Born in St. Louis and raised in Strawberry, Arkansas, Dennis Crouch moved to Nashville in 1996 and is now one of the town’s busiest bass players. Two years after his arrival in Nashville, he became a founding member of The Time Jumpers. Crouch has recorded or performed with such artists as Elton John, Gregg Allman, Diana Krall, Leon Russell, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Jerry Reed, Tim O’Brien and a host of others. He has also recorded with Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Johnny Cash (on American V), T-Bone Burnett, Randy Travis, Ralph Stanley and Elvis Costello. In addition, he played on the soundtracks for the movies Walk The Line, Hunger Games, Cold Mountain, Crazy Heart and Don’t Come Knockin’.
Larry Franklin grew up on a farm in Whitewright, Texas and began playing the fiddle when he was seven years old under the guidance of his father, Louis Franklin. He eventually won virtually every fiddling contest in Texas, culminating with the World Championship title when he was only l6. After a three-year stint in the Army, he co- founded the Cooder Browne Band, which recorded on Willie Nelson’s Lone Star label and toured with Nelson. Franklin went on to perform with Asleep At The Wheel for seven years, during which time he won two Grammys. His third Grammy came in 1999 for “Bob’s Breakdown” on the Ride With Bob tribute album to Bob Wills. Since moving to Nashville in 1991, he has recorded with Kenny Chesney, Grace Potter, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Vince Gill, Lauren Alaina, Rodney Atkins, Joe Nichols, Lee Ann Womack, Easton Corbin, Brian Wilson, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain and Lady Antebellum, among dozens of others.
Paul Franklin (no relation to Larry) moved from Detroit to Nashville in 1972 to play pedal steel guitar for Barbara Mandrell. Later in the ‘70s, he recorded and toured with Jerry Reed and Mel Tillis. In 1981, he decided to quit the road and focus strictly on session work in Nashville. Since then, he has recorded with such legendary artists as Sting, Mark Knopfler, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, Barbara Streisand and Megadeth. “They say Paul’s the best there is,” says Knopfler, “but he seems to get better all the time.” Franklin’s imagination and versatility have made him one of the busiest session musicians in Nashville.
Oklahoma-born Vince Gill has performed with The Time Jumpers for many years but only became an official member in 2010. A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame since 2007, Gill is widely recognized for his achingly beautiful tenor voice, award-winning songwriting skills and virtuoso guitar chops. Together, these talents have yielded him millions of album sales, 20 Grammys and 18 CMA Awards. In 2005, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Gill is also regarded as one of country music’s most generous humanitarians, beloved for participating in countless charitable events throughout his career, including All For The Hall, the campaign to support the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. He was the Museum’s artist in residence in 2009. Gill has recorded with scores—possibly hundreds—of performers in all genres of music, among them Eric Clapton, Keb Mo, Barbra Streisand, Joe Bonamossa, Elvis Costello, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bill Gaither, Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, George Jones and Charlie Haden.
“Ranger Doug” Green
Illinois native Green spent much of his youth in Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1968. He learned to play rhythm guitar during the “folk scare” of the ‘60s. While still in college, he began playing bluegrass and even toured with Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys between his junior and senior years. That experience encouraged him to consider a career in music. He moved to Nashville, enrolled at Vanderbilt University and earned his master’s degree while continuing to play music on the side. He worked briefly with Monroe again in 1969 and then with Jimmy Martin. Green says he “rediscovered” Sons of the Pioneers in the mid-‘70s and was drawn to the group’s “sweeping poetic lyrics, great loping beat, complicated chord changes, beautiful soaring harmonies and yodeling.” He and Fred “Too Slim” LaBour formed Riders in the Sky in 1977. The group has won two Grammys and been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1982. Recognized as one of the foremost scholars of country music, Green is author of Singing In The Saddle, the definitive book on western music. Riders In The Sky also had a CBS TV show (“Riders In The Sky”) as well an NPR radio show (“Riders Radio Theater”) and sang “Woody’s Roundup” in Toy Story 2. Green has been with The Time Jumpers for 12 years.
Guitarist Andy Reiss left his hometown of San Francisco and moved to Nashville in 1981 after having played in a variety of less-than-stellar rock, show and casino bands. One of his first contacts in Nashville was legendary producer and steel guitarist Pete Drake, who introduced and oriented Reiss to the inner workings of the local studio scene. Reiss first Nashville session was an album for the actor Slim Pickens, a session that also involved such A-Team pickers as Drake, Charlie McCoy, Bob Moore, Pete Wade, Pig Robbins and the Jordanaires. “Talk about an education!” Reiss exclaims regarding that breakthrough experience. He has been a studio mainstay ever since and has played on hundreds of hit records, including two that went on to win Grammy awards: B. J. Thomas’ “Amazing Grace” and the Reba McEntire-Linda Davis No. 1 duet, “Does He Love You.” Reiss has recorded with many jazz greats as well, including Pete Christlieb, Beegee Adair, Benny Golson and as a member of the Lori Mechem Quartet.
