Big Valley Bluegrass

Performance date: May 13, 2015

Big Valley Bluegrass performs in The Sound Room at WEEU, 830 AM in Reading, PA. Set includes “Mr Conductor” at 0:43, “Jesus in My Soul” at 3:00, and “Hollywood” at 6:51.

From their website:

GINA ROSS (Guitar & Vocals)¬†was born in the Lehigh Valley and lived in Nashville, Tennessee for 16 years where she performed original country music and was a frequent guest on the Ralph Emory Show. She is a gifted songwriter and co-wrote, “Jesus in My Soul,” a song recorded by country music legend Johnny Cash.


KEITH KESTER (Bass & Vocals) was born in the Lehigh Valley and fell in love with bluegrass music at an early age. He’s been playing for over 40 years in a variety of musical genres before finding a home in Bluegrass music 11 years ago. Keith considers Byron House, Bill Black, Willie Dixon, and Ray Brown among his major influences on the upright bass.


PAUL SPRIET (Banjo & Vocals) was born in New Jersey and now resides in Riegelsville, Pa. Completely self taught, Paul brings more than 42 years of banjo pickin’ experience to Big Valley Bluegrass. He lists Earl Scruggs, Bill Keith and Alan Munde as his main influences. A multi-instrumentalist , Paul includes drums, guitar (acoustic and electric), and bass in his arsenal of musical weaponry. His choice instruments are: A 1927 Gibson Mastertone TB-3, 1969 Fender Artist (Left to Paul by the late Dick Gerlach), and a 1982 Tennessee Top Tension.


BILL PARKER (Mandolin, Dobro & Guitar) grew up in Rochester, NY and is now living in the Bethlehem, area. He caught the bluegrass bug about 7 years ago when he started playing the mandolin. With a hard-charging, high energy style, he puts passion into every note he plays. His primary influences are his father (Bill Parker Sr.), Ronnie McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Shawn Lane & Jesse Cobb. In addition to mandolin, Bill also plays guitar,bass, and dobro. Preferred brands are Martin Guitar, Collings, and Daley.


Big Valley Bluegrass among performers at Lehigh Valley Music Awards

Saturday March 7, 2015 12:01 AM
By Don Botch
The best musicians and bands in the Lehigh Valley will be honored during the 16th annual Lehigh Valley Music Awards, taking place Sunday at 4 p.m. at the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem.

ar-303079986The ticketed event honors the region’s top performers in blues, rock, folk, gospel, hip-hop, jazz and more, as voted on by fans and industry representatives, and features 21 live performances.

Among those performers will be Big Valley Bluegrass, which is in the running for the third year in a row for Outstanding Bluegrass Band/Soloist, having won at the 2013 ceremony.

Mandolin player Bill Parker said the band formed four years ago and plays a mix of originals and covers in a traditional style, fronted by Gina Ross on guitar and vocals, with Keith Kester on bass and vocals and Paul Spriet on banjo and vocals.

Ross, who lived in Nashville, Tenn., for 16 years and was a frequent guest on “The Ralph Emery Show” during the ’70s and ’80s, co-wrote the song “I’ve Got Jesus in My Soul,” which Johnny Cash recorded for his 1979 album “A Believer Sings the Truth.”

One of Big Valley’s career highlights was opening for the “Queen of Bluegrass,” Rhonda Vincent, when she performed last March at Penn’s Peak. They also appear each September at the Victory Brewgrass Festival at Valley Preferred Cycling Center near Breinigsville.


They have a loyal following, including about 500 Facebook friends, and have released two CDs, the most recent being “The Other Side of the Valley” in December 2013.

Parker said bluegrass is experiencing a bit of a resurgence among younger people, in a subgenre known as jamgrass, thanks in part to the popularity of the Old Crow Medicine Show and Darius Rucker versions of the Bob Dylan song “Wagon Wheel,” plus the emergence of banjo-heavy British folk rockers Mumford & Sons.

“I think those things combined opened people’s eyes a little bit, much like when (the movie) ‘Walk the Line’ came out, people got into Johnny Cash who never really had,” he said.

Parker traces his own bluegrass roots to his childhood in Rochester, N.Y., when his parents would take him to festivals to see some of the all-time greats: Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs and Doc Watson.

“It was kind of ingrained in my blood,” he said.

As a teenager, his interests veered toward more-popular music, until the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and its old-timey soundtrack came out in 2000.

“We had a mandolin that was just gathering dust,” he said, “so I started picking it up and playing along to that stuff, and I caught the bug.”

Big Valley keeps busy in the warmer weather months playing regional events such as the Pocono Mountains and Wind Gap bluegrass festivals as well as smaller gigs at craft shows and fairs, and doesn’t have any grand aspirations beyond hopefully claiming its second Lehigh Valley Music Award in three years on Sunday.

“We’re not looking to go to Nashville,” Parker said. “We’ve all got day jobs. We’re happy just being bluegrass weekend warriors.”

Contact Don Botch: 610-371-5055 or