Like many bluegrass bands, Rock Bottom began as a group of friends making music for fun. What started as a Thursday night “pickin’ session” has evolved into a full-fledged band effort taking them to six states and producing five recordings. The band has appeared with or opened for Jim and Jesse, The Lonesome River Band, IIIrd Tyme Out, Blue Highway, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, and the Kruger Brothers.
With an emphasis on vocal harmonies, Rock Bottom plays a variety of old standards, progressive bluegrass, bluegrass gospel, and original material. The band consists of Dale Roten on banjo and vocals, John Roten on mandolin and vocals, Butch Barker on guitar and vocals, Loyd Richardson on bass and vocals, and Mack Powers on resonator guitar. John, Dale, Loyd, and Butch take turns on lead vocals. Loyd handles most of the tenor singing, with help from John, while baritone vocals are shared by Dale and Butch. Occasionally, Mack adds a bass line. The vocal blends provide the band with a unique sound and wide range of musical possibilities.
Dale and John grew up near the Buffalo community in Ashe County. Dale spent a lot of time listening to Flatt and Scruggs eight-track recordings, and when he was eighteen years old, he started learning bluegrass banjo with the help of local musicians. “I went around to everybody in the county,” he says. Some of the banjo players who helped him include J.C. Kemp, Clarence Lewis, Larry Pennington, Steve Lewis, and Tim Lewis. “They were always willing to help you any way they could,” Dale says. John started playing the mandolin about a year after Dale started picking the banjo. Local musicians Dempsy Young and Randy Greer helped John get started.
Loyd Richardson grew up in the Lansing community of Ashe County. His father played guitar and sang in church, and his dad’s cousin played guitar as well. Loyd’s father was also a fan of E.C. Ball who lived just over the Virginia line and that also influenced Loyd’s playing. Loyd started playing guitar and jamming with Dale and John Roten and Bob Richardson, forming the core group of Rock Bottom. “I’ve always liked the music,” says Loyd. “From the traditional to progressive styles, I like it all, especially the thought and words behind the songs.”
After performing for more than a decade, the band maintains a busy schedule performing at festivals, concerts, corporate outings, and numerous private functions.