When guitarists speak about learning to play the banjo, it is common to hear a quick admission of frustration followed by confessions of fear at never being able to master the difficult, beastly "five-banger." This was not the case for Bud Brewster, the youngest member of Knoxville, TN's musical Brewster Brothers, whose name makes him sound like the ideal fellow to invite to a rowdy college party. He started out as a guitarist and bassist, growing up in a home in which his two oldest brothers, Ray and Will G. Brewster, were coming and going constantly, living the life of touring musicians. It was not his brothers, though, but their group's 13-year-old bassist, Junior Huskey, who took an interest in the lad. This certainly paid off as he turned out to be a natural picker, respected on the aforementioned staple instruments of the bluegrass rhythm section. Then one day, he totally flabbergasted his fellow musicians on Knoxville's Cas Walker Show by picking up a banjo and, claiming to be playing it for the first time, began creating absolutely brilliant music. That he fooled some of these players might be attributed to the mind-numbing effects of local moonshine, because in reality he had been taking lessons from local player Joe Stuart and had, on the sly, been doing gigs in Pennsylvania on banjo as a sideman for bandleader Charlie Bailey. Eventually, membership in the Brewster Brothers band would be his most prominent engagement, though there was a five-year gap in this group's activities in between the death of older brother Ray and the youngest sibling's leap into the professional music scene, which began in the early '50s. Soon thereafter, the new incarnation of the group began working in the recording studios. The Brewster Brothers were also fond of collaborating with the members of the Bailey Brothers group, as well as with country singer Carl Story, who used them to excellent advantage. On a roll, the brothers began working under the name of the Brewster Brothers & the Smoky Mountain Hillbillies, broadcasting over the Scottsboro, AL, radio station WROS. The group was then doing well enough to jump to a bigger station up the road in Birmingham, followed by a stint back north in Virginia. The association with Cas Walker continued for practically two more decades and at times, the busy Brewster Brothers were doing three radio shows and a pair of television slots each day, beginning at 5:30 a.m., and of course they had probably played a late-night show the evening before. Walker was employing more than a dozen bluegrass pickers, who sometimes teamed up in various ad hoc combos; the brothers toured with artists such as mandolinist Red Rector and mainstream country star Carl Story throughout the '50s and '60s. Both brothers were part of recording teams Story put together for Mercury and Starday sessions, as well as cutting regional sides. At one time, Bud Brewster said they had cut more than 300 sides with Story and, although quality is high, it could be said to be a trip downhill after the out and out genius of the earliest session in 1957, which produced the classic "Mocking Banjoes." The Acme outfit, which later changed its name to Janet, recorded the Brewster Brothers on their own beginning the same year. Some of these tracks represented a kind of melding of bluegrass and country, bringing in the sounds of pedal steel and electric guitar. Sidemen such as bassist Ray Rose and fiddler Jerry Moore continued to collaborate with the brothers over the years. In the '70s, Bud Brewster became a member of a bluegrass band called the Pinnacle Boys with both Rose and Moore. With membership changing from time to time, this became a long- running group. By the mid-'90s, the membership had evolved into the Knoxville Bluegrass Band featuring players such as Allen Collins on bass, Byron Doss on fiddle, Larry Mathis on banjo, and Jim Smith and Brewster back on guitar and vocals.
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