The Biggin Hillbillies were formed in 1998 having previously played as Anglo Irish Pact (AIP) with John McDonagh on mandolin & vocals, Bob White on banjo, Ray Butcher on guitar & vocals, Nye Davis on bass and Bill Taylor on the fiddle. In 2009 new fiddler James Lin joined the band. The Hillbillies had a monthly bluegrass evening at the ‘Pilots Pals Bar’ at the famous WW2 fighter station on Biggin Hill Airport, thanks to the hospitality of Joe Merchant until its closure in 2007. The boys are enthusiastic supporters of the local bluegrass club scene and perform regularly at clubs in the kent area. The band also appear at festivals across the country.
The line-up is:
John McDonagh – Mandolin & Vocals
Bob White – Banjo
Nye Davies – Bass Fiddle
Ray Butcher – Guitar & Vocals
James Lin – Fiddle
Bob and John bring a wealth of experience to the bands repertoire of Bluegrass standards and additionally the band performs a variety of country, Irish, Jazz and Acoustic Americana.
The boys have performed at bluegrass concerts and festivals, music club events, barn dances, pub gigs, private parties and weddings, and various open air events, including a beer festival (hic!) and a hot air balloon rally. No venue is impossible.
John McDonagh Ace vocalist and mandolinist, Johns many years experience with bands Turkey Buzzard and Munroes Revenge forms the cornerstone of the Hillbillies. Descended from a family of Galway fish fryers, John is the bands front man, he has an encyclopaedic memory of bluegrass lyrics and endless enthusiasm when at club meetings and festivals.
Bob White Known as ‘Banjo Bob White’ his talent on the 5-string and plectrum banjo is acknowledged nationwide. Has a reputation as the loudest player around and also plays a mean ukulele. Starting life with banjo manufacturer Clifford Essex, Bob spent many evenings playing London Pubs with his dad and brothers, and later with bluegrass, folk and jazz bands throughout the Southeast. He is the bands musical ‘technician’ and invents chords nobody has heard of.
Bob is also available for tuition on on banjo and ukulele.
Ray Butcher Having learnt guitar in his teens Ray spent many years in hibernation (some say he’s still in it!). A chat with old mate Tony Watson introduced him to bluegrass and he never looked back, taking to the style with enthusiasm and providing a solid background rhythm for the band. As the bands PA man, he is able to create a donkeys breakfast of cable effortlessly. He is also the festival chef, providing unidentifiable oily black things to order. Currently in the market for a Martin D28-CB (Concave back model).
Nye Davies The change from electric to upright bass brought a solid backbone to the Hillbillies when Nye joined in 2003. He is also a member of Woodys Kitchen and toured the US with the Deep River Band in 2005. He is a talented guitarist and avid rock & roll fan with a jive style likened to a geriatric bendy toy.
James Lin We found James on the internet while searching for good fiddles. He joined the band in 2009 and immediately lowered the average age of the band by 30 years. A talented, classically trained violinist, James is the only hillbilly with an ‘ology’ and is also a capable pianist and plays a fair mandolin. James has adapted to our bluegrass style with ease, adding his own skilled licks. His appetite for learning new songs is insatiable as is his appetite for food of any description.