As we creep closer to this year’s Huck Finn Jubilee—now just over a month away—the lineup continues to expand. The latest addition, announced on Friday morning by Huck Finn Jubilee officials, is a very pleasant surprise: skilled entertainer and award-winning banjoist Steve Martin and his longtime collaborators, the Steep Canyon Rangers, are set to join the festival.
Martin will grace the stage on Saturday during Huck Finn Jubilee alongside the Steep Canyon Rangers, with whom he’s played at various bluegrass festivals such as Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and DelFest. Most recently, Martin and comedian Martin Short appeared with the Steep Canyon Rangers as part of “A Very Stupid Conversation…With Music,” a show held in Michigan at the end of April.
There is no doubt Martin’s presence will bring lots of excitement to Huck Finn, which is already poised to be the fun-filled festival it always has been. But beyond the excitement, Martin is a serious—and seriously talented—musician.
Martin first picked up a banjo as a teenager, at one point listening to and emulating the legendary Earl Scruggs to practice the instrument; years later, Martin would join Scruggs for a performance of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” That 2001 performance, which also featured Albert Lee, Gary Scruggs, Randy Scruggs, Glen Duncan, Jerry Douglas, Leon Russell, Marty Stuart, Paul Shaffer, and Vince Gill, garnered a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance.
Martin won a second bluegrass-related Grammy Award in 2010 with his debut bluegrass album, The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo. The album featured bluegrass and country musicians such as Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, and Earl Scruggs, among others.
Around the same time, Martin met the musicians of Steep Canyon Rangers. With the band and Martin “clicking immediately,” according to the band’s official website, the group began touring together that year for the first time. “Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers” released the collaborative album Rare Bird Alert in 2011, which was nominated for a Grammy. In 2013, Martin collaborated with lyricist Edie Brickell on the album Love Has Come for You, whose title song won the Grammy Award for Best American Roots Song that year.
Martin’s love of the genre has resulted in an annual award for talented bluegrass musicians: The Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Each year, the award is presented to a deserving artist, young and old (the 2014 winner was a 76-year-old banjoist Eddie Adcock). Among the judges are J. D. Crowe, Tony Trischka, and Béla Fleck—who, by the way, will also be performing at Huck Finn Jubilee on Friday.
For more info about Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers—as well as the Huck Finn Jubilee lineup, activities, schedule, and tickets—check out the official Huck Finn Jubilee Bluegrass Music Festival website.