The Gary Waldrep Band comes from the small community of Kilpatrick, nestled in the Northeastern corner of Alabama. The band's genesis came in the spring of 1998 when Gary Waldrep, formerly of the Warrior River Boys and Sound Mountain Boys, decided he wanted to present his own brand of bluegrass, country, old-time, and gospel music with the influence of the Sand Mountain regional sound he was raised on. Following in the footsteps of other home-grown area greats like Rose Maddox & the Maddox Brothers, and The Louvin Brothers, the band started out on a musical journey across the country that has helped them become one of the best known bands on the bluegrass music scene. Their live shows are high energy, entertaining, and feature a variety of singing, and instrumental styles that offer something for everyone to enjoy. Vocally, the male & female lead, duet, trio and quartet singing allows the band to cover a broad range of traditional and original material. All the band members are seasoned, skilled musicians who pull together to form a solid instrumental unit, and Gary's versatility on the banjo, playing both three finger and lightning fast clawhammer style, rounds out the sound that has become the hallmark of the band. They've been fortunate to play host to two of the largest festivals in the South, and have hosted their own annual festival back home since 1995, Gary Waldrep's Festival on the Farm with an attendance of 2,000 music fans. Their studio recordings have showcased their talents with projects ranging from bluegrass, to all gospel, and old time claw-hammer.
Gary was born in Alabama, a state that has given birth to some of the most original acts in music history. It is no wonder that at a young age, he found himself surrounded by traditional musicbeing played by his family, and the folks in the community up on Sand Mountain. His mother, Carolyn ,was his greatest champion and teacher, and encouraged him to sing, and take up the mandolin at a young age. But, he quickly fell in love with the sound of the banjo soon after, especially the clawhammer, or rappin' style and he's never looked back. The secret to that style was handed down to him by an old master musician on Sand Mountain, Arthur Kirkendall. He fell in love with the high lonesome sound of Bill Monroe's vocals, and the three finger style of Earl Scruggs, and decided that playing music was his calling in life. After high school, he joined The Warrior River Boys and toured the country from 1981-1989 playing hard driving, traditional bluegrass alongside the bluegrass greats he had been inspired by. In 1985, he branched out, and joined the legendary southern gospel act, Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters, expanding his musical style, taking in lessons from one of the greatest story-telling entertainers in the business. The Sand Mountain Boys, which he helped organize in 1989, helped him to become a standout, while he continued to learn from the greats like Bill Monroe, who invited them to be a part of his festival every year. Gary feels blessed that his efforts have been acknowledged by fans and the industry. In 1990, Gary was nominated for a Grammy award for his recording "Gary Waldrep Vintage Bluegrass" on Old Homestead Records. His dedication to preserving and performing the traditional sounds of the clawhammer banjo brought him the "The Old Time Player of the Year' award by the Society of Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America two years in a row. The Alabama State Council on the Arts has deemed him Alabama's youngest Master Musician, and he has participated in their efforts to present the tradition of Alabama folk music in lives shows, radio programs, as well as teaching youth about music in Alabama's school systems. He was also featured in the documentary, "Music in their Bones", which aired on the Emmy award winning PBS TV series "Independent Lens". Gary has also enjoyed a long-time teaming with the Deering Banjo Company, as an endorser of their great American made banjos from California. After 26 years in the business, Gary is most often introduced to crowds as "Mr. Entertainer" as he and his band take to the stage. He's in his element whether he's on stage, teaching banjo workshops at festivals, or enjoying the friendship and fellowship with everyone he meets at shows.
