Josh Williams Biography
Josh Williams is a unique, extremely versatile and talented young man. He is considered by many to be the most formidable young male vocalist in the Bluegrass/Acoustic music business. He is known to some as one of the finest young guitar players to come along in a long time, having toured with the top ranked “Rage” in their grueling 300 days per year touring schedule from December 2003 through September 2007, and having been named SPBGMA Guitar Performer of the Year, every year from 2005 through 2010, as well as IBMA’s Guitar Player of the year in 2008 and 2009. He is also known by some as the excellent mandolin/fiddle player formerly with “The Special Consensus”. There are many of us who still think of him as the hard driving banjo player for the group he fronted during his High School years, “Josh Williams & High Gear”. The fact is Josh Williams is all of these. He is a super talented multi-instrumentalist, a superb lead and harmony singer, and a truly gifted songwriter. He has been writing and performing Bluegrass music for well over half his life.
Joshua Seth Williams was born on November 20, 1980 in western Kentucky, the second son of Tony and Terri Williams. He and his older brother, Justin, were raised in a modest home in Benton, Kentucky, a small town, near Paducah. His Grandmother, the late Mary Neale Williams, was the first to notice Josh’s interest in music. “Granny” was a gifted poet and vocalist, who often entertained in the western Kentucky area, at Civic club and charitable functions. She would sing and accompany herself on the Ukulele, but was also a competent guitar and mandolin player. She actually began Josh’s musical career by showing him how to play the ukulele when he was only five years old.
When Josh was seven years old, he asked for and received a small battery powered keyboard for Christmas. He seemed to adapt quickly to playing this small keyboard, so his mom and dad asked him if he would like to study music, and possibly take piano lessons. He declined the piano lessons, but said he would like to learn more about music. His dad then began showing Josh some chords on the guitar. Josh’s family often had friends and relatives over to play music and sing in their home, and Josh enjoyed these occasions, during his earlier years, and expressed an interest in playing banjo when he was eight years old.
Josh began taking banjo lessons from Scottie Henson about three months prior to his ninth birthday, and started teaching himself guitar and mandolin shortly thereafter. Scottie taught using a unique style of tablature, and Josh seemed to pick up the three fingered (Scruggs style) pretty quickly. He recorded his first project when he was only ten years old. This was a home produced, garage recorded, banjo project, called “Tall Pickin’” and was never widely distributed. The backup musicians for this project were all family friends, and two cuts from this project were nationally released on Prime Cuts of Bluegrass. The first release was “Over the Rainbow”, on PCB Volume 2, Release Date December 27, 1992, and the second cut was “Nashville Blues” on PCB Volume 4, Release Date May 20, 1993. These two releases on Prime Cuts of Bluegrass received much wider airplay than expected, and resulted in Josh being given a segment on the Nickelodeon Network’s “Nick News” at age twelve. This national television feature is credited with giving many kids between eight and thirteen years old their first taste of Bluegrass music. Josh continued to study with Scottie Henson for just over two years. Believing that Josh had progressed beyond his teaching, Scottie suggested that Josh find a more advanced teacher. Josh then began to study with Alison Brown. After two months Alison also decided that Josh needed no further instruction, and told his family, “He doesn’t need a teacher, he just needs to play!”
At age twelve, Josh also started to front his own band, “Josh Williams & High Gear”, and began to tour regionally. Josh also made the decision to make music his vocation at this time. After an appearance at the Lucy Opry in Memphis, where Josh Williams & High Gear performed as the opening band for Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Josh decided it was time for the band to record. Kirk Brandenberger, a long time friend of the family, and owner of Prime Cuts of Bluegrass, introduced Josh and his dad to Steve Chandler, an excellent recording engineer for Bluegrass musicians, and the first “Josh Williams & High Gear” recording was started. It was during one of the band’s rehearsals for this recording that Pete Wernick called and asked Josh to participate in a group called “The Bluegrass Youth All-stars”. This band was made up of players about Josh’s age, and was scheduled to appear at the IBMA Awards Show in Owensboro, Kentucky, in October of 1993. These original Bluegrass Youth All-stars included Josh Williams on banjo, Chris Thile on mandolin, Cody Kilby on guitar, Michael Cleveland on fiddle, and Brady Stogdill on bass. This band was an instant success, and led to the formation of “The Young Acoustic All-stars”, a group that recorded one album for New Haven Records, “Somewhere Down The Road”, and a great deal of touring, including a season of eighteen shows per week at the “C F Martin Theatre” in Opryland, USA. The members of this band were Josh Williams on mandolin, Katie Penn on fiddle, Jonathan Jones on banjo, Wade Butler on guitar, and Joey Gipson on bass.
In February 1994, “Josh Williams & High Gear” were invited to open a show at the world famous Station Inn, in Nashville, for “The Nashville Bluegrass Band”. JW&HG were very well received that night, and this appearance led to the band signing with Copper Creek Records. The band’s first Copper Creek release, in 1994, was entitled “The Old Town of Home” (CCCD 0130), and was recorded when Josh was thirteen years old. This project was greeted by very strong reviews, and led to the band recording another Copper Creek project, and the band’s only all Gospel project, “Come To That River” (CCCD 0155) recorded and released while Josh was seventeen years old.
Josh Williams continued to play with High Gear until he graduated from Marshall County High School in May o
1999. He had accepted the position of mandolin/fiddle player with the Chicago based “Special Consensus” during the Christmas vacation the previous year, but could not start playing with the band until after graduation. Josh appeared on Special Consensus’ “25th Anniversary Video”, and on the award winning CD “Route 10”. He toured with Special Consensus until he resigned to accept the guitar player position with “The Rage” in December 2003.
Josh signed a solo recording contract with Pinecastle Records in 2000, and released his first solo recording “Now That You’re Gone” (PRC 1115) that same year. This project also received rave reviews, and allowed Josh to experience his first national chart action on the Bluegrass Unlimited Chart. His first charted song was “If You Were Mine,” written by his first banjo teacher, and mentor, Scottie Henson. In June of 2005, Josh’s second solo project for Pinecastle was released. “Lonesome Highway” (PRC 1136) was also the subject of excellent reviews, including Josh’s first ever “Highlight Review” in Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine. Josh appeared with “Rhonda Vincent & The Rage” on the groups first ever live recording “Ragin’ Live” released on CD on March 8, 2005, and on DVD on March 22, 2005. “Ragin’ Live” also was Josh’s first Grammy nomination. Josh went on to record his third solo CD for Pinecastle records, which was scheduled for release on February 23, 2009, but was never officially released due to Pinecastle Records closing because of severe health issues of Pinecastle Founder and President, Colonel Tom Riggs. Fortunately, the masters of Josh’s new CD “Down Home” have been purchased by Rounder Records, and is again scheduled to be released in the near future. January of 2008 saw the introduction of the “Josh Williams Band”, made up of Josh and some long time friends who share a love for traditional music, and a bond of strong, faithful character, and mutual respect. There have been a few changes in the “JWB’s” original lineup, but the JWB is now touring heavily with Josh playing guitar, Jason McKendree playing banjo, Nick Keen playing mandolin, and veteran bassist Randy Barnes rounding out the band.
Josh is also playing select dates with his guitar hero and mentor, Tony Rice as part of the “Tony Rice Unit”, and occasionally performs with the “Randy Kohrs Band”, and the “Traveling McCourys”; Josh has also performed with Alison Krauss when she wasn’t touring with her group, “Union Station”.