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Tom Isaacs
Photos courtesy of Phillip Jenkins

Tom Isaacs

Bluegrass musician Vilas, NC (Watauga County)

Tom Isaacs is a young bluegrass musician, but he has already acquired extensive performing and recording experience. Primarily a fiddler, Tom also plays banjo, guitar, mandolin, and upright bass, and he is a strong lead and harmony singer.

Tom’s grandmother, Naomi Isaacs, an autoharp and piano player, taught him songs and music when he was just a young boy. His first performance was with his grandmother in their local church when he was about twelve years old. His grandfather, David “Red” Campbell, has a musical family, with two guitar-playing brothers and one brother who played “any instrument he picked up.” They all learned by ear. In elementary school, Tom decided to try playing violin in the school strings program. He was a natural with the instrument, but he preferred to play mountain music by ear instead of reading the classical music presented in school.

Tom continued to play fiddle, and as a young teen he joined a local group, Sounds of Bluegrass. He was still a relative beginner on the instrument, and joining this group inspired him to start taking his music more seriously. He continued practicing the fiddle, and he also started playing bluegrass banjo. During a visit to the International Bluegrass Music Association‘s annual conference, Tom met Sammy Adkins, who was a lead singer with Ralph Stanley in the 1980s. Adkins was impressed with Tom’s playing, and he invited him to play fiddle on an upcoming gospel album.

Through Tom’s connection with Sammy Adkins, he met Ralph Stanley II, who was also impressed with his music. Stanley invited Tom to fill in on fiddle with his band on occasion. During one performance, he introduced Tom to his father, Ralph Stanley, and Tom performed “Little Maggie” onstage with Ralph, Sr. Later he filled in for the elder Stanley’s full-time fiddle player for an entire show at Williamsburg, Virginia. “It was a dream come true,” he says.

Tom currently plays in a band with his longtime friend Kody Norris, a musician from Mountain City, Tennessee, who toured with Ralph Stanley. Their group, Kody Norris and the Watauga Mountain Boys, have a busy schedule playing a bluegrass and mountain music venues around the region, including the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, Heritage Hall in Mountain City, and at the annual Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Reunion in Rosine, Kentucky. Tom traveled with his parents to Las Vegas where he performed with Mac Puckett. “Bluegrass is big in Las Vegas,” he reports. Tom created the band Surefire with fellow Watauga County musicians Robby Norris and John Bryan.  Tom and Robby continue the Surefire band, performing around the Boone area and serving as the house band for the bi-monthly Red, White, and Bluegrass jam.


Tom Isaacs is available for performances with various bluegrass groups, including Kody Norris & the Watauga Mountain Boys and Surefire.

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