A! Magazine for the Arts

Jack Tottle is still on stage in Hawaii with his group Bluegrass Jack. Band members Chris Wej (left) and Anne Pontius (right) can be seen in the background.

Jack Tottle is still on stage in Hawaii with his group Bluegrass Jack. Band members Chris Wej (left) and Anne Pontius (right) can be seen in the background.

Jack Tottle performing in Hawaii

March 27, 2013

Jack Tottle may have retired from East Tennessee State University, but he certainly has not retired from the stage.

With his band Bluegrass Jack-in which he is joined by Anne Pontius, Chris Wej, and Steve Ryan - Tottle has been performing his music regularly on the Big Island of Hawaii since early 2012.

In recent years Pontius' musical emphasis has shifted from folk music to bluegrass; she provides harmony and lead singing for the group and plays guitar and mandolin. Wej, retired from the environmental contracting business he founded on Oahu 30 years ago, has introduced the U-bass into bluegrass music, with results that have been known to startle conventional bass players. Ryan, whose work as a scientist has taken him from the South Pole to the summit of Mauna Loa, contributes his own unique and versatile five-string banjo style.

Mandolinist and singer Tottle is well known in the world of bluegrass for his recordings (on the Riverside, Rounder, JuneApal, and Copper Creek labels) and for the Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Program he founded and directed for a quarter of a century at East Tennessee State University.

Tottle's former students include country superstar Kenny Chesney; Barry Bales of Alison Krauss and Union Station; Adam Steffey of the Boxcars; Tim Stafford, founder of Blue Highway; award-winning singer and songwriter Martha Scanlan; Becky Buller, now with Darin and Brooke Aldridge; Hunter Berry of Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, and many more.

In the early 1960s, Tottle formed the Lonesome River Boys. The group released two albums: "Raise A Ruckus" in 1961 on Riverside Records and "Bluegrass Hootenanny" on the Battle label. In the early 1970s, he joined Don Stover and the White Oak Mountain Boys, and about this time, he also settled in Boston. In 1975, his book "Bluegrass Mandolin" was published by Oak Publications. The following year, he recorded a solo album "Back Road Mandolin" on Rounder Records.

Tasty Licks, the band he organized in 1975, provided the first widespread professional exposure for banjo trailblazer and virtuoso Béla Fleck, as well as for noted guitarist and singer Pat Enright, and for bassist Mark Schatz. Tasty Licks released two albums,"Tasty Licks" and "Anchored to the Shore" on Rounder.

Tottle is also a noted songwriter. His songs and tunes can be heard on recordings by Mountain Heart, Tim Stafford, the Bluegrass Cardinals, the Payroll Boys, the Blueground Undergrass, James King, and Blue Highway and on Jack's solo CD "The Bluegrass Sound," which features, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, Béla Fleck, Stuart Duncan, Ron Block and Ronnie and Del McCoury.

Jack Tottle to perform in the Tri-Cities