By LARRY VAUGHT Bob Carpenter is a long-time member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and has been part of 15 gold and platinum records since joining the group full time in 1980. Next month he’ll be in Sevierville, Tenn., with the band performing at the 15th annual Bloomin’ BBQ & Bluegrass Festival.
The multiple Grammy and County Music Award winner enjoys every genre of music and still loves performing for events like the one in Sevierville (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band takes the stage in downtown Sevierville at 8 p.m. May 18 but the festival opens at 5 p.m. May 17 and then again on May 18 at 9 a.m. with a full lineup of entertainment).
“Last year was one of our best years ever. We have expanded the band and added two guys last year. We are doing new songs and just jamming. We have six guys on stage singing now and have kept the energy going,” Carpenter said. “We did about 60 dates last year. The year before 70 and did 90 the year for our 50th anniversary. We will probably do about 70 this year.”
The band has played in Pigeon Forge before as well as Knoxville and Nashville.
“We have been around Tennessee,” Carpenter said. “The thing about this band, we have been everywhere. We have been to every state, including Alaska and Hawaii, to play and plan to keep going.”
He says the show in Sevierville will have Bluegrass, Cajun and country music. Obviously the band can’t perform all 400 plus songs it has recorded but many of the all-time favorites will be part of the show. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band tries to figure out each show what fans will want to hear the most. (Glen Rose Photo)
“Our first big single was ‘Mr. Bojangles’ so we obviously play that,” Carpenter said. “Another one we play is ‘Fishin’ in the Dark’ because people still love that. We play the songs most people want to hear. We try to figure out what people at the show might want to hear. We have four generations that come to hear us ranging from kids 6 or 7 years old to folks in their 80’s. “Younger fans are not always familiar with our old stuff — and sometimes we can’t even remember. Those younger fans get to hear what we consider our new stuff. We try to have something for everybody.”
Carpenter was working as a highway designer after college when he decided music was what he wanted to do.
“We were actually playing music and working for the construction company at the same time. I was getting free beer in club and was around a lot of pretty girls, so I made up my mind to stick with music,” Carpenter said. “The money was actually about the same except I was only working two nights a week versus 9-5 every day. I had always played music as a hobby but it became clear to me I wanted to take my chances in the music business.”
He had been living in California when he moved to Colorado and eventually met the members of the Dirt Band.
“You never know how things will turn out. It has been a crazy life for me,” Carpenter said. “I thought I would be in a rocking chair on back porch now patting my dog. But I still love what we do. It is worth it to go out and play to entertain folks. I am fortunate we can do what we love to do. You can’t play music at home.”
He also has one more reason for looking forward to the show in Sevierville.
“I love barbecue. Cooking it right is a lot art,” Carpenter said. “A lot of folks just don’t get it right. I am looking forward to some delicious barbecue because after we play, we definitely are going to eat.”
* * *Main Stage LineupFriday May 17, 2019 5 pm Priscilla & Little RicKee ft. Louisa Branscomb6 pm Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier (www.jimbowhaley.com)7 pm Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper (www.flamekeeperband.com)8 pm Balsam Range (www.balsamrange.com)Saturday May 18, 2019 2 pm Dale Ann Bradley (www.daleann.com)3 pm Love Canon (www.lovecanonmusic.com)4 pm Phil Leadbetter & the All-Stars of Bluegrass (www.unclephilonline.com)5 pm Dale Ann Bradley (www.daleann.com)6 pm Love Canon (www.lovecanonmusic.com)7 pm Phil Leadbetter & the All-Stars of Bluegrass (www.unclephilonline.com)8 pm Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (www.nittygritty.com)
“This is one of our most exciting festival line-ups yet,” says festival coordinator Amanda Marr. “Our goal is to provide a showcase of quality bluegrass and Americana music in the heart of Sevierville. This year’s festival is going to be fantastic.”
The festival features 40 of the nation’s top BBQ cook teams, artists and crafters, kids’ games, a vocal competition honoring the songwriting of Dolly Parton, a late-night Bluegrass Jam, and a People’s Choice BBQ Tasting event.