The Tennessee Bluegrass Band

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Meet

by Susan Marquez

The Early Years

From Sidemen to Billy Blue Records

While growing up in the small community of Flag Pond, Tennessee, Lincoln Hensley never dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and business owner. But he did love music, and by the end of his freshman year in high school, he was playing in his school’s bluegrass band. “It was started by students in the drama room of my school,” Lincoln recalls. “It ended up being a pretty big deal. I went back not long ago for a reunion show of past students who have played with the band.”

All the founding members of The Tennessee Bluegrass Band were sidemen, but “we wanted to start our own band, and we loved the sideman role,” says Lincoln, “I think we all had similar ideas. We were hoping that within a year, we would get a record together that could get played on the radio so that we would get hired to play at some festivals. I was hoping to be on Billy Blue Records someday, and within three weeks, they contacted us. They wanted to meet with us to see how we all got along. It worked out, and here we are today. I love Billy Blue, and I’m thrilled to be on their label.”

Although his parents weren’t very musical, Lincoln says his grandpa was an old-time fiddler. “He also played banjo, guitar, and piano. I guess I got the music gene from him.” Lincoln still has a few recordings of his grandfather playing, and he got his fiddle. “That’s something I treasure.”

Sonny Osborne

Mentor and Friend

While he plays guitar and pedal steel, Lincoln’s primary instrument is the banjo. “I started listening to my uncle’s Flatt and Scruggs cassettes when I was five or six years old.” Lincoln spent time on the Banjo Hangout internet forum as he grew up. That is where he got to know Sonny Osborne. “Sonny tasked me to learn to play everything off the Flatt and Scruggs albums on the banjo. He then taught me banjo lessons online.” One day, Sonny invited Lincoln to meet for lunch.

Sonny was not only a mentor to Lincoln, but he also became a close friend. “We talked about business and banjos and music. He taught me always to be ready when your number is called, and that has been an important lesson to me. He told me what a pleasure it was for him to play with his brother, Bobby.” The lesson Lincoln learned from Sonny was put to the test when Lincoln received a text from Sonny saying there was a spot on the Grand Ole Opry to play with Bobby on the following Wednesday night. “That was in 2018. I had no clue what we were going to play – Bobby has been recording music since 1949. What I did know is that Bobby is a true gentleman, and it was the biggest thrill of my life to play on stage with him.”

When Sonny built a banjo from spare parts in his garage, he was pleased with its sound. “He said it needed to be played, so he handed it over to me,” says Lincoln. “I played it in a few festivals. Sonny named the banjo Krako after the demon he blames for any mishaps he has on stage. Right away, I had three banjo players wanting to know if they could buy the banjo. I took their names and numbers and gave the information to Sonny.”

That event led to Sonny and Lincoln forming a business partnership to create a new line of banjos. “Sonny asked me to join him in the banjo company. I told him I didn’t have money to invest in a business. He said my investment was to play the banjo and showcase what it could do. Within four months, we had twenty-five orders. We haven’t taken any orders since before Sonny passed away, and we are still two years behind on production.”

Tim Davis crafts all Krako banjos from maple. The metal parts are uncoated to replicate the aged look of Sonny’s 1930s Gibson banjo. “We even take the finish off the back of the neck, so it feels like a banjo that has been played a lot.” Inlaid on the neck on the fifteenth and twenty-first frets are Sonny and Lincoln’s names. Each banjo features a demon engraving by Greg Rich.

 

“This company has made it possible for me to play banjos,” says Lincoln. “My mentor invested in me, which is the way in the bluegrass culture. Bluegrass music is largely passed down orally. He taught it to me so it wouldn’t die with him.”

The Tennessee Bluegrass Band members are Lincoln Hensley on banjo, Tim Laughlin on mandolin and vocals, Aynsley Porchak on fiddle, and new members Tyler Griffith on bass and vocals and Lincoln Mash on guitar and vocals.” 

Website: https://www.tennesseebgb.com/

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Instagram is: @tennesseebgb