A Mississippi band with several important connections to Philadelphia and Neshoba County has scored the chance of a lifetime.
A Mississippi band with several important connections to Philadelphia and Neshoba County has scored the chance of a lifetime.

A Mississippi band with several important connections to Philadelphia and Neshoba County has scored the chance of a lifetime by earning their own television program on RFD-TV set to debut July 8 at 6 p.m.

The show, entitled “The Bluegrass Trail,” will feature Alan Sibley and The Magnolia Ramblers as the host band for the program. The band is no stranger to Neshoba County having performed here several times. Additionally, Sibley’s wife Melissa is from Neshoba County and band member Butch Hodgins is also a Neshoba County native.

RFD-TV is also the home of “The Marty Stuart Show,” and, according to the band members, is the premier station for bluegrass, traditional country music, performances of the Grand Ole Opry and other forms of traditional Americana music.

“The channel is available nationwide on Dish Network and Direct TV,” Sibley, an Ackerman native said. “RFD-TV is the only place you will be able to find our type of music. Nowhere else will you find traditional bluegrass music or classic country music.”

“To me, it is the outlet for rural America,” Butch Hodgins said. “Millions of people across the U.S. watch the channel. The kind of folks that like rodeos and cattle shows and traditional music. It is the perfect outlet for us.”

According to Sibley and the other members of the band, how they came to be featured in the show is truly an act of Providence.

“I was sitting around one day (in Nov. 2017) talking on the phone with (band member) Robert (Montgomery) and we were talking about the Cumberland Highlanders show that we had been on and how we wanted to have a show like that on again that featured traditional bluegrass bands,” Sibley said. “I asked Robert what he thought it would take to get a show like that on RFD and he said ‘what can it hurt to try.’ After that I typed up an email to the president and founder of RFD Patrick Gottsch.”

Sibley said when he sent the email he wasn’t sure what the response would be or even if there would be a response, but 15 minutes later he got the shock of a lifetime.

“About 15 minutes later I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket and I knew it was an email response,” Sibley said. “The reply to the email said sure lets do it, the next day I had a phone call with the vice president Gary Kanofsky.”

Sibley said he immediately called Montgomery back with the good news.

“I called Robert and I told him you better sit down,” Sibley said.

“When Alan tells you to sit down you sit down,” Montgomery said. “I knew whatever he had to tell me had to be important.”

Sibley then informed Montgomery that RFD wanted to move forward with the proposed bluegrass television program featuring the group.

“Robert said he couldn’t believe it,” Sibley said. “He knew how big a deal this would be.”

“I couldn’t believe it,” Montgomery said. “It is still amazing.”

The other band members experienced similar shock.

“I was floored,” Hodgins said. “I was very excited about it. I think God had a plan and the timing is perfect. We were looking for a spot to give us a little more exposure. It will get us into some places we might not otherwise have gotten into. Marty (Stuart) said ‘It will light your Christmas tree.’

“I thought it was great,” band member Mark Tribble said of the news. “I mean what else could you hope for? This is about the best thing we could have hoped for. There are bands that have worked for years and don’t have TV shows.”

“I immediately knew it was going to be nationwide,” band member Larry Wallace said. “I knew this had the possibility of being a big deal for sure because of RFD’s long time reputation. It is going to be great to be included.”

The group will be the featured group on the show, which means they will open and close each show performing traditional bluegrass pieces. The episodes will be 30 minutes in length and will also include guest performances by a variety of traditional bluegrass acts.

“I was allowed to choose the bands,” Sibley said of the guest acts. “I chose the most traditional ones I could. The lineup includes bands from all over the eastern U.S.”

Sibley explained that the songs being performed on the show are either band original songs or public domain songs from the 1920s and before.

“This show is going to be as traditional as possible,” Sibley said. “We want to focus on traditional bluegrass music and traditional bluegrass gospel music.”

Filming for the 13 episodes of the show was done in Nashville at RFD-TVs studios over two weekends in February and May, according to band members. The sessions involved band members performing songs multiple times to get the songs down perfectly and to allow the filming crew to coordinate all of the camera work necessary for the show.

“This was the first music program that RFD has produced themselves,” Sibley said. “They were very professional. There is a lot of talent there at RFD.”

Band members said those days involved some long hot hours in the studio.

“It was pretty intense,” Sibley said.

“We worked some long hard hours,” Hodgins said of his work in the studio. “We would do the songs again and again until we got them right.”

“It is hard work, the recording aspect of it,” Montgomery said. “You want to get it just right.”

The band members hope their work on the project will help not only the band, but traditional bluegrass music as well.

“I don’t know how many times over the years we have talked about bringing traditional bluegrass to a wider audience,” Hodgins said. “That is why we are doing it. We are also doing it for the exposure. We want to be able to get into some bigger and better festivals and venues.”

“I want to make a lot of money and have a lot of fun and bring back traditional bluegrass music,” Tribble said.

“I would like for this to take traditional bluegrass music to a bigger audience than its ever been brought to,” Montgomery said. “Other shows have been more of the crossover type of bluegrass. We are trying to show the world that bluegrass doesn’t have to be changed to make it commercial. There is already an audience for it. This is the type of exposure you can’t get anywhere else. Hopefully it will also lead to more work for us.”

“I think this show will help to show bluegrass in a good light,” Wallace said. “I think also with us being from Mississippi it will give Mississippi a good name. Also these shows will be able to be seen for generations to come, that is what I am most proud of I think.

In addition to Sibley and Hodgins who are both from east Mississippi, Tribble is from Grenada and Wallace said he is from McCall Creek in southwest Mississippi. Montgomery hails from Moulton, Ala.

Sibley plays the guitar, mandolin and fiddle, Hodgins plays guitar, Montgomery plays guitar banjo and mandolin, Tribble plays bass and Wallace plays banjo.