Johnson Mountain Boys regroup as new Seneca Rocks
Aug. 3, 2005
Mary Ellen Mitchell Halestorm hits Bentz by Nathan Oravec

Local bluegrass fans are buzzing about the upcoming concert appearance of Seneca Rocks. The buzz surrounds a return to the music scene by four out of five former members of the Johnson Mountain Boys.

David McLaughlin, Dudley Connell, Marshall Wilborn, and Tom Adams will be joined by Sally Love in concert Sunday at the Lewistown Fire Hall in Thurmont.

Local favorites throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the band members continued to be friends even when not performing together.

The fifth member of the Johnson Mountain Boys, Eddie Stubbs, headed to Nashville where he became an announcer for the Grand Ol Opry.

Seneca Rocks includes David McLaughlin on mandolin, Dudley Connell on guitar, Sally Love on guitar, Marshall Wilborn on bass, and Tom Adams on banjo. The name of the band comes from an article published about the old stone buildings along the C&O Canal.

The group's mandolin player, David McLaughlin said the group has gathered together in pairs or trios to play in local clubs or just to jam at someone's house ever since the Johnson Mountain Boys stopped performing professionally.

"It was through these jam sessions and by Sally joining in that we began to toy with the idea of putting a new group together," he said. "We all live locally, so it was easy to practice once a week. It is also a great way for all of us to relax."

What can bluegrass fans expect from "Seneca Rocks"?

The show will be very different from the sound of the previous incarnation of these musicians. The band has written some of the music itself. Other pieces include more obscure tunes that the group has worked over with their own arrangements.

Just don't expect them to cover old standards, said McLaughlin. The sound of the music is unique to this band. This is not a traditional bluegrass sound, but rather one that has been influenced by folk music, blues, and swing with roots in the bluegrass sound.

The biggest change from the sound of the former band to Seneca Rocks is the addition of guitarist Sally Love.

"The addition of a female voice totally changes the sound," said McLaughlin. "We all sing solos and duets, but it is when we break off into three and four part harmonies that our sound becomes richer, and Sally plays an important key in the flexibility in mixing it up."

Dudley Connell had been singing in a duo with Sally Love for the past four years and brought her to the attention of his former colleagues.

"As we began to play music and include Sally, it inspired us to dig up new music to take advantage of the female voice," Connell said. "The sound of the harmonies and the ability of key changes, made us begin to think about performing in public."

"We enjoy playing together and if people enjoy what they are hearing we'll play," said Dudley when asked about the future of the band. "...And if they don't we will still be happy just playing for ourselves in the living room."

A second concert is planned for New Year' Eve at the Birchmere in Virginia - a tradition for the Johnson Mountain Boys.

Concerts at the Birchmere used to sell out leaving a group of fans without tickets winding about the building. Those wanting to catch this show should book their tickets early.

Seneca Rocks


When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday (Doors open at 4 p.m.)

Where: Lewistown Fire Hall, 11101 Hessong Bridge Road, Thurmont

Tickets: $15

For information: 301-694-3535