"Blessed with an exquisite ear, superlative-creating touch and technique, and a nuanced sense of taste, no one in bluegrass has ever made the guitar sound better than Tim Stafford... David J. McCarty, Bluegrass Unlimited, February 2018


This is the official website for guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and author Tim Stafford.  You can find merch, including downloads and physical copies of all my solo and duet projects, plus instructional material, as well as the critically-acclaimed biography of Tony Rice:  Still Inside, the Tony Rice Story.  Also lyrics, news, schedule, photos, Blog and much more.  Blue Highway dates and information here.





"A modern classic of great tone, tunes, and technique, this album is not to be missed..."  David J. McCarty, Bluegrass Unlimited, February 2018 

Tim nominated for 2018 IBMA Song of the Year with Becky Buller for "Calamity Jane"!




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Previous events

Tim Stafford teaches at Nashville Flatpick Camp

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Nashville Flatpick Camp with Kenny and Amanda Smith, Tim May and Adam Schlenker, 2094 Timber Trail Rd. , Goodlettsville, TN 37072

SOLD OUT!! In the woods above Nashville, TN, there is a camp for flatpickers of all levels and most ages. It is held in a beautiful home surrounded by trees and creeks and bonfire pits perfect for late night jamming. Many of the greatest flatpickers alive will be teaching there but only 15 students will be allowed to sign up - guaranteeing the most incredible learning experience offered in modern music camping.

You will stay on-site or travel from your home each day and learn from the masters. In the afternoons there will be jams where you may very well find yourself picking Red Haired Boy or Big Sciota across from Kenny Smith or possibly Amanda Smith sings harmony with you while you sing and pick with Adam Schlenker.

On Sunday of camp you will record a tune with one of these flatpicking heroes with a real-deal professional engineer. It's mind-boggling, really. We also have a very close relationship with the incredible Carter Vintage Guitars store in downtown Nashville. We always suggest you head there either before or just after camp to see what's new over there. Feel free to click on the link above to browse their website before you head this way. Gearld Strickland is our camp luthier and will be available throughout camp to help you sort out any issues you might have with your guitar.

Tim Stafford teaches songwriting at 2019 NBCMS Acoustic Music Workshop

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2019 NBCMS Acoustic Music Workshop-- camp He Ho Ha (, AB T0E 2B0, Seba Beach, Alberta

The Acoustic Music Workshop occurs over three days and offers six 60 minute workshops, a Mini Festival, performance opportunities and lots of jamming. The workshop campus is situated at Camp He Ho Ha 45 minutes west of Edmonton. Stay in comfortable dorms, enjoy home cooked meals and play as much music as you can fit into a weekend.

Workshop leaders with solid backgrounds in teaching and performance are assembled to provide the best possible musical weekend.

The Northern Bluegrass Circle Music Society sponsors the Acoustic Music Workshop in order to promote, preserve and present bluegrass music. Knowledge of bluegrass is not required, it is our hope that musicians, already comfortable in their playing ability, will want to experience the user friendly nature of bluegrass music.

Tim Stafford teaches Songwriting at the Great Lakes Music Camp

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Great Lakes Music Camp, 10451 Lakeshore Drive , West Olive, MI 49460

Great Lakes Music Camp provides a unique opportunity to study in intimate small groups under award winning musicians and spend the weekend on Michigan’s unbeatable shoreline.

Tim Stafford guitar class at 2019 Smoky Mountain Songwriters Bluegrass Camp

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Gatlingburg, TN

The SMSWF is hosting a Bluegrass Camp sponsored by Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery Aug. 11-18, 2019 at the end of the 8th Annual Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival .

Tim Stafford guitar class at Ashokan Music and Dance Camp

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Ashokan Music and Dance Camp, 477 Beaverkill Rd , Olivebridge, NY 12461

Don’t miss this chance to learn from and jam with some of the best musicians and teachers in bluegrass music. Featuring Tim, Tony Trischka, Claire Lynch, Laurie Lewis, Matt Flinner, Missy Raines, Phil Ledbetter, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Tony Watt and Laura Orshaw.

