The Hillbenders

Years at Winfield: 

The Hillbenders are a seasoned group of talented bluegrass musicians hailing from all over the country. With interests and influences as far-reaching as their hometowns, the sound they produce is unique and captivating. Drawn together by a mutual desire to write and perform original music, The Hillbenders combine the traditions of bluegrass with a diversity of influences creating a sound unlike any you've heard before.

Not only do all members write and arrange their own music, they all sing incredibly well. Most songs boast 3 and or 4-part harmonies and the lead vocal role is shared among the group. Be prepared to be amazed by some of the best "unknown" voices in Bluegrass music today! The same can be said of the instrumental prowess of the band. Led by the formidable banjo playing of Mark Cassidy, and aggressive style of Chad "GravyBoat" Graves the intricate instrumental parts in their music leave the crowd in awe. With tight arrangements and solo's as well as commanding vocals and harmonies there is little left to be desired after watching The Hillbenders in concert.

The HillBenders came together in late March '08 after the break-up of a former band (The Arkamo Rangers) left three of its members (Mark Cassidy, Jim & Gary Rea) picking up the pieces and looking for a fresh start.

Only a few short years before Mark Cassidy moved from Huntington Beach, CA to attend South Plains College, a prestigious music school located in west Texas. During some of his time there he lived with current Benders mandolin player, Nolan Lawrence while they both studied and played bluegrass and other acoustic styles of music.

The three remaining members began looking for someone to bring a new and interesting facet to their music and Nolan seemed to be the perfect fit. Mark contacted Nolan, who was residing in Austin, TX at the time, and invited him to join the yet unnamed Hillbenders. After meeting each other and collaborating for a short time the group realized that they had something special. Nolan immediately moved to Springfield, MO where the band currently resides, also the hometown of Jim & Gary Rea.

About a year after The Hillbenders were formed they received a phone call from their old friend (and former member of The Arkamo Rangers) Chad Graves. A couple of years earlier Chad had left the Arkamo and moved to Nashville, TN where he secured a position touring throughout the U.S. and Europe playing dobro with Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike. The Music City proved to be less satisfying for Chad than he expected and after some time he returned to his home in Polk County, MO. Upon his return he contacted The Hillbenders about playing together again for the first time, and the current form of the band was solidified.