Cullen Galyean and The Bluegrassers is a bluegrass band from Surry County that began when bluegrass veteran Cullen Galyean‘s son, Mickey Galyean, started playing mandolin. “I grew up going to fiddlers’ conventions and festivals every weekend,” says Mickey. Cullen reported that he loaned a mandolin to Mickey, and before long, Mickey had become fascinated with the mandolin and bluegrass music. “After just two weeks, he had figured out a couple tunes,” said Cullen. Mickey’s new interest helped reinvigorate Cullen, and the two started playing music together. “Me and daddy have been together for about five years now,” says Mickey.
Cullen came from a musical family, and he played bluegrass most of his life. He played with some of the bluegrass legends, including Ralph Stanley, Charlie Monroe (Bill’s brother), and Hylo Brown.
Ralph Stanley, Cullen said, has had the most influence on his banjo playing. Cullen preferred the mountain-style traditional bluegrass that the Stanley Brothers perfected over the more modern bluegrass sounds. He also cited Earl Scruggs and Don Reno as banjo influences. Cullen joined his first band when he was sixteen years old, and he continued playing with bands for many years, most notably with Bobby Harrison and the Virginia Mountain Boys. They played all over Virginia and North Carolina, and they performed at the Grand Ole Opry in 1972.
Mickey and Cullen started Cullen Galyean and The Bluegrassers, with Mickey playing guitar and singing lead and Cullen playing banjo and singing baritone. Other members included Greg Jones, a mandolin player from Mount Airy; Henry May, a fiddler from Walnut Cove; and Mathew McMillan, a young bass player from Surry County. This group played about one or two times a month at local and regional venues before Cullen passed away in 2010. Mickey continues to play with various groups in the region, including Mickey Galyean and Cullen’s Bridge.
Note: Cullen Galyean passed away on July 13, 2010.