Tim Stafford at the Station

The Station, 4206 Miser Station Rd , Louisville, Tennessee

The Station in East Tennessee is the south's most unique listening room setting for live music. Experiencing music inside The Station's 120 yr old building with raw wood interior resonating is much like climbing into the sound hole of a vintage instrument

Tony Arata & Tim Stafford at Randy Woods Pickin' Parlor

Randy Wood's Pickin' Parlor , 1304 E. Highway 80, Bldg 2 , Bloomingdale, GA 31302

An evening of fun and great songs from Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member and Savannah native Tony Arata ("The Dance," by Garth Brooks; "Here I Am" by Patty Loveless) and two-time IBMA Songwriter of the Year Tim Stafford of Blue Highway. (912) 748-1930

An Intimate Evening of Song with Justin Mychals, Tim Stafford and Bobby Starnes

Ridgefields Tavern, 2320 Pendragon Rd, Kingsport, TN 37660

Comin up March 23rd! You don’t want to miss this show! Tim Stafford and Bobby Starnes will be joining me for “An Intimate Evening of Song” Awesome songwriters, Grammy nominated, International Bluegrass Music Association songwriter of the year, founding member of Blue Highway are just a few of the accolades that these two bring to the stage that night. They have recently released their first Cd together and it is on fire! The cd entitled “What We Leave Behind” is number 1 on airplay direct radio Charts. Advance Tickets for this Dinner concert are $39.00 +tax =$42.70 and can be purchased at: Or call Ridgefields CC at 423 392-8373! Limited seating and all seats are reserved! Get yours today!

Wintergrass Songwriting Intensive with Tim Stafford

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Hyatt Regency, 900 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004, Bellevue, WA

Wintergrass Songwriting Intensive. The course will be an immersive songwriting experience, focusing on craft and process as well as some business issues. We'll write a song together using everything we learn about melody, rhythm, harmony, lyric and spirit, so students should be prepared to participate.

Songwriting is one of the most subjective and fluid topics possible - - there are a lot of ways to make a good song and even more ideas about what makes one. We'll examine successful songs by artists such as Hank Williams and ones that students particularly admire. We'll also have lots of fun and hopefully acquire some skills along the way!

Skill levels - - all

Register on the Wintergrass ticket site.


An Evening with Tony Arata and Tim Stafford

Randy Wood's Pickin' Parlor, 1304 E. Highway 80, Bldg 2, Bloomingdale, GA 31302

An evening of fun and great songs from Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member and Savannah native Tony Arata ("The Dance," by Garth Brooks; "Here I Am" by Patty Loveless) and two-time IBMA Songwriter of the Year Tim Stafford of Blue Highway.

Extraordinary Night of Songwriters Reunion!

Robinette Studio and Performance Venue, 248 Blackley Road, Bristol, TN 37620

$15 TICKETS at

In 2015, Annie Robinette had an idea for a night of "musical storytelling" involving a few songwriters with very different approaches to the art. First she contacted Jeff Lane and together they decided to ask Tim Stafford and Bobby Starnes about the idea. What ended up happening was pure magic in front of a sold-out audience in the Robinette's intimate studio in Bristol, TN! In 2016 the show was brought back together with the same results and a very personal experience for everyone in attendance. Due to circumstances beyond their control, a planned 2017 reunion didn't happen, however it is now 2018 and this MUST HAPPEN AGAIN!

This is a true reflection of why songs are written as told by the musical storytellers. Prepare to understand the songs in their most fragile form - just as they were created...

For more info on the artists:

Tim Stafford website - Annie Robinette website - Bobby Starnes website - Jeff Lane website -

Get your TICKETS



What We Leave Behind:  A Songwriters' Collection is a showcase for 14 songs written in the Bluegrass, Country and Americana styles by Tim Stafford and Bobby Starnes, featuring guest vocals from Trey Hensley, Tim Shelton, Beth Snapp and Keith Williams and also featuring special guests Dave Eggar, John Gardner, Ron Stewart, Jacob Burleson, Kam Kellar, Daniel Salyer, Jim Price, Jason Lloyd, Tony Dingus, Kevin Jackson, Tommy Starnes, Eddie Trent, Chris Simmons, Gina Salyer, and Jonathan Presnell.  

