While the Indianapolis-based Stringtown Pickers may be labeled a bluegrass band, the group’s unique sound can be attributed to the various musical influences of its members: guitarist Chris Keiner (Doc Watson), mandolin/violin player Casey Keiner (Frank Zappa), banjo player Dave Frye (Bela Fleck), guitarist Dave Bigley (Willie Nelson) and bassist Scott Nelson (Charles Mingus).
“I’m a big jazz guy, not your traditional bluegrass musician,” Nelson says. “I received a quick indoctrination into the bluegrass style of music about a year before I joined the Stringtown Pickers. I had been in blues, jazz and rock bands, and wouldn’t have been interested in joining this band if it wasn’t for the Jerry Garcia and Dave Grisman material they covered.”
The Keiner brothers — Chris and Casey — started the Stringtown Pickers in 2001, and a year later came across a “pull tab” ad that Nelson had posted in an area music store. After catching Nelson at an open mic at Noblesville’s Barley Island, the Keiners asked him to join the band.
“The night they came to see me I was playing keyboards,” Nelson remembers. “And I knew only one bluegrass song, which I had learned to play for that evening.”
Nelson points out that the Stringtown Pickers have no illusions about their musical future.
“It’s not our dream to make a living at it,” Nelson says. “We all have day gigs. We have to work around each other’s schedules, so we can fit it in and play every chance we can. We really love the music.”