Brett Bass met Jon Murphy through a Craigslist ad. Brett and Jon met Mike Coker at a bluegrass jam. Brett, Jon and Mike got together, “made it happen”, and have since been playing steadily as Grandpa’s Cough Medicine for six years.
“That’s probably the least interesting part of our story so far,” says Bass.
Lead singer and guitarist Bass, raised in Homestead, South Fla., has called Jacksonville home since 2004. Banjo player Coker is from Jacksonville, and Murphy, on upright bass, is from Arizona. But the three play from the Beaches to Riverside, from St. Augustine to Orange Park, happy to call the First Coast home. Noting the geographical size of the city, they say they can play the same town and play for different crowds every night.
Inspired by the traditions of bluegrass music, they keep the aspects of musicianship, acoustics and vocal harmony intact. Their own fusion is in their lyrical content, influenced by their generation. Touting drinking, outlaws and savagery replaces the genre’s esteem of Blue Ridge Mountain cabins. And Florida is the setting in their “story songs” – the swamplands and woods they spend their free time in. Their music has gotten faster and tighter over the years, and what started as “an outlaw country honky-tonk thing” is no more.
“We’ve gone straight ahead to bluegrass since then, and that’s what we stick to. There are plenty of bands doing cross-genre stuff, and we don’t feel a need to do that,” says Bass.
With two albums, they’re hitting the festival circuit, with a slot at Floydfest in Virginia this summer, and have a tour in August. The constant goal is to expand the market of their music.
They’re a young band doing it the organic way, (they turned down a bid to be on America’s Got Talent!) and by their own merits. They’re confident their music will find its way, without help.
They hope to put Jacksonville on the bluegrass map someday, and are proud to be the ones carrying the flag.
“We could move to Nashville and be one of 1,000 bluegrass bands, or we could stay here, and help pioneer it,” Bass says.
And Billy O’Dell Bass, the grandpa behind the name, fully backs their cure.