The Bing Brothers Band
This old-time West Virginia band represents Appalachia’s musical heritage all over the world.
The Bing Brothers Band’s sound was formed in the West Virginia mountains. Mike Bing, the mandolin player and band leader, tells the story of how he and his brothers (including the band’s banjo player, Tim Bing) were first introduced to old-time music. The Bing brothers’ father wanted to revive a tradition their grandfather used to do with his friends. “They would steal a chicken, roll it in mud, bury it, and make a fire on top of it. They’d play old-time music and bluegrass, then they’d pull the chicken out and eat it.” During this revived tradition, Mike Bing and his brothers were exposed to the music for the first time, and they loved it. “We each decided who was going to play what instrument, then we worked really hard to learn them,” Mike says.
For their first gig in 1975, The Bing Brothers played at Jake’s Sports Bar in Huntington for $10 and all the beer they could drink. “They soon found out that all the beer we could drink was more than $10,” Mike laughs. The Bing Brothers slowly started to get more gigs. They began performing for festivals in West Virginia and Virginia and made their first international performance in Canada in 1980. “As we traveled and performed, we met more pickers and players and more audiences.” Bing Brothers’ overseas career took off when they were asked to play at a festival in Ireland in 1994. “It was a festival celebrating the immigration process and they wanted authentic, American, old-time musicians.” Since then The Bing Brothers have returned to Ireland to tour six times, and they have also toured Scotland, England, Spain, and Australia. Of all the countries where they’ve played, Mike still prefers Ireland. “In America if you play in a bar you are background music. In Ireland, when we played in a bar, they shushed people. They really stopped and listened.”
While he enjoys playing in Ireland, Mike’s all-time favorite place to play is alone or with a group of friends by Williams River. “I go up there to do trout fishing and play. I don’t have to have an audience to be happy,” Mike says. This down-to-earth attitude and rural background are what Mike attributes to the band’s ability to stay together for all these decades. “I’m the most proud of the fact that we’ve been playing the same type of music for 30 years. We haven’t commercialized it,” he says. “We have no desire to hit the big music scene. We’d rather enjoy West Virginia.”
While the Bing Brothers Band never sought fame and fortune, their talents have been recognized and rewarded over the years. Tim Bing is a 13-time West Virginia state champion and Appalachian String Band winner for his banjo playing. Fiddler Jake Krack has won the Galax Fiddlers Convention contest five times and is known as one of today's top fiddlers. Mike and Tim Bing were the 2012 recipients of the West Virginia Culture and History’s Vandalia Award. In 2012 the band won first place in the Old Time Band Contest at the Galax Fiddlers Convention for the third consecutive year. In March 2011 the group began recording live performances for the release of a live recording, which was released in 2012 and received great reviews.
As an extension of his love of music, Mike is also the president of Allegheny Echos, an organization that provides summer workshops in which musicians offer personal instruction in traditional old-time and bluegrass music. Held in Marlinton with banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and hammer dulcimer sessions, the weeklong workshops draw people from all over the world. “We’ve had people from Ireland, Japan, and Belgium,” Mike says. Each year Allegheny Echos gives out 60 scholarships for students to attend, with a majority of these scholarships going to West Virginia kids. The week also includes free concerts and square dancing that is open to the public.
Band members include Mike Bing—mandolin, Tim Bing—banjo, Jake Krack—fiddle, Danny Arthur—guitar, Bob Lieving—guitar, and Tim Corbett—bass.