Tim is the 2014 and 2017 IBMA Songwriter of the Year.  He and Bobby Starnes have known each other since they were kids growing up in Bloomingdale, outside Kinsgport, TN and have been writing songs together for over 30 years.  Their songs have been cut by Larry Sparks, Blue Highway, Claire Lynch, The Grascals, The Boxcars, Kenny and Amanda Smith, Brooke and Darin Aldridge, Grasstowne, Cumberland Gap Connection, David Grindstaff, Shannon Slaughter, Jeanette Williams, Jeff Parker, and many more.  "Wilkes County Clay," which appears on this record, was #1 on the Bluegrass Today National Top 20 Weekly Airplay chart twice in 2016 as recorded and performed by Blue Highway.

“The songs contained on 'What We Leave Behind: A Songwriter’s Collection,' qualify as vivid moments to behold. High in substance... Stafford and Starnes’ collection creates a thirst for more.  Together, they’ve established a path all their own.” Tom Netherland, Bristol Herald-Courier, March 3, 2019.



Tim's new record, "Acoustic Guitar," IS NOW AVAILABLE!! 18 cuts, 13 original instrumentals, 10 solo guitar, 5 duets, 2 trios, 1 vocal (featuring Tim Shelton)...  FEATURING:  Stuart Duncan, Dave Eggar, Adam Steffey, Tim Shelton, John Gardner, Gaven Largent, Daniel Salyer...  And the new Youtube sensation from Bobby Starnes and Tim, "I Am America." 


Very proud of our guys!  Blue Highway's Original Traditional was nominated for a Grammy on Dec. 6, 2016 in the "Best Bluegrass Album" category!  This is our 11th studio album and first with Dobro ace Gaven Largent.  It's the band's third Grammy nomination, with previous nods for Wondrous Love in 2005 and Marbletown in 2006.  The focus for this album was to make a traditionally-oriented record with original material.  The album is nominated along with releases by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Claire Lynch, Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands, Claire Lynch and the O'Connor Band with Mark O'Connor.  The  59th Annual Grammy Awards will be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 12th and televised live on CBS.  The Bluegrass Album Award will be presented at the "pre-telecast" ceremony (officially named The Premiere Ceremony) earlier in the evening.



Original Traditional is here! Blue Highway's 11th studio album arrives 

Original Traditional, Blue Highway's 11th studio album, was released Sept. 9 on Rounder records.  The band is very excited about this, our first recording with dobro ace Gaven Largent.  Is it a concept record?  Kinda.  We decided we wanted to do a traditional bluegrass record, and after we checked out everyone's writing, we decided we had enough original tunes to comprise the entire record, minus an a cappella version of the Sacred Harp song, "Hallelujah."  By doing an all-original traditional bluegrass recording, we feel we are operating firmly in the tradition of first-generation artists like Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers and Reno and Smiley, who wrote most of their material.  Look for a "Track-by-track" on Sirius XM with Kyle Cantrell soon!

The album is available at our website:  

Here is a recent review

Blue Highway- Original Traditional review 

For more than twenty years, listeners have been privileged every couple years to encounter a new album from Blue Highway. 

Original Traditional, their eleventh and first since Dobroist Rob Ickes departed, continues their most recent blueprint: original music written or co-written by band members along with a single traditional song. The album’s title alludes to the group’s tendency to bridge the generations of bluegrass through recognition and reverence for the traditions of the music while ensuring a contemporary, original perspective is always present. 

With three formidable lead vocalists and key songwriters—Tim Stafford (guitar,) Shawn Lane (mandolin, fiddle, guitar,) and Wayne Taylor (bass)— along with Jason Burleson’s alternately aggressive and pensive, propulsive and sympathetic banjo presence (his tune “Alexander’s Run” is a highlight of the recording) and an instrumental lineup as strong as has ever been staged, Blue Highway is one of the top bands in the business. 

Joining the group for this recording is the youthful Gaven Largent, briefly of Michael Cleveland’s Flamekeeper and a player who doesn’t ease his way into the Blue Highway sound, confidently laying out his runs on mid-set numbers including the love-gone-wrong piece “What You Wanted” and the vengeful murder ballad “The Story of My Life.” 

