"We needed to become The Grascals on our own for sure, not known as Dolly Parton's band, but known as The Grascals," says Eldredge. "We could never repay her for what she's done for us."
Having Dolly's support opened doors. "We had her name behind us. What better name could you have backing you? That's almost like the pope or Billy Graham."
The Grascals released their debut in 2005. The CD contained "Me and John and Paul," which became a big bluegrass hit for them. Success also came in the form of being nominated for a Grammy and winning the IBMA emerging artist award and song of the year.
Allen penned the song. While preparing for the debut CD, Johnson went to Allen's office in Nashville to talk about songs for The Grascals. "He sent us a whole bunch of stuff," says Eldredge. "I heard it, and I said, 'yeah we got to cut that one'. I think Harley wrote that maybe five years ago, and he pitched it to a bunch of country artists and no one cut it. I could not believe somebody has not cut this song."
"You always want to be accepted by the fans, but it certainly surprised us (IBMA), certainly winning emerging artist...That sure floored us. We didn't expect that."
"It's mind boggling. Believe me, we accepted. It still thrills us," he says, adding, "It's really nice to be accepted by your fans and your peers.
The welcome mat stayed out as well for "Long List of Heartaches," which was released in 2006 and nominated for a Grammy. Not to mention winning them the first of two IBMA entertainer of the year awards.
Change was in store after that. Talbott left about this time to play with Dolly. Mattingly was called into service by Parton, who released an album this year and went on tour. The burden of being in both The Grascals and touring with Dolly became too much.
"This is our busiest time of year," says Eldredge. "We've got as a status now that people expect all of us to be there. Before that, we'd work with Jimmy off and on because of Dolly or Garth. We got so much going on. We got 120 dates this year already. We (told him, 'we) need you there. You're going to have to make a choice.' Believe me, it killed him, and it killed us. He went back and forth saying he's going to stay. He's not going to stay...Finally it was 'dude, you need to make a decision.' He had to go do a couple of bigger things."
"This is like his child too," Eldredge says. "He said it's like giving up a child. We understand that. This is going real well too."
Eldredge says the line-up changes may have had a positive effect. "I thought, if anything, it made us stronger," Eldredge says. "All of us knew we had to pull together and hold this thing together."
The band has hit the road hard with "Keep on Walkin'" to promote, and The Grascals seem to be in a good place.
"You've got a bunch of non-arrogant here who just love playing the music," says Johnson. "I know the Terry Smiths and the Terry Eldredges could care less (about the accolades). They've been doing this music for 30, 35 years, and they never got recognized...This is all just icing on the cake. It's a sweet victory for everybody. The awards just started flowing. Heck, yeah, we'll take them home...We've worked very hard. We had a business plan on top of music. We all knew we had our favorite guys to play the music."
"You always have that little bit of concern in the back of your mind, but I think it's going to be received fine because we still pretty much stayed the same plan," says Eldredge of the new CD. "We have not made (a) big huge change like we're doing Jamaican rumbas. We pretty much kept the same music."
"(We're) six guys that love each other and the music we're playing. I'm probably the happiest I've been in my life. Amen."