Hillbenders, The


  • From Springfield, Missouri.
  • Formed in 2008.
  • 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 Jubilee (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.
  • 2010, released first album Down to My Last Dollar (No Label).
  • 2012, released Can You Hear Me? album (Compass Records).
  • 2013, released Down to My Last Dollar album (Compass).
  • 2015, released Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry album (Compass), a bluegrass remake of the Who’s classic rock opera. They also perform concerts featuring what they call “WhoGrass,” their unique blend of classic rock and bluegrass music.
  • 2018, released The Hillbenders album (Compass).