Saturday, September 15th at 7:30pm
The Williamson Brothers are North Carolina bluegrass icons. Tony and Gary Williamson perform the old-time style of music that dates back nine generations in central North Carolina. In fact, the title song of their CD My Rocky River Home chronicles the experiences of their great-grandfather, Noah Williamson, a confederate soldier during the Civil War.
Tony and Gary’s grandfather, Alfred, made his own musical instruments (his banjo is in the NC Museum of History) and inspired his grandchildren, who began playing music around 1957. Recent Mandolin Central release All For Naught, a collection of solos for vintage instruments by Tony Williamson, was dedicated to this musical patriarch.
By the 1960s, with Tony on mandolin and Gary on banjo, they were winning prizes at many of the fiddlers conventions, including First Place Mandolin at the World Championships in Union Grove, NC, and First Place Band at Union Grove.
In 1968, the Williamson Brothers recorded “John Henry” for Follett Publishing Co. for an anthology called Discovering Music Together. Also included were the rock group Blood Sweat & Tears and the Boston Symphony. The brothers also recorded with the Bluegrass Gentlemen; and then, along with child prodigy fiddler J. B. Prince as the Green Valley Ramblers for Revonah Records. Later, they accompanied Jerry Stuart on Rocky Run, produced by Barry Poss for County Records.
After taking a degree with highest honors at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Tony began touring with the Bluegrass Alliance, whose alumni include Vince Gill, Sam Bush, Tony Rice and many others. Afterwards, working in a succession of bands led him to the top of his field playing classical, jazz, and folk music as well as bluegrass. His credits include performances on stage and/or in the recording studio with Alison Krauss, Chris Thile, Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Bobby Hicks, Tony Rice, Vassar Clements, David Grisman, Sam Bush, Mike Marshall, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Don Stiernberg, and Robin and Linda Williams of Prairie Home Companion fame. He has also received awards and nominations from many national music organizations, including the IBMA recorded event of the year n 1994, and he has even performed for Luciano Pavarotti!
Tony is known for his love of the mandolin family of instruments. During the turn of the century in America, the mandolin experienced a popularity that can be described as a “rage” or a “craze.” Later, overshadowed by other types of music, this once beloved instrument was nearly forgotten. The mandolin, however, has now made a dramatic comeback nearly 100 years later. Tony Williamson’s performance work at Mandolin Central makes a strong case for this comeback, as his playing amazes audiences and his discussions inform and entertain. His knowledge of musical instruments is eclipsed only by the wonderful collection of priceless vintage mandolins and guitars that he brings to the stage to demonstrate why these pieces are so revered for their tone and craftsmanship. These instruments are the templates for all modern instrument makers and to find such a collection out from under the glass case of a museum and actually being performed upon is a rare opportunity for musicians and audiences alike.