Dawn Sears won her first talent contest at the VFW hall in Grand Forks, North Dakota when she was 14 – right across the river from where she grew up – in East Grand Forks, MN. And she kept on winning after she moved to Minnesota to play the clubs. When she was 17—and with her parents’ cautious consent—she began touring with a band throughout the West and Midwest. “It wasn’t music that brought me to Nashville [in 1987],” she confesses, “ it was Kenny Sears. Kenny and I met in Las Vegas in 1986. I was playing in the Sahara Lounge with my band, and he was playing the showroom with Mel Tillis. I knew I had found my so-called ‘knight in shining armor’ from the first moment I saw him. We were married six months after we met.” She got her first break in Nashville when TV personality Ralph Emery asked her to sing on his morning show. That led to a contract with Warner Bros. Records in 1991 and the release of three well-received singles. In 1992, Vince Gill invited her to go on the road as a backup singer, a role she still occupies.
Kenny Sears was born in Denison, Texas and raised on a farm in Liberty, Oklahoma. He purchased his first fiddle when he was seven with money earned picking cotton and turned professional when he was 11 after he was invited to join the staff band of the Big D Jamboree in Dallas. This gave him the opportunity to work with Grand Ole Opry artists who routinely played the Jamboree. Another contact young Sears made there was Billy Gray, Hank Thompson’s former bandleader. When the Big D Jamboree closed down, Gray asked Sears to join his troupe. Sears recalls it as a great training ground in swing and country music. But he had another musical life as well. Since the fourth grade, he had been playing classical violin with the Austin College Symphony. This gig netted him a scholarship to North Texas State University and the chance to study music in depth. He subsequently played in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Sears moved to Nashville in 1975 and in the years that followed toured with Mel Tillis, Ray Price, Faron Young and Dottie West, among others, worked in Ralph Emery’s staff band and the Grand Ole Opry band and established the reputation he still holds as one of Nashville’s most revered session players.
A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, Joe Spivey has been playing fiddle since he was 16, influenced primarily by the great Chubby Wise and Tommy Jackson. After working at a gospel radio station (where he eventually rose to the rank of program director), he served from 1977 to 1982 as the music director for the revamped Louisiana Hayride. In 1984, he moved to Colorado Springs and formed Cimarron, a band that went on to win the state championship in the Marlboro Country Music Roundup competition. Spivey moved on to Nashville in 1986 and joined John Anderson’s band in July of that year. He continues to tour with Anderson. As a studio musician, he has recorded with Anderson, Merle Haggard, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Kris Kristofferson, Joan Baez, Hank Williams Jr., Clay Walker and many others. His hobbies include studying music history and collecting cameras and Victrola phonographs.
Jeff Taylor grew up in Batavia, New York, and began playing accordion and keyboards in his dad’s band when he was 10. He studied classical piano at the Eastman School of Music and was leader of a small jazz/rock group when he was in the Air Force in Ohio. He has lived in Nashville since 1990. Taylor counts among his performing highlights his two years as bandleader at the Ryman auditorium for the musical production Always, Patsy Cline, hundreds of shows as bandleader at Opryland theme park and on the General Jackson showboat, The Skaggs Family Christmas Tour, and many appearances on the Grand Ole Opry backing numerous artists. He has recorded with Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, Harry Connick Jr., Keith and Kristyn Getty, Amy Grant, George Strait, The Chieftains, Martina McBride, Buddy Greene, Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs. He was a featured artist on the Ricky Skagg’s and Kentucky Thunder Instrumentals CD that won a Grammy in 2007 for Best Bluegrass Album. Besides excelling on accordion and piano, he also shines on the concertina, penny whistle, mandolin and bouzouki.
Drummer Billy Thomas is the newest member of The Time Jumpers. He came to Nashville from Los Angeles in 1987 and immediately began working with Vince Gill. He has been a member of Gill’s touring band ever since and regularly sings and plays on Gill’s records. Besides his musical labors for Gill, Thomas has also recorded and/or toured with Patty Loveless, Emmylou Harris, Steve Wariner, Marty Stuart, Ricky Nelson, Don Williams, Earl Scruggs and Dolly Parton. During the early ‘90s, Thomas was a founding member of the MCA Records trio, McBride & The Ride. The band’s Top 10 singles included “Sacred Ground,” “Going Out Of My Mind,” “Just One Night” and “Love On The Loose, Heart On The Run.” Thomas’ songs have been recorded by McBride & The Ride, Gill, Dottie West, Little River Band, Ricochet, the Oak Ridge Boys and Andy Griggs, among others.