Danny Roberts of The Grascals: ‘This is a great life’

One of the most celebrated bluegrass groups in the world today, The Grascals have just released a new CD entitled Dance Til Your Stockings Are Hot and Ravelin’: A Tribute to the Music of The Andy Griffith Show. In an interview with Examiner.com, mandolin player Danny Roberts spoke enthusiastically about the new album and the group’s extensive touring schedule, saying, “This is a great life.”

The new project was released last week in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved television show. “It was supposed to come out last Christmas,” Roberts said, “but it didn’t come together in time.” The album has been available as a digital download since March, but June 7 marked the actual physical release, which the musician said is due to the continuing success of the group’s last album The Grascals & Friends: Country Classics With a Bluegrass Spin. That album was released exclusively through Cracker Barrel in January and spent seven weeks at the top spot in the Billboard Bluegrass Album chart.

“I think management, they wanted to hold off and let that cool a little bit,” Roberts stated. “It’s a good problem to have!”

Released through BluGrascal Records/Time Life Records, the new CD features The Grascals’ versions of classics like “Dooley,” “Boil Them Cabbage Down,” “Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer),” “Ol’ Joe Clark,” “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and “Mayberry’s Finest Theme.” The band also contributed one new track, “Boy, Giraffes Are Selfish,” which was inspired by a line from an episode.

“That was something the Mayberry people wanted us to write a song about, something that had a reference to an episode,” Roberts said. “Andy [Griffith] heard it and really loved it. A lot of people might not realize it, but he still has to approve everything. He’s not just sitting around retired. All of it still goes through him.”

The project is a perfect fit for the Grascals, since the band members are all big fans of the show. “Especially Terry Eldredge. We all watch it on the bus, but he’s seen every episode I don’t know how many times,” Roberts said. “Sometimes we play stump the band with Mayberry trivia, and it’s really hard to get one past him.”

The Grascals put in quite a bit of touring every year, and while he enjoys performing, Roberts admitted that it can be difficult to be separated from his wife Andrea and daughter Jaelee for extended periods. “That’s the hard part,” he acknowledged. “Especially when you go over to Europe for two weeks. It’s been even harder with my daughter growing up, but that’s how it’s always been. They understand that’s what I do, and they stay busy while I’m gone. My daughter dances and she plays music, too, so they have a lot going on.

“It’s gotten better with Skype,” he added. “Now you can keep in contact and actually see each other, and boy, that makes a big difference. To be able to see each other when you’re talking . . . it’s just important that you check in every day and keep connected with home. My daughter just got an iPod with Face Time, and my old iPhone doesn’t have it, so I guess I’m gonna have to get one of those now.”

Asked if he would encourage his daughter to follow in his footsteps and pursue a musical career of her own, Roberts did not hesitate. “Absolutely,” he said. “This is a great life. I always tell her, as long as she keeps up her studies, she can keep playing.

“I’ve done a lot of things for a living, like hanging drywall,” he said with a chuckle. “Going out and traveling the world, playing music for people that love it, it’s a real blessing.” Fans can preview Dance ‘Til Your Stocking Are Hot and Ravelin’ at iTunes.

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