In the late 1970s and into the ‘80s, groups like the Johnson Mountain Boys offered ample evidence that the traditional structures of bluegrass were still viable vehicles for the creation of exciting and dynamic music. In the 1990s, the mantle of tradition bearer passed to the Ohio-based group The Traditional Grass. One dedicated fan of the group touted their “zest, energy, sensitivity and taste” when it came to giving fresh interpretations to bluegrass classics. When the group landed at Rebel in 1992, it consisted of Paul and Joe Mullins, Mark Rader, Gerald Evans, and Glen Inman.
By this time, Paul Mullins was a 30+ year veteran of bluegrass. His fiddling was heard throughout the years in groups that included the Stanley Brothers, the Bluegrass Playboys, and the Boys From Indiana. In addition to his performance activities, he was a well-known radio personality and often did double duty as a festival master of ceremonies. He went on to win a Broadcaster of the Year award and a Distinguished Achievement award from the International Bluegrass Music Association, as well as an Ohio Fellowship Award for Performing Arts.
Joe Mullins came by his love of bluegrass honestly, having grown up in the shadow of his father, Paul. In true bluegrass fashion, he developed into a dynamic banjo picker and high harmony singer. Joe also followed in his father’s footsteps by entering the world of broadcasting, growing into an excellent announcer in his own right and is the owner of several radio stations. He has also performed with the group Longview, with whom he shared Song of the Year and Recorded Event of the Year awards from IBMA.
Guitarist Mark Rader sang the bulk of the lead vocals for The Traditional Grass. Instrumentally, he provided the guitar rhythms but was also adept at performing flat picked or finger picked solos. He also wrote a number of songs that the group performed.
Gerald Evans gained valuable performance experience with Dave Evans and the Goins Brothers before signing on with The Traditional Grass. He mainly played mandolin and sang baritone but he also did twin fiddle work with Paul Mullins and supplied other harmony parts as needed. He was a gifted songwriter and arranger and added a number of pieces to the group’s repertoire, including “Give Me Wings,” which was recorded by Bill Monroe.
The Traditional Grass also employed two bass players during their tenure with Rebel, Glen Inman and Mike Clevenger.
In all, the group recorded four projects for Rebel. Their debut disc was called Howdy Neighbor Howdy (Reb-1698). This was followed up with an all-gospel outing titled I Believe in the Old-Time Way (Reb-1708). Their third release celebrated a milestone for the band and was appropriated titled 10th Anniversary Collection (Reb-1718). As the demands of radio station ownership and broadcasting encroached upon Paul and Joe Mullins, the decision was made to curtail their performance schedule. Before doing so, they recorded one final project, Songs of Love and Life (Reb-1721).
In addition to the above CDs, Joe and Gerald recorded an instrumental project under the name Traditional Grass titled Just a Five String and a Fiddle (Reb-1724).