for the new year. During their shows, listeners can expect to be kept on their toes.

“I like to keep the show rolling,” Andy said. “I like to keep the tempo up. I like to keep more people dancing and keep their attention. Usually, when you throw in three slow songs you might lose them. I’ve noticed over the last couple of years that you just keep it going and they really get into it. We try to do more of the upbeat hard-driving Lonesome River, Blue Highway, and Balsam Range.”

They also often include the Seven Bridges Road bluegrass style in their show. “People go wild when we do it,” Andy exclaims. The band also takes turns singing the different parts of harmony. “We just break it up because no matter how good a band is, when you sit there for an hour it all starts sounding the same after a while.”

Crabgrass is currently sponsored by Paige capos and Black Diamond Strings thanks to the lady who Andy calls the “Wife’nger”. “She just gets out there and digs. She had never heard of bluegrass until we got together in August of 2016. I invited her to her first bluegrass show and she loved it,” Andy remembers. That affection seems to be present among the whole central Ohio group. “You can’t help when you hear bluegrass to move a little bit.”


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