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Officers & Board Members

Leo Pearson

President - 2018

Leo Pearson grew up in Aiken, SC in the 50's and 60's. Looking back, he recalls the musical influences that led him to love bluegrass and country music listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio with his grandfather. Leo's uncle took him to see the Opry, live at the Ryman Auditorium in the early 60's and as Paul Harvey would say the rest is history. It wasn't until age 50 that he decided that he wanted to learn to play. At that time his family bought him a Martin guitar and off he went. Hooked for life. In 2017 Pat Ahrens asked Leo to join the SCBTMA Board of Directors and later became president in 2018.

Merdick H. Brown Jr.

Vice President

Born and raised in Sumter County, SC, Merdick recalls his childhood musical influences being, his grandmother, who taught her self how to play an old pump organ and listened to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs Saturday evening and the Gospel Jubilee Sunday mornings, his father, who always had country music playing on the radio and his uncle, who played guitar and sang professionally. Merdick taught himself how to play guitar in 8th grade and credits any vocal talent to his mother, who still sings in the church choir at age 89. For the past decade, Merdick has immersed himself in the Bluegrass Community at Bill’s Music Shop and Pickin’ Parlor and The Haynes Auditorium. Since it’s recent resurrection, Merdick has been a proud board member of the SCBTMA.

Willie Wells


Willie Wells, the son of the late Bill Wells has always been on the music scene. Since the early 70’s Willie has played drums, sang lead and harmony vocals. Having early country music and bluegrass influence from his father, Willie continued to develop and expand his musical direction toward recording studio production.

Over the past ten to twelve years the Bluegrass influence kicked back in which prompted Willie to dedicate his musical direction to continue the Bluegrass legacy that his father started. Just like his father, Willie and his band continue to promote Bluegrass Music throughout the community and at Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor where Willie no carries on his fathers legacy as the owner of Bills Music Shop and Pickin' parlor.

Jan Wells


Jan Renoni had the pleasure of being introduced to Bluegrass Music at Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin Parlor in 2015. She participated in a Slow Jam that inspired her to become involved in the community at Bill’s and with the SCBTMA. She was inspired to write a song due to the song writers that are members of the SCBTMA. Her song was performed on the stage at Bill’s on a Friday night! Jan became an active member of SCBTMA in 2015 and has encouraged people to join their events and membership. Jan says "I am honored to serve on the Board of Directors as the Secretary."

Patrick Russell

General Board - 2017

 Patrick Russell developed his love for bluegrass music growing up in East Tennessee. While in the military, he pursued bluegrass wherever he could, sometimes form bands in unlikely places. A bluegrass band formed in South Korea, “Just Grass”, won the All Army Battle of the Bands in 2000, competing against bands from all for genres of music from around the world. After retiring from the Army, he moved back to the southeast and its bluegrass nest bed. Patrick wrote 4 originals here, including the title song “Gravel in my Shoe “that spins a wistful tale of the wanderlust residing in many of us. He pays homage to the Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe in “Hear That Mandolin Ring.” Our two spiritual offerings also came from Patrick, “Walk a Mile” and “The Guiding Light.” Patrick is a member of Willie Wells and the Blueridge Mountain Grass.

Dr. Nathan Speare

General Board - 2018

Back in the 60's, Nathan started listening to the Kingston Trio, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez. That was when he first fell in love with folk music. Some 50 years later, as his kids began to play in their school orchestras, Nathan started bringing them to Bill's Pickin' Parlor to perform on stage. After seeing how much fun they were having, he decided he would try his hand at it, and began learning the guitar. Eventually, he founded the Saluda River Band. Nathan is in-charge of organizing our House Concerts to raise funds for the Youth in Bluegrass and Traditional Music Scholarships.

Larry Klein

Past President

Dr. Klein began playing music when he was 15 years old after listening to his parents' Americana record collection. His first exposure to bluegrass was via Flatt and Scruggs. After hearing Earl Scruggs playing the banjo, he was hooked. Dr. Klein has since learned to play multiple instruments, including the guitar, banjo, mandolin, dobro, and even the accordion! Dr. Klein was one of the original board members of the SCBTMA when it was founded in 1991. Dr. Klein hosted the NPR radio program called, “The Bluegrass Tradition,” and retired from that after 30 years, in 2015. From 1989 to 2011 he played with, “Bill Wells and the Blueridge Mountain Grass,” and he has continued to play at various local bluegrass settings. He has pitched in with various bands from time to time, including the Flat Out Strangers, Amick Junction, the Carolina Rebels, Palmetto Blue, and many others. He continues to advise the board as acting Past President, drawing on his vast knowledge and experience of bluegrass and traditional music.

Larry Turner

General Board - 2017

Larry was raised around Bluegrass music in and around Winston Salem, NC. His grandfather was a craftsman who produced folk style homemade banjos. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he eventually would call Columbia, SC home. After several years of attendance, at Bills Picking Parlor as a listener and friend of the late Bill Wells, he was invited to join SCBTMA by Louise Wells at Bills Picking Parlor in West Columbia, SC. To help fill a need of the association he started helping with the membership and is serving as the membership chair person. He is proud to be part of the SCBTMA family.

