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Dry Branch Fire Squad Caps Galaxy of Stars Series

Dry Branch Fire Squad

Brian Aldridge, Tom Boyd, Dan Russell and Ron Thomason make up Dry Branch Fire Squad.

TAHLEQUAH – In over 30 years of music making, Dry Branch Fire Squad has taken mountain soul, bluegrass and old-time music to a new level. Their charming music and uproarious comedy comes to Northeastern State University on Saturday, May 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the NSU Center for the Performing Arts as the final show in the 22nd Annual Galaxy of Stars Series.

Capturing the soul of American music, this quartet of talent musicians is a must-see for any bluegrass fan,” said Megan White, director of the Sequoyah Institute. “Dry Branch Fire Squad mixes Ron Thomason’s brilliant on-state humor with hard-core, purebred bluegrass music to create an unforgettable night of entertainment.

Mandolin player and comedian Ron Thomason founded the Fire Squad in 1976. Various incarnations of the group have performed over the years, and currently features Thomason, Tom Boyd, Dan Russell and Brian Aldridge.

Ron started out as a child and never got over it. His early years above the Clinch River in Russell County, Va., were tied with all the succeeding ones for being the most enjoyable of his life. He has been able to make his living doing things he loves, including teaching math and English, farming, training horses, and was instrumental in the production of bluegrass music festivals and horse expositions.

His professional music career started at the age of 13, and since then he has played and/or recorded with The Clinch Mountain Boys, The Wilson Brothers, Joe Isaacs, Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, and a host of others. Nowadays he enjoys such activities as horseback riding, mountain climbing, skiing, conservation advocacy, cowboying, and seeking out adventures in the wilderness. He writes occasional articles and helps with civic functions.

Fellow band mate Brian is an artist at enunciating exciting expressive harmony lines that give expression to the soulfulness and meaning of bluegrass and old-time music. He also has a knack for finding just the right sympathetic runs and fills that give body to the band’s songs by supporting the lyrics of songs rather than drawing attention from them, whether on guitar or mandolin.

He grew up listening to his father, the great banjoist Howard Aldridge and the many friends who came to pick with him; like Bill Monroe, Sid Campbell, Frank Wakefield, Jack Casey, and the like. Early on Brian became a fixture of the traditional bluegrass scene around the central Ohio area, and when a position opened up in DBFS he was the logical person to fill it. In his second stint in the band, his abilities with harmony and timing have contributed mightily to fleshing out the type of material that DBFS has always favored—that with lots of bark.

Tom started singing in church with his parents and never stopped. He still sings with his parents whenever he visits them. Tom sings all the parts, and in DBFS is best known for his wonderful high baritone. He is an expert banjoist and Dobro player who has performed over the last 40 years with the likes of Larry Sparks, The Allen Brothers, Mac Wiseman, Hylo Brown, Jack Casey and many others. He has recorded with not only those folks but also Chubby Wise, Ricky Skaggs, and even was a stalwart on Ron Thomason's first solo album back in 1972.

Tom has worked all his life in fields other than music as well; he's been a machinist, a luthier, a manager and a business owner. He has many hobbies and likes drag racing an ‘89 Super Pro Mustang GT with his son, Jason.

Dan plays two kinds of music: Bluegrass and Country. His two main instruments are the banjo and the pedal-steel guitar, but his impeccable timing lends itself so well to the bass and guitar that he plays those in the band as well when called upon to do so. Dan has played not only in many of the well-known “country” bands around central Ohio but in just as many of the legendary bluegrass bands. He has also worked with nationally established country artists like John Anderson.

Dan’s knowledge of the modern side of country music brings an added depth to the interpretation of DBFS’s songs. His thoughtful and well-conceived banjo work runs the gamut of all the bluegrass styles, and he is an expert at picking what’s appropriate at any given moment. Dan has worked hard all his life: He has cut tobacco; done yard work; cut, split and delivered cord wood; and welded enough tanks on International Trucks that we see his work everywhere we travel.

Dry Branch Fire Squad has performed numerous times for the National Council for the Traditional Arts, the Smithsonian Institution and has toured internationally for the U. S. Information Agency. The band’s all-gospel release “Golgotha” was chosen by the Library of Congress for its Select List of significant recordings of American music.

Tickets for Dry Branch Fire Squad are $20 for adults, $18 for NSU alumni, $16 for NSU employees, $14 for senior citizens, $12 for groups of 10 or more, $10 for students and children, and $5 for NSU students. To purchase tickets, contact the NSU Box Office at (918) 458-2075.

This performance is being presented by the NSU Sequoyah Institute as a part of their Galaxy of Stars Series, sponsored by Advantage Audiology, and supported by the Oklahoma Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.


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