The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters have been playing old time mountain music in the Galax, Virginia, area since 1986. Today’s group is named for the original Bogtrotters of the 1920s, the premiere old time band of their era. The original Bogtrotters consisted of legendary artists Uncle Eck Dunford, Wade Ward, Crocket Ward, Fields Ward, and “Doctor” Davis. The Bogtrotters won the very first Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax in 1935, and Doctor Davis was very instrumental in keeping the contest alive throughout the years. Named for the original Bogtrotters and for a small stream that runs through Galax, the present day line up consists of guitarist Dennis Hall, fiddler and vocalist Eddie Bond, his wife Bonnie Bond on bass and vocals, Josh Ellis on banjo, and Caroline Noel Beverley on mandolin. Still most often referred to locally as “The Bogtrotters,” the band enjoys playing for area square dances and festivals, and are a fixture in local fiddlers’ conventions, where they have won innumerable old time band contests and often provide the backup music for dance competitions. Along with their seemingly endless string of local gigs, the band’s performances have included the Smithsonian Folk Festival, Chicago Folk Festival, Great Lakes Folk Festival, Montana Folk Festival, the Kennedy Center, and many others.
Eddie Bond, the band’s fiddler since 2001, was recently recognized with the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor that the United States bestows on traditional artists. uncountable A blistering player and powerful singer in the soulful Appalachian tradition, Eddie was raised up in a family of musicians in the Grayson County mill town of Fries (pronounced “Freeze”). Bond was taught by a maternal grandmother who played guitar and sang music handed down for generations through the Hill family, musicians well-documented in the Library of Congress’ archival field recordings. His paternal grandparents played guitar and sang; his Grandmother Bond was from the same region of North Carolina as Doc Watson and taught Eddie many of the old mountain ballads he sings today. One of the most influential members of his family was his Great Uncle, Leon Hill, a musician who took him to visit many of the local fiddlers from whom he learned. Family friends included master performers such as Kilby Snow and Glen Smith. Bond first learned the guitar, then the banjo, autoharp, and his signature instrument, the fiddle.
Eddie has won uncountable fiddle contests and twice been named Best All-Around Performer at the Galax Fiddlers Convention—arguably the highest honor in old-time music. Bond has performed across the country and overseas, including the “Music from the Crooked Road” tours produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts. He regularly performs at festivals from Australia to Ireland, where he trades familiar tunes with local masters. Eddie also remains deeply committed to his local community: he performs locally as a solo artist and with others, and teaches a string band course at a high school in Grayson County. Much as the great old-time fiddling masters did for him, Bond never hesitates to take the time to teach, assist, and encourage the next generation of fiddlers.