It was a big year for the Hillbilly Gypsies. In January 2016, the band’s longtime fiddler, banjo player, and bassist all announced they wereleaving the band. There wasn’t any bad blood, it was just time to move on. “Life happened,” guitarist Trae Buckner says. “The musical gypsy life isn’t something people stay with forever.” Yet Buckner and his wife Jamie Lynn, who founded the Gypsies back in 2001, were not ready to hang up their spurs. Drawing on their connections in the bluegrass community, they hired brothers Aaron and Alex Richards to play banjo and bass, respectively, as well as fiddle player Greg “Spanky” Moore.
Moore, who is in the running for the 2016 Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America’s Fiddler of the Year award, jumped at the chance to join the Gypsies after having played with more buttoned-up bluegrass bands. “He said, ‘I’d like to come play my fiddle and be myself,’” Buckner says.
The new lineup has given the Gypsies fresh energy, but fans can rest assured: The music has not changed. Buckner says he’s still committed to the band’s signature blend of first-generation bluegrass and old-time Appalachian music. “I’ve just always liked that mix. And it’s always worked for us.” While the band doesn’t get the radio play
some bluegrass groups enjoy, they are fan favorites at bluegrass festivals around the United States and in Europe. Buckner says that’s what keeps the Gypsies going. “If it wasn’t for that kind of support, we couldn’t do it. We can’t thank our fan base enough.”