The Hey Brothers’ trip to the N.C. State Fair started this spring. The Pittsboro-based group was the winner of the the Carolina Bluegrass Battle at the annual Got to Be N.C. Festival. The band earned $500 and spots at the N.C. State Fair and PreddyFest.
John Dudley (banjo), Allen Ray (guitar), Keith Sikes (bass), Tim Lee (mandolin) and Brian English (fiddle) formed the group in 2007. The band’s name came from old advertisements that Lee found online. Band members saw the ad and the name just stuck. The group plays mostly local and regional events, including festivals and private functions. “Everyone has a day job,” Dudley said. “Which means we don’t travel too far.”
On Friday, Oct. 13, The Hey Brothers will bring their blend of traditional and modern bluegrass to the CenturyLink Bluegrass Stage in Heritage Circle for shows at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., and 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.
“There are two schools of bluegrass,” Dudley said. “The purists are defined by the early first groups of the 1940s and 50s. Anything that strays away from these originals is not really bluegrass to those in the purist camp. Other bluegrass bands are more contemporary in their song choice and arrangements.
“Our group splits the difference,” he added. “Our training is listening to the originals. But we do stretch it a little bit and mix our arrangements. Let’s just say we try to be true to the original with some flare around the edges. One of the songs we play is ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face,’ by the Beatles. It’s not a bluegrass song but we do it bluegrass-style. When you play a song that is familiar to someone who doesn’t normally listen to bluegrass — it may be enough to interest them and make them want to hear more.”
Dudley hopes that at Heritage Circle their arrangements will make fair-goers stop and want to hear more. “We hope they enjoy our sound enough and be curious enough to make a connection with us later on Facebook or at another event,” he said.
Dudley began playing the banjo while growing up on a farm in eastern Mississippi. His mom, a piano teacher, tried to teach him music theory. “I pick up music playing it by ear,” he said. “Bluegrass players usually pick it up by ear; there’s something in their chemistry that allows them to hear something and mimic that sound.”
The Hey Brothers are one of more than 100 musical acts playing the N.C. State Fair’s Homegrown Music Fest. Before the fair starts, you can check them out at Wide Open Bluegrass in Raleigh. They will play at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, on the High Lonesome Strings stage near the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.