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San Diego Celebrates Bluegrass

The Shirthouse Band performing at the Ramona Bluegrass and Old West Fest in 2...

Above: The Shirthouse Band performing at the Ramona Bluegrass and Old West Fest in 2012.


Rob Lewallen, Vocals & Guitar, The Shirthouse Band and co-chair, Ramona Bluegrass and Old West Fest

Peter Lauterbach, Vocals & Mandolin, The Shirthouse Band

Rich Craig, Vocals & Banjo, The Shirthouse Band


Bluegrass music has its roots in the rural hills and hollers of the South but it didn't stay there.

Bluegrass became the backbone of country music. It grew to delight audiences around the world and we shouldn't be surprised to hear it celebrated right here in San Diego. This weekend, Bluegrass bands and enthusiasts will gather for the 4th Annual Ramona Bluegrass and Old West Fest.

The event features 16 bands and 19 hours of music over two days. The Shirthouse Band, which has been around the local music scene since 2006, is one band playing at the festival.

Members of the band are Rich Craig on banjo, Peter Lauterbach on mandolin and guitar, Rob Lewallen on guitar, Conley Robinson on guitar and Len Claesson on bass.

"Bluegrass music is moving music, very rarely when you're hearing a bluegrass sound are your feet still," Lauterbach said.

Lauterbach believes that's one of the reasons Bluegrass has a following in San Diego.

"Bluegrass grabs people," he added.

But what exactly makes a song Bluegrass? Lauterbach said certain instruments like the banjo, mandolin, fiddle as opposed to the violin and guitar. He adds that Bluegrass singers also typically sing about life on the farm, love, life and death.

"It came from back in the British Isles, Ireland, Whales, Scotland and the folks who were working in the mines they brought that time with them and there was a huge influence from the South, which is actually where the banjo came from" Lauterbach said.

Some of the other bands performing this year include Hot Club of Cowtown, Head for the Hills, Chris Stuart and Janet Beasley, Next Generation, Lonesome Otis, Gone Tomorrow, Chris Clarke and Plow, Lacemakers, Shirthouse Band, Judy Taylor, Orchard Thieves, Prairie Sky and Taildraggers.

"We have numerous changes and new events planned for this year," Lewallen, event co-chair, said. "We will have an encampment area that celebrates the Old West, complete with Mountain Men, Civil War era soldiers, cowboys and others, temporarily living in their camps at Ramona. It will be a great way to learn about history."

The Ramona Bluegrass and Old West Fest is May 4-5 at 421 Aqua Lane, at the Ramona Outdoor Community Center. On May 4, hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; May 5, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are available at:

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