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Blue Highway

Blue Highway
‘We recorded our last 4 albums with Jim Price at Maggard Studios and used entirely Peluso microphones’ -Blue Highway

Highly esteemed bluegrass band Blue Highway has earned a collective 28 IBMA Awards, 6 SPBGMA Awards, one Dove Award, and three Grammy nominations as a band. 

The group came together in 1994 as Alison Krauss & Union Station alumnus Tim Stafford decided to inquire about forming a “weekend band” with Wayne Taylor, a Southwest Virginia coal truck driver and musician.  The two got together with a few other musicians to play and have fun.  Sometime that summer mandolinist/fiddler/vocalist Shawn Lane, who had most recently performed with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, called Tim to see what he was doing.  Tim called Rob Ickes, who had tagged along on a few tours with AKUS while Tim was in the group and was then finishing up a run with Lynn Morris.  Stafford, Taylor, Lane and Ickes picked informally with different banjoists, including Jason Burleson, who had sat in with a group Tim previously played in, Dusty Miller.  Burleson joined the group, which signed with Rebel Records and played its first show Jan. 31, 1994 in Kingsport, TN at the First Night Celebration.

The band’s first record, “It’s a Long, Long Road” on Rebel was named IBMA’s Album of the Year in 1996, and the group was named Emerging Artist of the Year. By that time, the group had recorded another record, “Wind to the West,” and was touring steadily as a full-time outfit!  The band went on to record with Ceili Records and signed with Rounder in 2001, eventually recording 8 albums and one compilation over 20 years with the Massachusetts label.  In the same period, Blue Highway signed with Keith Case and Associates in Nashville and remain affiliated with former Case agent Lee Olsen’s CMC Artists.  Along the way, producers Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Alan O’Bryant and Scott Rouse helped guide the band, but the group has self-produced its last five all-original Rounder albums.

The hallmark of the band over its span has been and remains consistency and originality.  Four of the original members remain from 1994 (Burleson left the band briefly in 1999 but returned in 2001), while dobroist Rob Ickes departed in 2015 and was replaced by Gaven Largent (2015-18), Justin Moses (2018) and finally Gary Hultman (2019-present).  The band is fiercely dedicated to original material.

Blue Highway’s 2016 album “Original Traditional”  was nominated for a 2017 GRAMMY Award for Best Bluegrass Album.

Blue Highway was voted the Favorite Bluegrass Artist of All Time by the readers of Bluegrass Today in April 2016.

Wayne Taylor was the 2016 Inductee into the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame, alongside legends like Patsy Cline, the Statler Brothers,  Jimmy Dean, Mother Maybelle Carter, and Roy Clark.  

Tim Stafford
 received honors as 2001 and 2015 SPBGMA Guitar Player of the Year and 2014 and 2017 IBMA Songwriter of the Year.  He co-wrote the 2008 IBMA song of the year–performed by the band–“Through the Window of a Train.”  Shawn Lane was nominated as 2015 IBMA Songwriter of the Year.

Blue Highway charted the Most Radio Airplay of any Bluegrass Artist in 2014, per the  2014 Bluegrass Radio Airplay Chart, storming national airplay charts with their heralded album The Game

The Game  topped multiple charts at #1 including reigning at #1 for 7 consecutive months on the Bluegrass Unlimited Album Chart, and was named the # 1 Bluegrass Album of the Year by critic Daniel Mullins in his end of the year Top 20 Albums of 2014 list in Bluegrass Today. 

The 2012 IBMA Vocal Group of the Year also sent the title track of The Game  to #1 on multiple charts including Bluegrass Today and Roots Music Report, as well as holding at #1 for three consecutive months on the national Bluegrass Unlimited Song Chart (Aug-Oct 2014). 

Blue Highway has been praised by peers, fans, and media alike, with one of the most powerful descriptions of the Bluegrass super group being shared by Country Standard Time

“Wayne Taylor sings with the emotion of a man who escaped the coal mines and ain’t planning on going back. Tim Stafford continues to craft songs with depth .. The instrumentation is perfect. From the get go, Jason Burleson opens with the unique style that defines Blue Highway banjo..  Shawn Lane exemplifies modern mandolin, yet nods to the Monroe legacy. Three lead singers.. rich harmony .. songs of forgotten homeless veterans, fallen heroes, and heartbroken families. Blue Highway personifies modern acoustic music with respect for tradition. Highly recommended, highly respected.” 

Blue Highway celebrated their 25th Anniversary of Touring in 2019, with four of its original members still intact.

As momentum continues to build for the 25 year strong powerhouse band, Blue Highway is rolling on with a rich legacy, carried on by three powerhouse songwriters and vocalists in Tim StaffordWayne Taylor, and Shawn Lane, whose harmonies soar over the dynamic banjo of Jason Burleson and the tasteful dobro of Gary Hultman.



Vocal Group of the Year– 2012
Song of the Year – 2008, Through the Window of a Train
Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year – 2004, Wondrous Love; 1997 – God Moves in a Windstorm
Emerging Artist of the Year – 1996
* Album of the Year – 1996 – It’s a Long, Long Road;  2006 – Celebration of Life: Musicians Against Childhood Cancer (collaboration); 2007 – Fork in the Road, The Infamous Stringdusters (Tim Stafford – producer) 

* Instrumental Recording of the Year –  2001 – Knee Deep in Bluegrass, The Acutab Sessions (Tim Stafford – producer, guitar; Rob Ickes – Dobro)
* Dobro Player of the Year  – Rob Ickes – 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996.   Justin Moses – 2018.

Songwriter of the Year – Tim Stafford – 2017, 2014
*  Graphic Design for a Recorded Project – Blue Highway – Midnight Storm – Rebel Records – Craig Hansen – 1998
* ( Recorded Event of the Year – Special Consensus with Rob Ickes & Claire Lynch – Wild Montana Skies – 2014 )
* ( Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year – Rob Ickes, Jerry Douglas & Mike Auldridge – Three Bells – 2015 )

* Bluegrass Gospel Recording of the Year – 2004, Wondrous Love

Best Bluegrass Album – 2017 – Original Traditional
Best Bluegrass Album – 2005 – Marbletown
* Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album – 2004 – Wondrous Love

* Gospel Group of the Year (Overall) – 2005
Instrumental Group of the Year – 2003
Dobro Performer of the Year – Rob Ickes, 2003
Bass Performer of the Year – Wayne Taylor, 2001
Guitar Performer of the Year – Tim Stafford, 2015, 2001

* Tim Stafford – Best Bluegrass Album – 1993 – Every Time You Say Goodbye – with Alison Krauss & Union Station
* Rob Ickes – Best Bluegrass Album – 1995 – The Great Dobro Sessions – Collaborative album with Jerry Douglas, Tut Taylor, etc.

Rob Ickes – Named 2010 United States Artists Cummings Fellow in ceremony at New York’s Lincoln Center. Ickes is the first Bluegrass artist to be named a USA Fellow.

Blue Highway voted the Favorite Bluegrass Artist of All Time by the readers of Bluegrass Today.  April 2016.


Wayne Taylor was the 2016 Inductee into the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame, alongside legends like Patsy Cline, the Statler Brothers, Jimmy Dean, Mother Maybelle Carter, and Roy Clark.

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