Bluegrass musician John Bryan, of the Meat Camp community of Watauga County, plays guitar and sings with The Grascals, one of the country’s premier touring bluegrass bands.
John Bryan grew up in Watauga County, and his first memorable musical experiences came singing in church with his mother. John’s mother would play piano and sing in church, and she brought him with her every week. “Every time church rolled around, I couldn’t wait to go and sing,” John recalls.
John also spent a lot of time with his “Grandpa Sid,” who was the son of Willard Watson, a famed Watauga County banjo player, dancer, and woodworker. “I would hear a lot of stories about ‘Paw Willard’ and about Doc Watson,” John says. “They weren’t necessarily stories about music, but family stories about Doc hanging on the side of his house putting up storm windows and things like that.”
John’s father liked to listen to bluegrass music, particularly Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. John became fascinated with Doyle Lawson’s sound and bluegrass music. Around this time, John started to learn to play some banjo on an instrument his grandfather had given his dad. John also met Tom Isaacs, who was similarly enthusiastic about bluegrass and traditional mountain music. The two became fast and close friends, playing music together and traveling to regional jam sessions.
John and Tom soon joined with local multi-instrumentalist Rob Norris and created the band Surefire. The group was quickly recognized for their tight bluegrass harmonies and picking skills, winning local and regional competitions. After a couple years, John and Tom traveled around a bluegrass performing circuit before landing jobs with Larry Efaw and the Bluegrass Mountaineers. John played guitar and sang tenor with Efaw’s band for a couple years before getting an offer to join The Grascals.
John Bryan replaced The Grascals founding member Jamie Johnson in April 2015, and he has been touring with them full time since. “It has been a surreal experience,” John says of joining The Grascals. “It has been a huge learning and growing experience and has led me to places I never dreamed of… I got to sing a duet on the Grand Ole Opry with Vince Gill!” John proudly says.
In addition to his role in The Grascals, John has also been featured as a studio sideman in several projects, including recordings with Kristin Scott Benson and Terry Eldredge.
John is available for performance with The Grascals.