Butch Cook, founding member of the Golden Valley Crusaders, began performing to help his father, Reverend Ottis Cook, when he preached at brush arbor meetings and in churches. He grew up listening to his father’s old-fashioned preaching. Through many religious meetings and gospel music events he gradually became acquainted with many musicians who influenced him, including the Primitive Quartet, Inspirations, Blue Highwayman, Lewis Family, Carl Story, Bill Monroe, Sullivan Family, Easter Brothers, and many others. Butch was a pallbearer at Carl Story’s funeral, with Bill Monroe as honorary pallbearer.
Butch and his sister, Martha, started the Golden Valley Crusaders in 1970 as a family band, and it has been almost exclusively a family band for decades. Other members of the family included: Clint Houser, Martha’s son, on banjo; Gary Heavner, Butch’s son-in-law, on bass; David Heavner, Gary’s son, on mandolin.
In the 1990s, Butch, Martha, and their other siblings opened a music park in honor of their father: the Ottis Cook Memorial Gospel Music Park. There they hosted three outdoor singings every year, and the Golden Valley Crusaders performed along with other groups.
The original line up of the Golden Valley Crusaders retired in May 2013. A new line up was first launched as the Golden Valley Ramblers and then brought back the Golden Valley Crusaders name in October 2014. Current members of the group are Butch Cook (mandolin and vocals), Gary Heavner (bass), Michael Blanton (lead guitar and vocals), J. Max McKee (banjo and vocals), Angela Epley (vocals), and Ron Epley (guitar and vocals). Christy Heavner handles the band’s sound and merchandise.
The group is quite active, playing more than one hundred shows per year. Most of their performances are in churches, but they also appear at a few festivals and other events.
The Golden Valley Crusaders perform at a wide variety of events, including benefits, festivals, church meetings, banquets, reunions and so forth. Their performances have taken them over most of the Eastern United States.