Carol Niederhauser

General Board - 2019

Carol started playing guitar during the 1960s when her older brother exposed her to different types of American folk music. He taught her to back him up while he flat picked his old Martin or played banjo or mandolin. Mostly they played bluegrass, old time songs and a little blues. Carol has always loved to sing and has sung in several choirs since childhood. On her own, she has learned a variety of songs, with classic country hits probably being her favorites. Thanks to friends made at Bill’s, Carol has picked up new material and enjoys playing with others.

Kevin Borgstedt

General Board - 2019

After years of playing in an assortment of 1940-style big bands, songwriter demo recordings, and local bands, Kevin went to his first bluegrass party in 2011. Even though he knew NOTHING about the bluegrass body of songs, he was welcomed like a long-lost cousin. He never looked back. Since then, he's learned from some master players: Roger Sprung, Tom Gray, Barry Bales, Pete Kelly, Mark Schatz, Frank Shaw, Danny Stanley, Mark Templeton, ...and the list goes on! From festivals as small as Roxbury Pickin' and Fiddlin' up to the big party at the International Bluegrass Music Association in Raleigh, he's been welcomed as that same long-lost cousin. Kevin is a musical side man- never the big show. Kevin leaves that for the singers and pickers up on the front line. He uses the bass to define the song structure and provide support for the melodic leader.

Misty Shotts Harley

General Board - 2019

  Misty grew up singing in church and playing the piano. She took her first guitar lessons from classical guitarist Dr. Rod Lewis as a young adult, and also studied voice with Dr. Martha Boutwell. About 10 years ago she started going to Bill's Music Shop on Friday nights and learned to play by ear. She participated in open stage and soon helped form an all ladies bluegrass band. Her current band, The Picken Pearls, continues the tradition of the all ladies band and performs bluegrass, gospel, and period music. Misty now plays the upright bass and guitar and sings lead and harmony parts in the group.

Jeremy Johnson

General Board - 2019

 Jeremy Johnson was born in Columbia, SC. As a young child Jeremy developed a love for music after watching his brother and other musicians at church play. As he began to get older that desire grew and so did his talents. In 2007, when Jeremy's grandmother passed away his aunt and granddad began bringing him to Bills as a Friday family get away to get their mind off of their loss and help his granddad Jack. As Johnson's talents grew he became more involved with his churches music program singing in the choir and playing each week. In 2011, Jeremy started The Southern Gospel Express which disbanded in 2018 due to band member turnover and illness, Later that year they rebranded themselves as BlueFaith Band. Jeremy has been a staple at Bills Pickin' Parlor in West Columbia. He also works closely with the Clemson University Bluegrass ensemble as well as the general conservation of bluegrass for his generation.

Barbara Russell 

General Board - 2022

Barbara was born and raised Monroe, MI, by parents from Tennessee. She was first introduced to bluegrass music in her early teens by her stepfather who played guitar and sang. Bluegrass gospel was and remains her favorite. She moved to Tennessee in her early 20's where she later met and married a bluegrass musician/singer/songwriter. She became the photographer and videographer for his shows. Barbara has a background in proposal writing and plans to use her experience to assist the SCBTMA team with their grant requests.

Boyd Burdette

General Board - 2022

Boyd started playing the guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and bass at the young age of 7 years old. He even toured and played with his dad's bluegrass band until the age of 12. In the late 80's, early 90's, he toured for about 10 years with a local bluegrass band from Greenville, SC called Skyline Bluegrass Express. During this time, the band met Bill Monroe and were invited by him to play on the Grand Ole Opry. They were fortunate enough to play a total of 4 times on the Opry stage with Mr. Monroe. On one occasion, they also performed with Mac Wiseman.

After he moved to Nashville in the mid 90's, he toured with Christian Country Artist/Dove Winner Jeff Silvey for 3 years. He then started an artist development/management company, Straight Shot Management, with Willie Wells.

He currently performs with Blake and Giles, a country duo, with his lifelong friend, Roger Brock. He also plays with Willie Wells and The Blue Ridge Mountain Grass. 


Kershaw  Spong

General Board - 2022

Born and raised in Columbia, SC, Kershaw's family is from Camden, SC and Nashville, TN. He remembers his grandmother playing the piano at Belmont Methodist Church in Nashville, where she also sang live opera on the Sunday afternoon radio. A largely self-taught guitar and harmonica player, Kershaw has played many types of music over the years, including traditional, pop, hymns, jazz, and bluegrass. He played in his church's chapel service for many years, and with folk and pop groups around Columbia, SC.

He has produced two CDs of hymns and sacred music, and three CDs of his own songs. 

For the past several years, Kershaw has been exploring bluegrass music and participating in events at Bill's Music Shop where everyone is so open and supportive. He feels strongly about the mission of the SCBTMA to foster and pass on this important musical heritage.

Currently, he enjoys playing with his dear friend in a group known as "The Front Porch Boys."












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