Linda Clayman Lay grew up in Clayman Valley, a tiny community named after her family outside of Bristol, Tennessee. She grew up surrounded by music in a family that treasured tunes, from old-time and bluegrass to gospel and traditional country. Her father, mandolinist Jack Clayman, formed a family band with Linda and her brothers and sisters, taking them to the places where the local musicians gathered, jammed, and performed. One of those places was the Carter Family Fold, a barn-like performing place, at the Carter home place at Hiltons in Scott County, a few miles west of Clayman Valley. Here she got to know Jeanette and Joe Carter, son and daughter of A.P. and Sara Carter of the original Carter Family. The Fold was one of the very first places where Linda performed, and it was there that she met scores of fine musicians almost every week. As a child, Linda made her mark as a flatfoot dancer, but her father soon had her performing on guitar, and she later learned bass from the local fiddling barber, Gene Boyd. She also took up and mastered the autoharp.
Linda later founded and led Appalachian Trail, an innovative bluegrass band that performed for more than 20 years. In Appalachian Trail, Linda truly found her voice, becoming not just the band’s lead singer but one of the most beloved singers in bluegrass. During her years touring with Appalachian Trail, she met the gifted guitar player and singer—and her future husband—David Lay. David encouraged Linda to venture out to tour with other musicians, and today when she plays he is always beside her.
After putting their stamp on several of Cracker Barrel's Heritage Series CDs in the early 2000s, Linda and David performed a number shows with the brilliant mandolinist and former Johnson Mountain Boy David McLaughlin. At some of their first concerts at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and at the Lowell Folk Festival, they received standing ovations and rave reviews. With these auspicious results, they have continued performing together as Springfield Exit. The group is now considered one of Virginia's outstanding bluegrass trios. They perform original songs and a wide variety of their own arrangements of old standards and traditional songs as well as new country, blues, swing, bluegrass, and folk instrumentals. Together they have performed at numerous National Folk Festivals, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and many others. Today the trio is joined by acclaimed fiddler and banjoist Troy Engle. For their 2019 Richmond Folk Festival appearance, Troy will pick up the pedal steel and pass along the banjo duties to their good friend and winner of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo, Sammy Shelor.