“Don’t Weep For Me”—essentially “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby” meets “Echo Mountain” minus the dog—is a strong lead song. The rest of the 38 minute album reveals the accustomed cast of bluegrass fellows who drink too much (“Water From the Stone,”) hold onto childhood trauma too long (“The Story of My Life,”) and lose a good woman’s love because of it all (“If Lonesome Don’t Kill Me.”) 

Still, Blue Highway isn’t a band favouring one-dimensional songs, and none of those songs mentioned exist without shades of gray. In Shawn Lane and Gerald Ellenburg’s album closing number, Blue Highway revisit the good ole days at “The Top of the Ridge” while writing what sounds like either an elegy or (in darker eyes) a note of suicide. “She Ain’t Worth It,” in hands other than Tim Stafford and Steve Gulley, might have been just another song of fateful revenge; their protagonist thinks a little longer about his predicament—rather than grabbing his .44, he sits and “bathe(s) in the afterglow.” 

“She Ain’t Worth It” swings more than a little, and features Largent to nice effect. Similarly, “Last Time I’ll Ever Leave This Town” provides the instrumentalists room to showcase their offerings. “Water From the Stone” has a pleasing and inspirational gospel quartet arrangement, while the a cappella treatment of “Hallelujah” is just showing off and seems a fine message to the IBMA: Why exactly aren’t we named Vocal Group of the Year annually? 

I am sure I am not the only amateur fact-checker who has gone on extended forays to learn the true life blues behind particular folk and bluegrass numbers. Many (many) years ago, one of the first I did this with was “Tom Dooley,” the standard popularized by Grayson & Whitter, The Kingston Trio, Doc Watson, and hundreds of others. I remember scouring the local libraries for ‘facts’ related to the story of Tom Dula and Laura Foster. 

On the Legacy recording made with David Holt, Watson suggested his grandmother knew something about the tale, and that intrigued me even more, as did reading Sharyn McCrumb’s excellent The Ballad of Tom Dooley. My interest was therefore piqued to read the song title “Wilkes County Clay” (the locale of those post-Civil War events) and even more thrilled as the song began with, “In North Carolina, in the County of Wilkes, there’s a tale of deception, murder, and guilt. I’ll spare no compassion, the truth I will tell, Let God alone judge me, this side of hell.” From those words, one knew where Tim Stafford and songwriting partner Bobby Starnes were going. 

“Wilkes County Clay” is a mournful song, with Lane’s fiddle colouring the song much as one imagines the instrument did Dula’s final moments. While the narrator’s identify isn’t clear, the song is an agreeable telling of the tale, taking the Grayson-path that other accounts discount. The lyrical choices made (“She hid like a panther in the black of the night, And killed Laura Foster with a bone handle knife”) raises this above typical bluegrass fare. 

Original Traditional is another outstanding bluegrass album from Blue Highway. They make it seem easy: forced listening to the number of less-than-adequate bluegrass albums available proves that it isn’t. Blue Highway is a great band, one that has been contributing fresh insight into the bluegrass spectrum for more than two decades. That they continue to rise to the level they do, never taking the easy way, never delivering less than stellar material, is testament to the importance they place on their legacy. 

Excellent cover, presumably by Bobby Starnes, too! 

Thank you for taking the time to seek out Fervor Coulee. I appreciate that there are lots of places to get roots information and opinion; I’m glad I’m one of them. Donald

The passing of a legend  

Ralph Stanley's passing truly marks the end of an era.  He was the last man standing from the "big three" acts of the early years of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers, a link to the very beginning of the genre.  It was the Stanleys' 1948 recording of "Molly and Tenbrooks" that represented the first recorded evidence of a group emulating the sound of the seminal 1945-48 Bill Monroe band (featuring Flatt and Scruggs as well as Chubby Wise and Howard Watts).  In essence, it marked the birth of the genre, even though Ralph and Carter never called what they did "bluegrass," and Ralph certainly didn't after Carter's death in 1966.  But the Stanley Brothers went on to become one of the most important acts in the history of Bluegrass and Country music.  Carter's emotional lead singing on his haunting songs, Ralph's soulful tenor and driving banjo, to say nothing of their mournful, monumental duets, or the other innovations like crosspicking guitar that came out of their collaboration...  Their oeuvre remains at the core of the music even today, and 2016 marks the 70th anniversary.  They were Blue Highway's biggest inspiration in many ways when we started 22 years ago, and still are.

