For Bluegrass legend Gary Brewer, his career has been a journey that has spanned four decades. In that time, he’s done it all. In addition to touring with several top-name artists, Brewer was also the last person to record commercially with Bluegrass icon Bill Monroe. At one point, he even got the attention of late Country maverick Porter Wagner, who said “Gary Brewer has a great group, works hard on his act and is an excellent Bluegrass singer.
In celebration of that monumental 40-year milestone, the singer has teamed with some of Americana and Country music’s biggest stars on a new album (titled 40th Year Celebration), including Sam Bush, Russell Moore, The Travelin’ McCourys, Dale Ann Bradley, Ralph Stanley II, T. Graham Brown, Ashton Shepherd and more.The collection includes unique new twists on some of the hitmaker’s biggest songs.
With just one week to go until the release of Brewer’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, he is giving readers an exclusive new song. The name of the track is “Big Train” and features Dough Phelps, who is a member of the Grammy winning band, The Kentucky Headhunters. The banjo-driven track will take listeners on a journey with its upbeat catchy melody. It’s just one of 14 new recordings that will take listeners on a roller coaster of emotions, in the best possible way.
We spoke exclusively with Brewer about the new song premiere, upcoming record, and what it was like working with Phelps on the new song, plus the honor of getting to record with ‘The Father of Bluegrass’ Bill Monroe. Check it out!
How did the collaboration with Doug Phelps come about?
Well, I’ve always been a fan of The Kentucky Headhunters. My son, Wayne had been communicating with them, and they sent me a nice video congratulating me on my 40th Anniversary and several conversations and lots of reminiscing later, we got with Doug and made it happen, It was a great time and he nailed it!
What was it like sharing the studio with Bill Monroe for his final recording? How did it come about?
1.) It was an honor of course, and one of the highlights of my career. A historical thing happened during this Nashville recording session. Bill had been in the business 55 years and one of the songs needed a Dobro (he called it a Hound Dog Guitar), I asked him, “Bill, who should I get” – and he replied ” Buck Graves”, (Uncle Josh Graves) famed from Flatt and Scruggs era. So, I phoned Josh and he came right over and cut the song. Now, the historical part, Bill was in 55 years and Uncle Josh was in 53 years and they had never recorded together until on my record, titled (Guitar).
2.) This came about during a Father and Son tour (supported by the Grand Ole Opry) with me (Gary Brewer and The Kentucky Ramblers), Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys, James Monroe and The Midnight Ramblers, and The Sullivan Family. We worked several states and cities during the winter months with this package. We were at Roy Clark’s Theater in Branson, Missouri and Bill came to my dressing room and we visited a few minutes and he asked to play my guitar. He asked me, “what is the name of these mountains here?” I said “The Ozarks”, he started playing a tune and said, “This is gonna be called The Ozark Rag”. He asked if I wanted to learn it and said it would make me a good number on the guitar, Of course, I jumped at the chance to be (taught) one-on-one with The Father of Bluegrass Music! He taught me two tunes that afternoon and he said I should record them, I said I would be honored. He then said, “Would you let me play the mandolin on them?” WOW!!!
With all that you’ve done in your 40 years in the business, what do you think is your greatest career accomplishment?
Guest Starring on The Grand Ole Opry hands down! I have been fortunate to guest on the Opry several times in my career, but that first time stands out. I’d hope to appear there for my 40 year Anniversary Celebration Tour later this season.
Tell us what fans can expect once the quarantine ends and you guys are back on the road. Will you be performing most of the songs from the new album?
Yes! We will be doing every song from the 40 recording along with six generations of repertoire from our rich family history in music. Fans can expect to see some of the guest artists on tour with us performing the songs they recorded with me on the record. Man, “I can’t wait to get on the road again” – Thanks Willie!