Billed as “The Epitome of Traditional Bluegrass,” at Orchard at Altapass, Herman Coffey and Herb Greene made up Bluegrass Tradition. They performed together in the western North Carolina mountains for more than twenty years. They played as a duet, but often collaborated with other area musicians as a full bluegrass string band.
The group, billed for years as Strings of Five, played at local and regional venues including Young’s Mountain Music and Old Fort Mountain Music, and the Orchard at Altapass. They opened up for many nationally-touring bluegrass bands at the Cross Country Campground near Lake Norman including Third Tyme Out, Jim and Jess McReynolds, the Lewis Family, the Lonesome River Band, Ralph Stanley, and the Osborne Brothers.
Herman Coffey was born and raised in Avery County where he played bluegrass music since he was a young boy. Herman had two other brothers who were also interested in music, and the three of them took up music on their own when they were young. Herman started on the fiddle and later he switched to mandolin. The brothers would play all around the area, particularly at fiddler’s conventions. Herman cited Bill Monroe and the Osborne Brothers as a couple of his influences. Herman won first place in the mandolin contest at the Union Grove Fiddler’s Convention.
Herb Greene was born in Crossnore in Avery County, and he remembered hearing his father play the banjo when he was very young. “Dad would sit in an old chair playing the banjo,” said Herb. “I must have been around four or five years old.” When he was around ten years old, his father taught him some guitar chords, and at age twelve Herb was playing dances with his father. Herb played with a number of bands in his teens and twenties, including the Sun Valley Boys and Mac Wiseman. Herb played some fiddle, but mostly he played guitar and sang lead or tenor.
Herb Greene passed away on June 12, 2008 at the age of seventy-one. Herman Coffey passed away on November 16, 2017 at the age of eighty-eight.