The Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival returns to Wilmington
Talk to anyone that knows and loves bluegrass music and Joe Mullins’s name is sure to come up.
Mullins’ father, Paul “Moon” Mullins, brought that high lonesome sound to the Miami Valley airwaves during his 25-year stint at Middletown’s WPBF. Along the way, he also fiddled for and befriended many of the pioneers of the genre such as The Stanley Brothers, Jimmy Martin and Mr. Bill Monroe himself.
Paul passed away in 2008, but his son followed in his father’s broadcasting footsteps. Joe also fronts his own group, Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers, and helms the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival.
The festival is held bi-annually, in March and November, at the Roberts Centre in Wilmington, at the intersection of US-71 and State Route 68, and has become a favorite stop of both die-hard fans and musicians alike.
“The location has made the show a real hit, because it’s less than an hour from anywhere in the metropolitan areas of Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus,” Mullins said.
This year’s event brings some of the biggest names in traditional music to Ohio, including: Larry Sparks, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers.
The two-day festival marks its tenth year at the Roberts Centre this year. Mullins said the November shows were such a success the first two years, the decision to expand to a second weekend in March was a fairly easy one.
Still, it makes for a lot of work when he organizes the festival, handles many of the emcee duties and plays with his band.
“I wear a lot of hats, but I take them on and off pretty quick the whole time when we’re on property at the Roberts Center,” Mullins said. “By producing it twice annually, I can continually mix and match the talent up, so that we get the top bluegrass and acoustic artists to the venue that our audience wants to buy tickets for. This coming November, we have two or three artists that are back by popular demand and a couple of top bluegrass bands that are there for the very first time.”
The headliners will be more than familiar to fans of the genre.
Larry Sparks was born in Lebanon and began playing guitar in bluegrass groups at 16. He quickly found himself picking with heavyweights like The Stanley Brothers and later with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys before striking out on his own.
Sparks wraps up his celebration of 50 years in the music business as he heads to Wilmington.
“He’s one of the most soulful presenters of original bluegrass music,” Mullins said. “He can mesmerize a crowd with just him and a guitar, let alone the great musicians that he always brings.”
J.D. Crowe’s semi-retirement keeps him from constant touring, a fact Mullins says is all the more reason to catch him when he does play. Crowe’s band, The New South, stands as one of the most influential in the modern era, featuring the likes of Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice and Keith Whitley, to name a few.
Doyle Lawson and Paul Williams will join Crowe on Saturday night in an “old friends get-together,” for what Mullins promises will be a hall-of-fame caliber performance.
Traditional music’s revival in the past several years has also brought many younger faces to the crowd. Mullins said he loves seeing the music he loves being continually rediscovered generation after generation.
“There are so many young people these days that got so sick of the sterile noise coming out of Nashville that they’ve wound up gravitating towards Americana, folk and other roots music,” Mullins said. “When you have millions of people – not just thousands or tens of thousands – but when you have millions of people annually that are gravitating towards entertainment that is not so mainstream as what you get fed on mainstream radio and TV, they’re going to wind up sooner or later hearing J.D. Crowe or something by the Stanley Brothers from 50 years ago.”
Mullins said he is also excited to bring Balsam Range, winners of 2013 International Bluegrass Music Assosication’s album of the year, into the mix this year. He’s also as excited as ever to play with the Radio Ramblers to wrap up what he called a phenomenal year for the group.
“We’re coming to the Roberts Center with so much momentum after two performances since July at the Grand Ole Opry and after entertaining thousands of bluegrass fans,” Mullins said. “We have played to huge crowds this year, all over the map.”
All told, the event offers a little bit of everything for the connoisseurs of this music at a great value, according to Mullins.
“You’re going to see four or five of the top acoustic entertainment acts in the world today.” Mullins said. “It’s a wonderful family-friendly atmosphere.”
The Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival will take place Friday, Nov. 8 and Saturday, Nov. 9 at the Roberts Centre in Wilmington. Advance tickets are $55 for two-day general admission, $65 for two-day adult reserved seating, $10 for two-day child reserved seating or $30 for Friday or Saturday single-day passes. General admission seating. Children 16 and under are free with adult purchase. For more information, visit somusicfest.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at RustyPate@DaytonCityPaper.com.