The Pilot Mountain Bobcats have been together as an old-time string band since 1989. Based in Surry County, the band has played for many regional and nationally-known dance events, fiddlers’ conventions, festivals, and concerts. The band features Nancy Sluys on fiddle, Jacki Spector on fretless banjo, Allin Cottrell on guitar, and Bill Sluys on bass.
They have performed at Augusta Dance Week and Old Time Week, MerleFest, Feet Retreat, the Festival for the Eno, Autumn Leaves Festival, the Gainsborough (England) Old-Time Festival, the Hometown Opry, the Lake Eden Arts Festival, Blue Ridge Music Center, and the Galax Leaf and Strings Festival. The band has placed in the top five at Galax, the Appalachian String Band Festival (Clifftop), Elk Creek, Fries, and other fiddlers’ conventions.
Nancy Sluys has been playing traditional music since 1973 when she acquired a mandolin and started attending bluegrass festivals. In 1974, she happened upon the Galax Fiddlers Convention and discovered the sounds of old-time music. She mastered clawhammer banjo and returned year after year to Galax, eventually winning first place in 1995, 2002, and 2004. She has also won first place at Elk Creek and Mount Airy fiddlers’ conventions and second at Clifftop.
Nancy and her husband Bill Sluys started the Horsehair and Catgut String Band in the late 1970s with Bill playing washtub bass and Nancy playing fiddle and banjo. In the early 1980s, Bill won first place at both the Mountain City and Independence fiddlers’ conventions playing washtub bass, beating the upright bass players. In 1983, Nancy and Bill moved to Greenville, North Carolina, playing old-time music with the Too Wet to Plow String Band at concerts, dances, and as the house band for the Green Grass Cloggers.
When Bill and Nancy moved to Mount Airy in 1985, they formed the Pilot Mountain Bobcats with Jacki and Allin. Jacki has been playing music since she was three years old, when she first sat in front of a piano. At 14, she took up the guitar, and she got her first banjo in 1972, when she became hooked on old-time music. She particularly likes the role of old-time banjo for accompaniment for fiddle tunes and dance bands. Jacki has also been teaching music for more than 30 years.
Allin Cottrell, born and raised in Scotland, moved to North Carolina in 1983. Allin first heard and fell in love with old-time string band music listening to classic recordings from the 1920s and ’30s via County Records re-releases, which became available in Scotland in the mid-1970s. Allin moved to North Carolina in the 1980s, and he has played with numerous old-time bands ever since.
The Pilot Mountain Bobcats are available for performances, dances, and regional events. The individual members are available for lessons. Bill Sluys also runs Minglewood Studios from their home in Surry County, specializing in recording old-time music. They will consider requests for demonstrations and school programs.