The Twins: Brandon & Blake McLemore
Brandon and Blake’s musical careers began together, thanks to their parents, Bob & Susan. After Bob & Susan attended the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS in 1985, they wanted to learn bluegrass. By the time Blake and Brandon were born in 1987, Bob was playing guitar and Susan played banjo. It would be Bob and Susan’s bluegrass bands, and attending festivals that exposed the twins to the music, throughout their childhood. When Brandon and Blake were young they used to lie on the living room floor in between all the members of Mom & Dad’s bluegrass bands during band practice. They usually stayed long enough to fall asleep in the same spot.
Through the years, the twins were heavily influenced by the Bennett Brothers Bluegrass Band in Wichita, KS, as well as many other friends they saw annually at the Walnut Valley Festival. Thanks to this inspiration, the boys would pick up instruments at the age of 10. Brandon chose the mandolin because of its look and sound, while Blake realized the upright bass was the only missing piece for a family band. From 1997-2007 the boys played with Mom and Dad as “The McLemores.” In addition to playing with the family band, Brandon and Blake expanded their horizons by performing with a second northwest Kansas group called “Grassfire.”
Today, In addition to “Driven”, the twins play cowboy/western swing music with friend Allen Bailey, as part of “Marshall Allen Bailey & The Silver Bullets”. The trio has performed a number of shows, and previously recorded both a live CD and DVD. The group is currently working on its first studio project, which will include performances by Jake & Rebekah Workman, and Shelby Eicher!
Also, the twins, their parents, and brother, Ryan, all help a committee of close friends put on the “Pickin’ On The Plains Bluegrass Festival” in Colby, KS. Their hope is to spread their love of bluegrass to others. Now for a little background about Blake & Brandon, individually:
In 2007, Brandon attended the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences in Tempe, AZ. Learning audio production, Brandon followed his training by interning at Omnisound Studios in Nashville, TN where he was fortunate to perform on two projects. The experience was eye-opening, and while Nashville carries a special aura, it was understood that Dad expected his kids to have bachelor-level degrees.
Throughout college, Brandon was recording and mixing various projects for music groups, and continuing his musical interests with acoustic rock n’ roll, western swing, bluegrass and teaching guitar lessons. When Driven started their first recording project, self-titled “Driven”, Brandon was entering the workforce. The project enabled him to expand his recording and mixing techniques, and included a plethora of memories. During that first Driven project, Brandon actually fell asleep while recording his mandolin rhythm/chop track for a song. He slept nearly the entire song but woke up at the very end when his headphones went silent. After listening, it was discovered that the recorded mandolin worked fine and was used in the final version of the song.
Following the first album’s release, Driven started digging for signature songs and contemplated the idea of writing. While close friends were offering fantastic originals, the group felt songwriting was a worthy experiment. Up to then, Brandon’s songwriting had taken place in high school, and could be found on the likes of pizza boxes and homework paper. Understanding the band’s hope for catchy music, Brandon spent several weeks chasing melodies and fighting phrases in front of a fire place. This writing hotspot was fitting; it was the home of John and Merry Lewis and the first jam session of parents, Bob and Susan. As a full circle experience, “You’ll Be Lonely, I’ll Be Gone” reflects a multitude of childhood memories and inspirations.
While attending college at Kansas State University, Blake met up with friend Chris Biggs to get involved with the music scene. Blake, Chris, and friend Steve played weekly at the “Little Grill” restaurant outside of Manhattan, KS. Through Chris, Blake was also re-acquainted with friends Bob Atchison, and Mike and Vicky Theobald of the “Kansas Heart” bluegrass band and began playing upright bass for the group. One of the band’s key performances involved opening for Charlie Daniels at the Stiefel Theatre in Salina, KS.
Blake has previously taught bass lessons, as well as led bass workshops at festivals. He has recorded as a session bass player on a number of projects, including work for Robin Macy (co-founder of The Dixie Chicks) and Kentucky White (The New Tradition). Non-musically related, Blake has broken both forearms before, a problem commonly inflicted upon banjo players rather than bass specialists! All of these different experiences have brought Blake to the level of a skilled, veteran bass musician that can set the groove for a band that creates certain expectations with a name like “Driven”.
Jimmy got his first guitar for Christmas when he was 9 years old. His parents took him to square dances and festivals throughout the Midwest where he soaked up every song and lick he could learn from anyone he met up with. His uncle Ed Keeney spent countless hours playing guitar with him, and by age 11, Jimmy got his first banjo.
