Still Kickin’ and Pickin’: Gary Brewer and the Kentucky Ramblers

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By Kara Martinez Bachman

Gary Brewer, founder of Grammy Award-nominated Gary Brewer and the Kentucky Ramblers, is excited about what he calls a “full circle” moment.

This year marks forty years of his band making music. Forty years might seem like a long time, but truth be told, the roots of his family’s presence on the music scene date back much, much further, to the earliest beginnings of bluegrass. 

“I’m the fifth-generation musician in the Brewer family, and my sons are the sixth generation,” Brewer explained. “We’re the only sixth-generation musicians out touring.”

His two sons are in the band with him, as is his father. Before that, his father’s father played a role during the birth years of bluegrass. 

“My granddaddy worked with the original Carter Family in the ’20s,” Brewer said. 

The guitarist defines himself as “kind of a music historian.” It helps that his ancestors are part of that very history he loves to learn about. 

Brewer said back then in his granddaddy’s day, mountain music was played not at specific venues, but was part of “hoe-downs, molasses boilings, and pie suppers.”

“Even in the ’20s, there were not music venues like we have now,” he said. “In those days, the majority of it was on the back porch or under the apple tree.”

Gary Brewer bluegrass standard

He added, “I know the music came from and when it first started,” saying he’s proud that his family — both those of the past and those still picking and strumming today — have contributed. 

“I started the Kentucky Ramblers when I was 14 years old,” he explained. Some guys who played rock asked him to play with them in a talent show. At that time, he was already dabbling in playing rock, bluegrass and all sorts of genres, so he agreed to jam with the guys. When he saw they could play a bevy of various instruments and could play bluegrass standards, he decided to start a band.

Today — 40 years and many recordings and accolades later — he and the other Kentucky Ramblers are still going stronger than ever with the traditional style of music he calls “Brewgrass.”

The current lineup consists of Brewer and his son, Wayne Brewer (vocals, upright bass, fiddle); son, Mason Brewer (vocals, mandolin, upright bass); Father, Finley J. Brewer (vocals, rhythm guitar); and Cody Pearman (banjo).