Believing in bluegrass

Patent Pending has been making the music for more than 30 years and has no plans of changing their sound

Patent Pending has been making the music for more than 30 years and has no plans of changing their sound

June 04, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

BUNKER HILL, W.Va. -- If it's Thursday night, then it's rehearsal time for bluegrass band Patent Pending.

Since guitarist Rusty Williams and his family moved to their Inwood home in the 1980s, the band has made Thursday nights a nearly weekly gig. It's an evening of chatting, laughing and strumming in the living room while family and friends play Scrabble in the kitchen.

On a recent Thursday evening, the six-piece band is meeting to rehearse for several upcoming shows, including the Saturday afternoon performance at Morgan Cabin Festival.

Patent Pending started in 1977 with Eldred Hill of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., who sings lead vocals and plays mandolin for the group.


A year later, he was joined by Leigh Taylor-Kron of Arlington, Va., just a teenager then, singing and playing upright bass.

Hill says he and Taylor-Kron played with different lineups for another year. In 1979, the group expanded to include college buddies Williams on guitar and Jim Steptoe of Martinsburg on banjo.

In the mid-1990s, they picked up guitarist Ed Barney of Martinsburg. And last fall, fiddler Keith Dill of Winchester, Va., joined. Dill had played with the band in '77 and has been a longtime friend of Hill's.

Although some of the faces have changed, Patent Pending's musical integrity has never wavered. They say they are bluegrass to the soul and have no plans of being swayed to another genre.

"It's your No. 1 musical investment," Barney says. "You'll never get tired of it."

"It's very approachable music," Steptoe says.

Williams agrees. "(Bluegrass) is not what you think it is," he says.

In other words, Hill says, bluegrass is not limited to nasally vocals often associated with the music. And it's not overproduced like the contemporary country coming out of Nashville, Tenn., he says.

All have their own reasons for gravitating to bluegrass.

Taylor-Kron, for instance, didn't know any other music growing up. Barney says he married into the group.

They name influences such as Earl Scruggs, Reno & Smiley and Ralph Stanley.

Hill says Patent Pending's sets are a mixture of original songs written by himself, favorites written by others and some traditional music.

On their 2008 album, "Long Road Home," Hill penned three songs, including "If I Could See You Again."

During rehearsals, they say they're either learning new music or tightening up songs.

With busy lives and day jobs, they make sure to come together as a complete band as often as possible.

"Because if you don't do it," Steptoe says, "then time catches up with you."

If you go ...

What: Morgan Cabin Festival

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 6. Patent Pending performs at noon.

Where: Morgan Cabin, W.Va. 26 west of U.S. 11 in Bunker Hill, W.Va.

CONTACT: Call 304-229-9296.

MORE: For more information about the band, go to or pendingband

MORE: Patent Pending is also performing noon Saturday, June 13, at the Mountain State Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival near Harpers Ferry, W.Va. For more information, go to


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