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Polly and the Valley Boys

A vocal and instrumental ensemble with oldtime string-band instrumentation, Polly and the Valley Boys played in Salt Lake City for slightly less than two years in the middle 1960s. The group was formed in fall 1964 after the breakup of an earlier group, the Utah Valley Boys, originally formed in 1961. Three of the Valley Boys (Byron Davis, Peter Netka, and Bruce W. Cummings) joined bluegrass banjoist Mac Magleby and performed as the Salt City Bluegrass Boys. The remaining two Valley Boys, Bruce "U. Utah" Phillips and Dave Roylance, invited vocalist Polly Stewart to join them in a new band that would play a wider range of music than bluegrass, including Bruce's own songs, not all of which were suited to bluegrass style.

In the new band, Bruce Phillips was lead singer, lead guitarist, and occasional mandolinist; Dave Roylance played fivestring banjo in both Scruggs style and melodic (Bill Keith) style. He also played flatpick guitar and sang bass on harmony. Polly Stewart played autoharp and rhythm guitar and sang harmony to Bruce's lead, but also did solo vocals. Enlivened by Bruce's running narrative and the humorous repartee that was to become a hallmark of his later style as a solo performer, Polly and the Valley Boys played instrumentals and sang songs―old-time, labor, traditional, bluegrass, and most notably the songs of "U. Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest." During the early 1960s these included "The Scofield Mine Disaster (Funeral Train)," "He Comes Like Rain, Like Wind He Goes," "You're Genna Miss Me (When I'm Gone)," Paper and Comb," "Clint, Texas," If I Could Be the Rain," "Faded Rose," "Brown Shoe Soldier," and others.

The group broke up when Polly left for graduate school in 1966. Dave left in 1967 for military service and a university teaching position. Bruce remained in Salt Lake City until 1969, when he also left, eventually building his career as storyteller, singer-songwriter, and organizer.

 

 Last Modified 5/6/14