The name Hillbenders is a derivative of “Hellbender,” a native Ozark amphibian.
Band members include Mark Cassidy (banjo), Gary Rea (bass), Jim Rea (guitar), Nolan Lawrence (mandolin), Chad Graves (Dobro™).
Graves previously worked with Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike. He has family ties to Uncle Josh Graves.
Gary and Jim Rea (cousins) were formerly with a band called “The Arkamo Rangers.”
Cassidy is from California and originally wanted to be a rapper. His parents took him to the Huck Finn Bluegrass and Country Jubillee (Victorville, CA) and he became a banjo player instead.
Lawrence was an All State Tenor singer in high school. Majored in vocal performance in college. Later studied at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas with Alan Munde and Joe Carr and was smitten by bluegrass.
2009, won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival band contest.
2010, won the National Single Mike Championship at Silver Dollar City.