The Band

Johnny B & the Balladeers;
(from left to right) Johnny B, Gary Redmon, Avent Lane, Billy Yearwood, Sarah Frizzell, Ken Frizzell
Photo Courtesy of Angela Ford

  • Johnny B. • Guitar — Banjo — Vocals
  • Gary Redmon • Guitar — Fiddle — Vocals
  • Avent Lane • Bass — Vocals
  • Billy Yearwood • Mandolin
  • Sarah Frizzell • Percussion — Fiddle — Vocals
  • Ken Frizzell • Harmonica — Vocals

Johnny B & The Balladeers was “born” with the rebirth of the Readyville Mill in March 2011. Tomm Brady (seen on the steps in the cover photo) discovered the Mill in February of 2006 on one of his searches for mill stones to add to a collection he was accumulating on his Bell Buckle farm. Tomm’s first glimpse of the Mill was “love at first sight,” and he sensed the magic that was teeming within the dilapidated walls, sagging floors and rusted roofs. Within a month he had purchased the mill and began a painstaking restoration—mostly by his own hands—that would take over four years. Tomm brought new life to not only the buildings and grounds of the mill; he rekindled the magic that lay dormant, waiting to be reborn.

The Readyville Mill
Painting by James David Beard

In 2010 Tomm began the mill “enterprise” by grinding organic wheat and corn and producing flour, cornmeal and grits for sale. He opened the Eatery in March 2011 and asked me to bring music to the mill on Saturday mornings. So, Johnny B & The Balladeers was born from musicians I knew and loved. And the mill began providing live music with a unique breakfast smorgasbord. It may be the only establishment around that provides live music at breakfast.

Performing at the Readyville Mill
Photo Courtesy of Jo Todd

I think the same magic that makes Readyville Mill a vibrant, electric and truly unique destination infused Johnny B & The Balladeers from the first note we played. Since our inception we have stayed true to an original yet diverse American music experience that is unrehearsed, unplanned, from the heart and is truly live and organically natural. Avent Lane, our bass player deluxe, sound engineer and techno guru began recording our sessions a few months into our “gig” just to see how we sounded in the midst of a bustling, clanging, exuberant and conversation filled atmosphere. After listening to some of the recordings I began to think about the idea of a CD of “Music at the Mill” that would be a truly unique recording. The idea from day one was to produce a blend of American traditional music and original songs that are captured with all of their unrehearsed, eclectic and “live” exuberance, and to give the listener a real sense of being there—indeed many of you listeners were there. These songs were all recorded live at the mill and you will hear the occasional crashing plate, laughter, conversation and hubbub that makes the mill what it is and our music what it is. These tunes were not laid down in tracks in a recording studio and then mastered to weed out every imperfection. We like to say that our CD stands for “Certified Difer’nt.” The recordings are what went into the mics and the PA with all the vocals and instrumentation recorded at one time as we played it. It still took countless hours in Avent’s basement (to which you will hear reference on the CD) searching the songs and formatting the CD. It was a “labor” of love in every sense of the word, and all done by our own hands. We endeavored to pack as much onto the CD as we possibly could, and we have managed to include nineteen separate tracks in this compilation (actually there are 20 “songs”—one is just “hidden” for you to discover).

As I mentioned above, our music is not only unrehearsed, it is also unplanned. None of us know the song we are going to play until I or some other band member announces it or just starts playing. So, there are some hiccups here and there and even some confusion as to who might take an instrumental break. Most of the times these great musician friends of mine don’t know to take a lead lick until I say “take it” or give a nod. And as you will hear, we have kept a lot of the “out takes,” spontaneous and stream of consciousness musing and “snappy repartee” (as Avent likes to call it) to be sure we keep our “Certified Difer’nt” pedigree. Most of all, we want this CD to be just plain fun.

Thank you for listening. Enjoy.

Johnny B