A Family Affair: Kentucky Just Us to bring high energy Bluegrass to Fine Arts Association concert series opener Saturday
Terry O’Neal never planned to have a family band, but he always loved music.
When Kentucky Just Us opens the 58th annual Fine Arts Association of Southeastern Kentucky Concert Series Saturday, the highly acclaimed family Bluegrass sensation, it will seem like a lifetime away from its humble beginnings in a Campbellsville restaurant nearly five years ago.
“A lot has transpired for us. It blows my mind to even think about it,” O’Neal, the patriarch of Kentucky Just Us said. He is joined in the band by his wife, Shelane, sons John, Jesse and Caleb, and daughter Kacey.
“We started out with a guitar. That’s all we had. Then, the kids found out they could harmonize and they wanted to sing together,” O’Neal said.
Kentucky Just Us is known for its unique sound and ear-pleasing vocals. O’Neal said, early on, he forced the children to sing for patrons at a restaurant one day in 2014 just as an exercise to overcome the natural nervousness of performing. The manager of the restaurant was so impressed, he invited them to come back and perform.
With just vocalists and a guitar, the group was able to win the Kentucky Strings at Western Kentucky University. After the unexpected victory, O’Neal said he realized the group needed more instrumentation.
He asked his wife to learn how to play bass in just two weeks. She pulled it off and is now a “solid bass player,” O’Neal said.
Participation in a small TV show got the group lessons with Buddy Spicher, the most recorded fiddle player in history.
“We developed a relationship with him and that has meant a lot for us,” O’Neal said. “Things overall have just developed very fast for us.”
The group now tours as a full-time, professional Bluegrass band playing a busy schedule of shows all over the eastern United States.
The group won the youth Bluegrass competition at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO and was named the first Artists in Residence at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Renfro Valley.
A video of Kentucky Just Us playing “Rocky Top” has received 4.3 million views online.
Rarely does the Fine Arts Association feature Bluegrass performers in its concert series. Betty Comer, Program Director for the Fine Arts Association, said with Kentucky Just Us, it will be the first time one has ever kicked off a season.
“They are getting quite a bit of notoriety and have been playing at all kinds of venues for a lot of different people,” Comer said. “We’ve never done this before, so it’s quite a different thing. I think it’s going to be a great show.”
O’Neal said Saturday’s performance in Corbin, at the Corbin High School Auditorium, will have a lot of energy. But it won’t just be a band playing music. The group plans to show off its comedic abilities and personality.
“Our vocals are really our signature, I think,” O’Neal said. “But it will be high energy. It will be a lot of fun.”
“We had no idea we would ever be a band like this. We just knew we enjoyed music and thought it was going to be a hobby,” he added. “This is what they want to do. It’s their love and their passion and they’ve been applying themselves very hard. It’s a blessed time for us. It’s been a wild ride and we didn’t expect it by any means.”
Saturday’s show will begin at 7:30 p.m. Doors open an hour in advance of show time. Season subscriptions and individual tickets to Fine Arts Association performances can be purchased online at www.fineartsseky.org or at the door the day of performance.