New Ballard's Branch Bogtrotters
Old-Time String Band
Out of the great tradition of old-time string bands from the Blue Ridge Mountains, the New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters came together in 1985 at a fiddlers’ convention in Fries, Virginia when a handful of musicians got together to play a little music and, before long were playing competitively as a band. They chose their name partly in homage to The Bogtrotters, a well-known Galax-area band that played in the 1930s and partly from the creek that runs past band leader Dennis Hall's front door. In their first year of competition, they won the Fries Fiddlers’ Convention's Old Time String Band competition, and won seven more times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, and 2003) in similar contests at Galax' Old Fiddlers’ Convention (the oldest and largest mountain/bluegrass music festival in the world).
Dennis Hall (guitar) grew up only a few hundred feet from the home of Alec Dunford (one of the original Bogtrotters) in a family of musicians. His father Dale played bass, his brother Dallas (who also played with the Bogtrotters) plays mandolin and his sister Bret is, according to Dennis, "a fine clawhammer banjo player." Dennis has played in two other bands that have won the Galax competition: Whoopin Hollar Stringband and Southern Pride.
Eddie Bond (fiddler and lead singer) of Fries, Virginia, was most influenced musically by his father's parents, but both sides of his family were steeped in the old-time music tradition. His maternal grandmother, Granny Widner, played guitar and sung in a style reminiscent of the Carter Family. Her brother, Leon Hill, sang and headed a band called the Hillside Boys. Eddie got his start as a performer at 3, earning tossed quarters, dancing to the music of the Hillside Boys. Eddie has won a number of Galax fiddling competitions, as well as competitions at Adwolfe, Fries, Elk Creek, and Allegheny.
"Uncle" Leon Frost of Galax, Virginia, plays mandolin and enjoys a great reputation as a percussionist and producer of other types of music, most notably with the late Bo Diddley and Bill Monroe. Monroe called him “the finest spoon player and rhythm man” he’d ever played with.
Banjo player Josh Ellis joined the Bogtrotters a couple of years ago after meeting Eddie Bond at a local jam in Galax. While his uncle Jack Ramsey was a well-known banjo player, Josh learned to play from Galax champion Ray Chatfield.
Jesse Morris has been with the Bogtrotters for about ten years, having taken over the bass playing from his father Dale, who originally taught him to play.