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Grndin’ GearsIs there a band scene in Fluvanna County? Well, yes. Dig deep enough and you can find Fluvanna-connected bands such as Borderline, Julius Hangman and Zen Daddy.
But mostly, bands come from outside the county to play at the Dogwood restaurant – about the only local venue for rip-roaring, electrified music.

Being so close to a vibrant music hub such as Charlottesville is perhaps a double-edged sword. Live music is everywhere in the city. On any given night music lovers can drive a few miles and see big name acts as well as those just starting.

Vocalist Nikki Chambless, moved to Central Virginia three years ago, first living in Lake Monticello then moving with her husband and two children to Scottsville. She threw herself into her new town by running the music side of the Bateau Festival and booking live music for the Scottsville Farmers Market each Saturday.

When Chambliss lived in Fluvanna, she often ate at the Dogwood, never knowing there was a stage on the other side of the restaurant. About Fluvanna’s music scene?

“I didn’t know there was one,” Chambliss said. “In Charlottesville it’s a whole other ball game. But it is much harder to break into.”

So maybe the problem is one of promotion? It doesn’t seem to be lack of interest.

Ask any musician and you’ll hear that the love of music and desire to be in a band started in school.

One stop at Horace Scruggs’ beginning keyboard and guitar class at Fluvanna High School bears that out.

Teenagers work through scales to the beat of a metronome and Scruggs’ snapping fingers. Most of the 25 students have never touched an instrument. Yet a desire to learn how to play an instrument has caused them all to try something new at a time most teenagers want desperately to feel adept at something.

Reasons for this are varied.

“I got a guitar for my birthday.”

“I always wanted to play but never did until a friend got me interested.”

“I wanted to learn when I was in 9th grade and thought I was too old. Then a guidance counselor told me about this class.”

And they all have different goals.

One wants to learn to read music. Another wants to learn the keyboard so she can play with her brothers and mother who play guitars and drums.

One even wants to become an organist so she can take her dad’s place as the church organist when he retires.

Melissa Ludwig, 16, is already in a band. Sort of. She and her sister and a friend call themselves “Nothing Yet.” They’ve written songs but no one could put them to music. That’s why Melissa is learning the keyboard.

Fifteen-year-old Corey Allen has been writing songs since he was 10. He uses music software to put his words to music. His goal is to be a music producer. He’s taking keyboard in Scruggs’ class to help that dream come true.

So yes, there is a nascent band scene at the high school.

But there are those who are already in a band and often do it just for the pure joy of it.

As Tom Donovan of Zen Daddy said, “I’ll never live long enough to get all the money back I’ve spent. But (playing in a band) is very therapeutic. If I have a bad day and I’m all stressed out, I can unwind and let out all my frustration on the guitar. And it’s fun - connecting with the crowd.”

Yes, there is a band scene in Fluvanna – if you just look hard enough for it.


So named because they are borderline country and borderline rock, said Karl and Renee Sprouse who live in Lake Monticello. She’s the lead vocalist and he plays guitar, harmonica and sings. They are joined by Mike Coleman, singer, electric guitar and keyboard; Quinter Garrison, singer and drums; and Pat Batten, bass and backup vocals. Together they play traditional and new country, old rock and roll and a little bit of blues, Renee Sprouse said.

They’ve been playing together for nine years. They play locally at the Moose Lodge and the Dogwood; also private events.

Zen Daddy

Tom Donovan, guitar/sings; John Vaughan, guitar; Mike Galvez, drummer; Adrean Felts, lead vocals; Jerry Vaughan, bass; Steve Boggs, sound have been together since 2005. They play rock and roll covers. “We try to keep it danceable,” said Donovan, who played in a band while attending Fluvanna High School. Donovan said he got back into playing after his kids grew up. Playing mostly in clubs, the band has also played Rhythm on the River and the Que and Cruise in Louisa. They’ll be at the Dogwood Sept. 23. You can find out more about them on Facebook.

They came up with their name when their drummer thought a suggestion of Swamp Daddy, was too ethnic. The bass player looked at an MP3 player Donovan owned by Creative Zen and said, “Why not Zen Daddy?”

Julius Hangman

Three of the four members hail from Lake Monticello – Eric Hendrickson, singer, guitar, melodica; Daniel McCarthy, guitar, singer; and Garret Barfield, bass, singer. Only drummer Eric Smith lives just outside Fluvanna in Scottsville. They describe their music as traditional folk/americana with hard rock, blues and jazz influences. While Barfield and Hendrickson are largely self-taught musicians, Smith studied music at James Madison and Shenandoah universities and McCarthy went to James Madison University as an undergraduate and did graduate work in music at Appalachian State. They can be found on Facebook.

Grindin Gears

Together since 2006, and named because they play “high-energy rock,” this band out of Gordonsville also plays at the Dogwood. The band of friends loves creating music and the high they get from playing in front of people, said guitar player Danny Carpenter. Rounding out the band is singer Brad Seay; lead guitarist Joe Ventura; bass player Larry Dunaway; drummer James Powers and sound man John Skinner. The group has some original music they plan on recording. You can find Grindin Gears on Facebook.