But after Carter's death, Ralph created another career, one that any entertainer could be proud of, one that featured many of the best musicians to come through the genre over the years.  And he did it without rehashing everything the Brothers had done, although it remained the heart of his act.  He almost single-handedly introduced a cappella gospel singing into the genre, and he brought back the "drop thumb" banjo style his mother Lucy had taught him, featuring it in almost every show.  George Shuffler, Roy Lee Centers, Jack Cooke, Larry Sparks, Melvin Goins, Curly Ray Cline, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Ricky Lee, James Alan Shelton, Charlie Sizemore, Ernie Thacker, Ralph Stanley II, James Price, Steve Sparkman, Dewey Brown...  So many great musicians passed through the Clinch Mountain Boys.  I played festivals and shows with many versions, and always cherished the opportunity to hear them and Ralph doing "Man of Constant Sorrow," "Clinch Mtn. Backstep," "Will You Miss Me," "Little Maggie," "Shout Little Luly," "Sitting on Top of the World," as well as all the great Carter Stanley songs over the years.  For true fans, it was just icing on the cake when Ralph became the centerpiece of the "O Brother" phenomenon, as much as it meant to him and his family at the time.

Most Blue Highway fans know that I often did an imitation of Ralph in our shows, and I'm sure they all realize (or hope they do) that it was done out of respect and admiration for one of our biggest heroes.  I'm sure Charlie Waller would have told you the same thing--he did a serviceable Ralph too, as well as a dead-on Hank Snow imitation.  One of my fondest memories is George Shuffler asking for the Ralph imitation at our shows!

I'm confident that the Stanley sound will continue because it's simply so powerful.  Its power seems to increase with time, and that may be Ralph's biggest legacy.  I am attaching one of my favorite all-time recordings, the Brothers' King-Starday version of "Little Maggie."  The whole cut is magic, with the pumping bass, sock guitar, cousin Ralph Mayo's soulful fiddle, but.... Ralph's lonesome, piercing vocal and banjo are the highlight.  This was probably his best banjo playing on record.  I defy you to listen to his break after the "Lay down your Last Gold Dollar...  Listen to that Old banjo ring" verse and not be moved.  It's the birth of the slamming modal banjo, in my opinion, so prevalent in modern bluegrass.  One of the great moments in the history of the music, easily.  

My deepest condolences to the Stanley family.


Tim on the cover of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine March-April '16 

Tim was featured in a cover story by Dan Miller in Flatpicking Guitar magazine's March-April 2016 issue (Volume 20, No. 3).  Sadly, FGM is in its final year of publication, and has decided to "catch up" with artists profiled earlier in the magazine's history, including Tim, Jim Hurst, Bryan Sutton and Kenny Smith. Tim was originally featured in the January/February 2001 issue of the magazine (Volume 5, No. 2).  Both issues are available on the FGM website (click photo).


Welcome to my newly-designed website.  I'll be updating all my activities here, and sharing various musings.  I recently had a couple good conversations with friends of mine on far-ranging topics on their podcasts, including the formation of Blue Highway, streaming, the future of bluegrass and other more fun stuff...  Tim Shelton and Justin Moses are amazing musicians and singers, and it was good to talk with them at length recently about what's going on in my world.  Here are their links:

Tim Shelton (#35, May 24, 2016)

Justin Moses (Dec. 5, 2015)

Cool dudes both.

In upcoming blogs, I may talk about anything and everything.  May start a podcast.  May not.  May take up macrame.  Probably won't.  Might reminisce some, since I'm that age.  Might have advice, share observations, give out links and post documents I think are important, maybe clips of songs in progress.  Let me know what you'd like to see/hear.

Stay tuned.