In 1977, three men from Long Beach, Don Anderson, Craig Furlong and Tim Bryant were leading music in their adult church class. It was their custom to invite someone, once a month, to do special music there. After a few months, the three thought “why don’t we work up some music for class and be the special music one time.” All three played guitar, but Don was taking banjo lessons. Tim already played bass from his “rock” days, and Craig, originally a drummer, elected to play guitar. And so the three men worked up the singing and playing of three songs for the “special” music for their class. In April of 1977 the day came for them to “perform” for their one time appearance. Quite to their surprise, their music received an overwhelming response. After the class was over, the folks in the room next to theirs, having heard their music through the walls, approached them and said, “Of course you are going to play for our class next week, aren’t you?” Not wanting to disappoint anyone, the men with a repertoire of three songs said, “Sure, we will be glad to.”
The next week while Don, Craig and Tim were doing a sound check for the other class, the church Minister of Music heard them rehearsing. He quickly approached them, and said, “You guys have just got to play for the whole church.” Shortly after that, the fellows played for a congregation of around 2500 people, again receiving a highly enthusiastic ovation. Before they knew it they were being asked to play for other classes, socials, and finally as their “word of mouth” reputation grew, for other events outside their own church.
They quickly began to expand their repertoire so they could play full concerts. One of the first songs they learned was one they heard on a Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys record. It was called “When The Angels Carry Me Home.” As they looked to expand their repertoire back then, it was hard to find gospel bluegrass that said things the way they would like to hear them said, so they began to write and perform their own songs.
Since the early days, the Bluegrass Brethren have seen quite a number of changes, but have always maintained their passion and enthusiasm for their music and their audiences have been blessed in the process. The band has contributed over 150 original songs to the bluegrass gospel field.
Their original compositions have received national songwriting awards as well. In 2003 Bluegrass Brethren was a main stage “showdown” band representative at Huck Finn’s Jubilee in Victorville, CA. Besides keeping a busy concert schedule, they have appeared at festivals, including, Huck Finn’s Jubilee in Victorville, Julian Bluegrass Festival, Gospelgrass / Colorado, The Temecula Bluegrass Festival and many others. That little trio, that started 30 years ago, with really no expectation of becoming a permanent group, today has expanded to a band of five.
Tim Bryant – guitar, vocals; Les Beckwith – banjo; Brian Beckwith – mandolin, vocals; Jerry Barber – bass; Lori Beckwith – fiddle, vocals