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The Chapmans hope bluegrass fans will follow them

By Jon Lupton, July 2001

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Of course, there's an obvious similarity and connection between the close harmony of '50's-vintage "doo-wop" and the classic bluegrass trio and quartet traditions, a similarity that John quickly points out that they've exploited at least one other time.

"We had done one more Sam Cooke song that we also recorded. It was called 'Bring It On Home,' and we used to do that quite a bit, too. Sort of the same idea, see, with all those songs, what we did was work them up just around the bass, and had a bass line like what we did in the beginning of 'You Send Me,' except with that one, we did the whole song that way, without the fourth part. It was all just three-part, and the same way with 'You Send Me' the way we originally did it. Until this year, Dad had never sung bass vocals at all, and we just had to learn that he could do it. But for the album, you know, we decided to put Ray on there just for the heck of it."

"We needed to give him a job, he was tired of just sitting around."

As a vocalist, John Chapman exhibits the power, tone and style of singers with decades more experience, but it's his guitar work that has drawn comparisons to the likes of legends like Tony Rice. His picking is clean and crisp, and his rhythm is rock-solid in the classic Jimmy Martin mold, but his style may remind many longtime bluegrass fans not so much of the pyrotechnics of Rice as of the understated elegance of the man he saw so often at close quarters during his formative years as a musician, Charles Sawtelle.

It's a connection that he's quick to confirm, but it's not the whole story.

"I kind of absorbed everything I could. Charles was a big influence to a degree because we heard him all the time. When I was growing up, before I was even playing, I remember going to shows and seeing the Hot Rize guys. I picked up some of his ideas, especially his syncopation ideas and other things that were cool. I picked with him a few times out there (in Colorado)...but my big thing has always been to grab as much from everybody as you possibly can. There are a lot of great techniques that everyone can benefit from, and rather than try to stick to one style completely, try to blend in as much as you can."

For Bill Chapman and his boys, a full and active schedule continues to promise them new fans to win over while they contemplate new ideas for their next album. They've become regular favorites at Dollywood, and more and more festivals are featuring them among the "up-and-coming" new acts in their lineups.

"We just got this one done...but we're already talking about starting a new project. We're not exactly sure what we're doing, but we're starting to pull together material for that. We've got a pretty busy schedule this year, we're working quite a bit at Dollywood and everywhere we can, just trying to get our name out there, to let people know who we are, and what we're doing, and what we're about."

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