Amantha Mill is a community-oriented folk and bluegrass band based in Watauga County and named for the small mill community of Amantha, today part of the Cove Creek area of the county. Songwriter, singer, and bass player, Becca Eggers-Gryder formed the band around 2000, and the group has been an active part of the local music scene ever since – performing at festivals, community gatherings and events in the greater area.
Becca Eggers-Gryder was born and raised in Boone, and she followed a long-standing family tradition by becoming an attorney and now a district judge. Becca grew up around music and doing lots of singing, and before long she was also writing songs based in the folk and bluegrass styles she favored. She released her first solo album, Ballad of Willa Kale in 2003, featuring her original songs and a strong cast of accompanying musicians, including Steve Lewis, Scott Freeman, Randy Greer, and Bob White. The same year saw the first Amantha Mill release, with Bill Helms, Jonathan Maness, and Tony Reece as one of the original configurations.
Bill Helms found a love for bluegrass music after hearing the famous soundtrack to Deliverance. He learned to play guitar and banjo, and before long, he was performing around the region with various groups at Carrowinds, Tweetsie Railroad, and a touring duet, Marshall and Vaughn. Bill spent seven years in France performing with the Moody Brothers at EuroDisney. He returned to Watuaga County in 1998, and he has since led the worship music at Howard’s Creek Baptist Church in Boone and helps lead Amantha Mill. Bill is a versatile guitar and banjo player and a songwriter as well.
Dobro player, Tony Reece, grew up in western Watauga County, and he has travelled around the country with his instrument, winning awards, and performing with some of the best bluegrass and Americana artists, including the Kruger Brothers, Chris Thile, and Buncombe Turnpike. He won the Resonator Guitar National Championship in 2004, and he is a frequently requested side and session musician for his prowess on the instrument.
Fiddler John Cockman grew up playing music with his family, The Cockman Family, a family bluegrass band with tight harmony singing and several multi-instrumental siblings. While John plays most instruments with strings, fiddle is his favorite to play and teach. In addition to teaching his girls to play, John started a community fiddle school that attracts dozens of students, and he offers online instruction to many more through his FiddleDaddy website.
Mandolin player Zeb Gambill from Wilkes County is the most recent addition to the band. Zeb grew up in a musical household and has performed with his father and a variety of bands from Wilkes and Watauga counties.