Music

Billy Strings' February Mini-Tour Was an Early Father's Day Gift For Terry Barber

Jesse Faatz

Shortly before live music as we knew it got disrupted, bluegrass guitarist Billy Strings unknowingly told one of the best Father's Day stories of the year by taking his dad Terry Barber on the road.

A four-date mini-tour back home in Michigan allowed Strings, a busy performer even now thanks to his Streaming Strings 2020 livestream tour, a chance to spend a little time with family.

"I've been on the road so much that I haven't been able to spend much time with my father," he said in February. "I haven't seen Mom and Dad in quite a while, and I figure this will be a good way to get together and play some music."

The tour created new possibilities for Barber, a talented guitarist in his own right who'd mostly played music around the house and at small gatherings before Strings became a bluegrass star.

"This will be the first time for him jumping in a van, sleeping in hotel rooms for a few nights and going out and doing some gigs," Strings added. "At least it's the first time in a long time."

For a taste of Strings and Barber's bluegrass harmonies and flatpicking talents, check out footage from their Feb. 28 set at the City Opera House in Traverse City. Additional tour stops were in Bay City, Ionia and Ann Arbor.

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As for Strings' relationship with Barber, articles on the former typically credit the latter for introducing a guitar prodigy to traditional bluegrass. From there, Strings learned not just guitar but also banjo and Bill Monroe's instrument of choice, mandolin.

"He's the whole reason that I started playing guitar," Strings said of his dad. "He's an amazing musician. When I was a little kid, I wanted to be just like him. That's how I ended up picking up the guitar. He taught me a lot of great music as I was growing up and showed me a lot of amazing records. He taught me about Bill Monroe, Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs and kind of just spoon-fed me bluegrass music as I was a lad."

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Billy Strings' February Mini-Tour Was an Early Father's Day Gift For Terry Barber