Udell McPeak

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In a genre often simply called "mountain music" and always closely associated with the Appalachian mountains, Udell McPeak is one of the few performers who actually has part of a mountain built right…
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In a genre often simply called "mountain music" and always closely associated with the Appalachian mountains, Udell McPeak is one of the few performers who actually has part of a mountain built right into his name. He was the senior member of the McPeak Brothers, one of many ensembles in the bluegrass or old-time genres with brothers hogging the bandstand. Udell McPeak was the first of the four musically talented brothers from the mountains of Virginia to go professional when he joined the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers in the '50s. At this point that combo had already been around nearly 15 years, involving a different set of brothers, the Clines, Ezra Cline, Charlie Cline, Curly Ray Cline, and sometimes even Ireland Ned Cline, to be exact.

Knocking around in a variety of other bluegrass and country outfits with artists such as Lowell Varney, Landon Messer, and Ray Goins, Udell eventually got wind that his brothers had a good thing going with their McPeak Brothers band, formed for the first time in 1963 and featuring Dewey McPeak on banjo and guitar, Larry McPeak covering both bass and guitar, and Mike McPeak out front as lead vocalist and guitarist. It did turn into a popular touring outfit, but Udell's presence in the group was short-lived. He left pretty quickly to join the band of guitarist and singer Red Smiley, leaving it up to brother Mike to cover his end of things. Udell's bluegrass course from then on has taken him into the fringe of progressive bluegrass as well as continuing in the traditional vein, appearing on record with players such as fiddlers Tater Tate and Bobby Hicks and banjoist Bobby Osborne. Meanwhile the McPeak Brothers established a relationship with country star and songwriter Mel Tillis that resulted in the group's appearances on his syndicated television show. Slowing their engagement calendar down to mostly local gigs in the '80s and a reunion album in the early '90s gave the various brothers time for other projects, and Udell began collaborating with his brother Larry on a new band, the Virginia Barndance String Band. The other members of this group are, to nobody's surprise, another set of brothers: fiddler W.S. Mayo and banjoist Ray Mayo.