The late 70’s was a great era for the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA )in the Midwest, and he played nearly every weekend at festivals in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas & Arkansas. The Corder Family was his first banjo playing gig, and Mrs. Oma Corder told the story of having to pull Jimmy from a haystack at a town festival and brush the straw from his dress slacks before hitting the stage. Young Jimmy caught the attention of Johnny Vincent, and soon he was performing on Johnny’s radio show and with the Vincent family’s Sally Mountain Show (including Rhonda and Darrin Vincent). As a teen, Hickory Hill Ridge-Runners (with Brent Truitt) and Short Line Grass were bands that fed Jimmy’s craving for hard driving Bluegrass.
After a 20 year break to raise his kids, Jimmy got back into Bluegrass when he moved to Kansas City in 2002. He met up with other pickers at Mountain Music Shoppe, and from there got plugged into the region’s thriving Bluegrass scene. Monday nights at The Rural Grit Happy Hour, Fridays at Kansas City Area Bluegrass Music Club (KCABMC) or Heart Of America Bluegrass and Old Time Club (HABOT). He played with such Kansas City bands as Salty Dog Bluegrass, Konza Swamp Band and The Swillhound Stringband. Jimmy got reacquainted with SPBGMA festival friends Cindie Beem (Southern Reign) and Bull & Tammy Harman (Bull Harman & Bulls Eye), playing as many festivals as he could with them. He met his bass-playing wife Karla at a jam session. It was Karla that got Jimmy to Winfield for the Walnut Valley Festival for the first time in 2006. There he met up with the McLemore Twins and Driven was born from their favorite late-night jam sessions.
Jimmy plays a Yates banjo and Sheerhorn resophonic guitar. He can make a train whistle sound with his voice that confounded the Opera professor at UMKC Conservatory of Music (“How do you DO that? Do it again . . . do it again”). Jimmy may be the only member of Driven that isn’t related to any of the other members of Driven, but he is certainly a big part of the drive in Driven.
Rebekah Workman has been fascinated with music since she was very young. Growing up she learned to love and appreciate bluegrass music, due to the fact that her mom and dad constantly listened to it. She got a violin for Christmas when she was 8 years old. Rebekah practiced hard and began to enter contests with just 2 years of playing experience. Rebekah won the Utah State fiddle championship in her division 3 times and placed 15th in the National Old Time Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho in her division as well.
Despite success in competition, she longed to play music by ear rather than learn to just play an arrangement the same way again and again. Rebekah began learning the art of improvisation from involvement in the Utah Old Time Fiddlers and expanded her improv skills by playing in a number of different bands throughout her high school years. While playing at a jam session in Utah, a chance meeting with a young guitar player named Jake Workman gave Rebekah the chance to add to her incredible skill and opportunities to perform. Before she knew it she was married to the guitar player and had become the newest member of the band known as “Driven”.
Rebekah and Jake both love to play the card game, Rook, to the point their marriage is occasionally at risk. One of Rebekah’s favorite words to use is “fetch”. She’s known for saying silly and completely random phrases all the time. Primarily though, Rebekah continues to shine on stage with Driven and can also be found performing with her husband Jake in other various configurations throughout Utah on a regular basis when not playing with Driven.
Jake Workman began playing the guitar when he received one for his 13th birthday. As with most teenagers, his early music included the songs of his favorite rock bands such as The Beatles, Boston, AC/DC and Van Halen. Practicing for 6+ hours a day was not out of the ordinary for Jake. During middle and high school years he joined up with a couple friends and formed a rock band called “Wayward Son”. About a year and a half after he started the guitar, Jake’s introduction to bluegrass music came when his parent’s surprised him with a banjo for Christmas. Jake’s love for bluegrass grew over the next few years as he attended jams and festivals throughout the Western states and eventually the entire country. Jake began to enter instrument contests and has won many titles on guitar, banjo and mandolin. It was in 2007 at Winfield, Kansas while attending the National Flatpick Guitar Championship, that Jake met the other musicians that later would help form the band, Driven. The first gig played by Driven was in July of 2009 in Colby, Kansas at the “Pickin’ on the Plains” bluegrass festival. Driven began playing just summer gigs and festivals in 2009 and 2010.
During that time period, at a jam session somewhere in Utah a talented fiddle player named Rebekah Travis caught Jake’s eye. By the time Driven played their first gig of 2011 Jake and Rebekah were married and she had joined Driven as the full time fiddle player. They do get asked if they are brother and sister more often than if they are husband and wife. People say they look a lot a-like… When they ask which one they are, the common reply is “BOTH! It’s the bluegrass way and Jake does play the banjo…”
When not playing with Driven, Jake spends his time teaching private lessons, doing studio work, and performing with various other bands in the Salt Lake City area. Jake has also been known to lose track of time playing “Zelda” on his Nintendo. He has a degree in Jazz Guitar Performance from the University of Utah. Jake is most influenced by traditional bluegrass, but his playing will also showcase extensive knowledge in the rock and jazz genres as well.