Mindy Rakestraw has become one of the most recognizable female lead singers in bluegrass, after joining the GWB in 2005 and stepping up onto the national platform. Her drive, and punch on the rhythm guitar has become the backbone of the rhythm section. The close knit harmonies she has with Gary have fans asking, "are you brother and sister?", as well her quick wit onstage in teasing him as if they really were siblings. Mindy got her start early in music during school, playing trumpet, euphonium and tuba, and then going on to march in one of the nation's greatest bands, the Marching Southerners of Jacksonville State University in Alabama. She picked up the guitar, playing folk and rock during her teens, but at the urging of her bluegrass loving parents, she struck out on the path to becoming one of the earlier female trailblazers in bluegrass. In the late 70's she was in an all female bluegrass band with two fellow college students ("Foxchase"), and then went on to join the all female Winston-Salem based band "Cherokee Rose" along with Frances Mundy, Connie Morris, and Tyra Somers, with other well known names such as Louisa Branscomb, Sally Wingate, Lynn Morris, and Missy Raines joining the roster. Mindy settled in the Atlanta area and joined the popular regional band "Indian Summer", branched out on upright bass playing with Red and Murphy Henry, and jazz electric bass with "Public" during the 80's and 90's. In 1998, she and Frances Mooney formed "Fontanna Sunset", and soon after in 2001 she was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Honor. Mindy's experience in bluegrass brought her the invitation to join "The Daughters of Bluegrass", where she has been a featured soloist in addition to playing guitar and singing harmonies on their studio projects and occasional live performances. This group of super-talented women was awarded the 2006 and 2009"Recorded Event of the Year" by the International Bluegrass Music Association. Home is Dallas, GA with her Mom, 2 dogs, and is retired from Georgia Tech.
Mickey J. Boles was born in Union Ms. on March the 6th 1973 to the parents of Marshall and Sue Boles and grew up in Meridian Ms. He began to learn mandolin and guitar by the age of 14 years old after he was highly influenced by Bo Collier who his mother had remarried when he was 11. After his family moved to Texas ,he joined a bluegrass band called Young Grass that consisted of Bo Collier, Randy Lindley, Frank Douglas ,Jack Lindley and Mickey. Later, he joined another band called Texas Winds that consisted of Ruth Hammonds, Arthur Hammonds, Randy Jackson, Bo Collier, and Mickey. Texas Winds had some songs that charted in bluegrass and was on Hay Holler records from Galax Va. Years later, Mickey moved to Nashville Tn. and moved in with Jimmy Martin for a month and learned a lot about mandolin drive and rhythm and singing tenor. And in his Mickeys words, you will never be the same after a month with Jimmy, you will never be the same, you will learn a lot. By 1997, Mickey began to do a lot of road shows with the Gary Waldrep Band from Alabama and stayed with him for several months until he and wife were expecting. Later, He joined the Dave Peterson and 1946 Band and began to play with him and Gary Waldrep so much that he could have pursued bluegrass fulltime. Mickey chose to not go fulltime but to remain at United Stationers office Supplies where he has been for 16 years now while playing somewhere every weekend. He has played every state in the U. S. and has played television shows, auditoriums, festivals, parties, churches, and everywhere that he can make a part time living singin. He gives credit to the Lord Jesus Christ for every accomplishment that he has ever had and will continue to do so. He has played on many albums through the years and has one out now called Let My Feet Go Runnin that is getting a lot of airplay. He also thanks God every day for the gift that Dave Harvey gave him in 2004. Mr. Harvey presented Mickey with a 1981 fern style Gibson as a gift that forever changed his life. Donna Townsell has the distinction of having known Gary the longest of anyone in the band, and being able to read what he's going to pull next. As his Aunt, she's watched over him his whole life at home on Sand Mountain, and for the better part of 40 years, has traveled the roads with him, playing bass, and singing. She's known for her gentle, sweet personality, and love for talking with fans off stage, but she certainly wow's 'em onstage when she's featured on guitar with the precision style that was created by masters like Merle Travis, and Chet Atkins. Like Gary, Donna's musical talents were influenced by their family, and friends in the community on Sand Mountain. If you come to the Festival on the Farm, you'll be right at home, literally, with Gary and Donna since they live across from one another. She's married to veteran bluegrasser, Kenny Townsell, is devoted to her family, and enjoys working the land at their home place in Alabama.