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A Brief SCBTMA History

by Pat Ahrens

The SCBTMA was co-founded in 1991 by the late Bill Wells and Pat Ahrens. Two people who were instrumental in its organization were Frank Stover, who helped write the Association By-Laws, and Terry Murphy, who helped secure the 501 C-3 articles of incorporation. As required by law, public disclosure and the names of its officers appeared in local papers. The officers elected were: President: Bill Wells; Vice President: Pat Ahrens; Secretary: Susan Coleman; and Treasurer: Terry Murphy. The Board of Directors included Homer "Pappy" Sherrill, Claude Lucas, Dr. Larry Klein, Frank Stover, Lester Gantt, and State Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Liaison Joan Davis.

Membership goals included providing a "family setting" to allow experienced musicians to orally pass on this musical heritage to youngsters. The Association strives to publicly recognize outstanding S.C. musicians and to work with other national organizations having the same goals. Its educational programs include presenting concerts by both professional and local amateur bluegrass bands, holding workshops for teaching the acoustic stringed instruments played in the genre, and publicly supporting the music.

For over a decade, the Association has presented a program at the SC State Museum which includes a brief history of the music and a performance from a live bluegrass band.

Early on, the Association had partnered with the Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) to produce day long bluegrass festivals throughout various SC Parks such as Oconee, Redcliffe Plantation, and Galivants Ferry. Bluegrass luminaries such as Alison Krauss, J.D. Crowe, Del McCoury, Laurie Lewis, and The Nashville Bluegrass Band were presented in concert by the Association. 

The attractive Association logo was designed by graphic artist Dee Lucas and Pat Ahrens.

A newsletter featuring current news of interest and a calendar of band appearance dates was mailed to members. At that time, the Association had 7 bands who were members.

Board member Larry Klein served as host of the NPR radio program "The Bluegrass Sound" and retired in 2015 after over 30 years of playing the best in contemporary and traditional bluegrass music.

The Association's "home address" has always been Bill's Music Shop & Pickin' Parlor located at 710 Meeting Street in West Columbia, South Carolina.

A purely social event and yearly highlight has been the traditional Christmas meeting where everybody brings their favorite dish and "Pot Luck" reins among the jamming by members.

 The Association has a proud history of past accomplishments. Some of these include sponsoring:

Alison Krauss & Union Station concerts at the Koger Center in 1994 and 1995.

A Bill Monroe Tribute concert at the State Museum in 1996.

A concert at the State Museum by former Blue Grass Boy Butch Robins, a master of the 5-string banjo, in 1999.

A concert with comments by renowned country music historian and author Bill C. Malone in 2002.

Although the Association became inactive in 2006, it was re-activated in 2014 by enthusiastic new officers and a Board of Directors that included: President: Tommy Thomas; Vice President: Merdick Brown; Secretary: Kathy Klein; and Treasurer: Willie Wells. The Board of Directors included: Past President: Pat Ahrens; Dr. Larry Klein, Ben Wooten, Staci Jones, Ashley Carder, Ken Baldwin, and Leo Pearson. 

In 2015, artist and board member Ken Baldwin designed a beautiful T-shirt for the Association that has been a popular fundraising item. An afternoon of bluegrass documentary movies plus a bag of popcorn morphed into a pot-luck dinner, and a membership "jam" was another Association fun fundraiser. 

The Board has worked hard over the past several years to get the Association name into public notice by partnering with USC's McKissick Museum during their Folk Fabulous Festival; the SC State Museum's monthly Tuesday night jam session in conjunction with their Carolina Makers exhibit, and the Congaree Bluegrass Festival by both being a sponsor and hosting a tent for "jamming" during the event.

For more information, the Association can be reached through Bill's Pickin' Parlor at

(803) 796-6477

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