Based in Scottsville and most often seen at 330 Valley Street restaurant and bar, the band consists of Chad Willis, Kris Woolford and Joey Vegas.

Willis plays bass and sings, Woolford plays drums and Vegas plays guitar.

When Willis first started, he quit his job and moved in with his cousin to write songs. While there, they grew organic produce and sold it at area farmers markets. When it was time to come up with a band name, Seedz seemed appropriate, he said.

Seedz describes its style as “extreme alternative southern metal.”

They began with covers of favorites and now play mostly original music. More information can be found at their website at http://theseedz.com.

The Seedz next pubic show will be at The Horseshoe Bend Brewhaus in Scottsville Aug. 26

Southern Crossroads

This country and southern rock group has been together for six years, said Jason Serrett, bass player, manager and sound man. Mike Lanford sings lead; James Serrett plays lead guitar; Frankie Beverly, drums; Steve Fretwell; rhythm guitar. Jason Serrett they got their name because “we all came from different points and met at the crossroads.” Visit their website at http://thesoutherncrossroadsband.com.


This band from Ebony, Va. came together when solo singer/guitarist Josh Misner kept being asked to form a band, he said. Misner added Sam Johnson on drums and Thomas Peterson on bass. Misner is somewhat of a guitar prodigy. He started playing when his father gave him a guitar when he was 3. “Within a week, I was playing “Let it Be” by the Beatles,” he said. “I’ve even got a video of it, which is good, because I barely remember it.” Steeltone plays rock, alternative and original music. After hearing Nikki Chambless of Scottsville sing, Misner thought she had an “amazing voice” and asked her to open for the band, which she does often. Chambless, who said her voice has been compared to Natalie Merchant’s, sings and plays guitar. Her sets includes country, some pop and oldies such as Gerswhin’s “Summertime.” You can hear Chambless and Steeltone at the Dogwood on Sept. 30. Chambless is on Facebook and you can find Steeltone at www.reverbnation.com/steeltone.

The Last Call Band

You can probably figure out how this band got its name. Marc Ellis said they didn’t have a name when they played their first gig. Audience members shouted out suggestions, until the bar owner shouted “last call,” and the rest is history. Ellis, a Charlottesville firefighter sings lead and plays rhythm guitar, Eugene Offield plays lead guitar and peddle steel guitar, Chuck Floyd plays bass and Tyrone Black, drums. Together for three years, they play classic and modern country with a little rock and roll. Learn more at http://www.last-call-band.com.


Of course no story about music in Fluvanna can be told without mentioning Chris Daughtry. The 1998 Fluvanna County High School graduate became famous when he tried out for the fifth season of American Idol and made it all the way to fourth spot. His first album, “Daughtry” sold more than a million copies five weeks after its release making it the fastest selling debut rock album in history.

But like everyone, Daughtry had to start somewhere.

Rob Nesbit sat next to Daughtry in their high school math class Nesbit’s senior year. Nesbit just moved to Fluvanna and it was his first year at the high school. Daughtry was a junior. Nesbit said their teacher offered extra credit to anyone who came up with something math related – like a poem or something.

“I turned to Chris and said maybe we could play a math song,” Nesbit said. “I said I could play the guitar.”

So the pair went to Daughtry’s house and wrote a song, which they performed for their math class.

It was a hit.

“They asked us to perform it for other math classes,” Nesbit said.

Nesbit had been in bands before he moved to Fluvanna and asked Daughtry if he’d like to form one with him.

“He was involved in the theatre group at the high school, but he was still kind of shy,” Nesbit said. “I had to kind of talk him into it.“

Nesbit said he taught Daughtry how to play guitar.

“I taught him some chords and how to put songs together,” he said.

The pair played with several others in a band for about a year, before deciding to form separate bands. They remained friends, however, because both bands continued to practice in Nesbit’s family’s garage.

Nesbit left the area and when he got back, Daughtry had met his wife-to-be and moved to North Carolina where he was born.

Daughtry always had a good voice, Nesbit said, but he worked hard at it and became the talent he is today.

“He figured out how to be a singer, how to start writing music, how to create mood in the music,” he said. “He didn’t just learn how to be a singer, but a writer then a composer. You could feel it. There was a show aspect to his singing. He was charismatic. He was just always getting better.”

Nesbit and Daughtry remained friends. Nesbit went to Daughtry’s wedding and visited him in North Carolina.

Daughtry had gained somewhat of a following in Charlottesville, Nesbit said, but when he moved to North Carolina, he had to start all over again.

“He had to start from scratch,” Nesbit said. “In Charlottesville he had 30 people, then 60 then 100 come listen to him play. In North Carolina, I can remember being one of the only people standing on the floor listening to him sing. But he always stuck with it and made the sacrifices he had to make.”

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