The Wind Riders bluegrass band is comprised of a group of McDowell County musicians who all grew up surrounded by traditional mountain music. The group has only been together for a little more than a year, but they are booked every other weekend and have begun working on a recording. “The band was formed out of a desire to do something different and unique with the traditional music they all love,” states the band website. “Aiming to be a little different, The Wind Riders approach their music in an aggressive manner taking ‘traditional’ tunes and adding their own flare and twist to it.”
Mandolin player Gabriel Wiseman, grew up in Morganton and Marion in McDowell County in a musical family. His father, David Wiseman, is a well-known musician in the area, and his grandfather, Charles Wiseman, played guitar and banjo. “My family has been in the music for a long time,” says Gabriel. His great-uncle, Kent Wiseman, was one of the leading banjo players in the area before an auto accident cut his life short. Gabriel started playing seriously when he was twenty years old, and over the past ten years, he has become adept on the mandolin, guitar, and bass.
Banjo player Wayne Sowers was born in Marion, and he grew up listening to his father play guitar and sing in a country band. “I got interested hearing my dad,” he says. Wayne started playing guitar at the age of eight. He got interested in Travis-style picking, and when he was twenty-five and started playing the banjo, he tried Travis-style on the banjo. It wasn’t quite working, but Earl Scruggs‘ banjo instruction book helped get him going. He started listening to Scruggs, Don Reno, and J.D. Crowe for inspiration. Over the years, he has had the opportunity to play with some excellent regional and national musicians including John Shuffler, Jim Shumate, Frank Buchanan, Clarence Greene, the Lincoln County Partners, Uncle Josh Graves, and Bill Monroe. “I was blessed to play with a lot of professional musicians at a young age,” Wayne admits.
Guitarist Steve Bradshaw began playing music when he was twelve years old starting with the bass fiddle and later moving on to guitar and banjo. When Steve was twelve years old his father took him to see Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Steve heard the music and knew this was what he wanted to do. Steve played with bluegrass legend Mac Wiseman on lots of festivals throughout the country, and he also did a stint with Hoy Herbert and the Strings of Five. Steve’s hard driving guitar is the heart of the rhythm section of The Wind Riders. Steve sings lead and baritone vocals as well as some bass vocals when needed.
Bass player Toby Watkins has been playing music since he was fifteen years old starting with guitar. He began playing bass sixteen years ago and is in demand as a bass player in the area. Toby has played with some great musicians including Roger Hicks and Michael Reno Harrell, with whom Toby continues to play. A music veteran of thirty-three years, Toby has acquired a solid bass sound and flawless sense of timing.
The Wind Riders are available for performances.