The 2017 recipient of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass is Scott Vestal.
Scott Vestal was born May 8, 1962 in Duncan, OK. The older of two children, music was a constant from Scott’s early age. His Grandfather, Famon Self, an old time country fiddler, (with lots of patience), showed Scott his first chords on the guitar. Scott and his brother, Curtis, would play and sing with their Grandfather at various events ranging from parades, to nursing homes, to bluegrass festivals. At age 13 Scott got his first 5-string banjo and began learning from the records his father had around the house, ranging from Flatt and Scruggs to New Grass Revival, and everything in between.
At the age of 15 Scott was playing all over the US with TJ Rogers’ family band which eventually led to an audition with Larry Sparks. After performing and recording with Larry for a year, Scott struck out on his own and helped form Southern Connection, which toured the Midwest and East Coast for 3 years.
In 1985, Scott joined Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, performing in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as a member of the critically acclaimed quartet. Four years and five award winning albums later, he once again struck out to broaden his musical knowledge with his own group, Livewire, spent six months touring Japan with an acoustic jazz ensemble, and had a starring role in Phyllis McBride’s critically acclaimed original musical production, Cowboy Cafe.
Upon returning home from Japan, Scott got a call from singer/songwriter, Harley Allen to move to Nashville and form a band with him and David Parmley. Harley soon found that his writing schedule would not allow him to be on the road, thus the beginning of David Parmley, Scott Vestal, and Continental Divide, who went on to record three award winning projects and tour the US and Canada over the next 5 years. During this time Scott was awarded Banjo Player of the Year in 1996 by the International Bluegrass Music Association, and 1998 Banjo Player of the Year by the Bluegrass Now Magazine Fan’s Choice Awards.
While working on the Johnny Staats project for Sony Music, Scott had a chance to hang out with John Cowan and decided they should hook up and play some music together. This situation gave Scott a chance to really stretch out and broaden his musical horizons not just playing banjo but incorporating his solid body electric midi banjo into the show and onto the two CD’s they recorded together as the John Cowan Band.
In 2006 Scott had the opportunity to record and work with rock star David Lee Roth on a media tour of all the late night and daytime talk shows as well as a concert in New York City at the Nokia Theater.
Scott is an in demand session player around Nashville, and has his own recording studio, Digital Underground, where he engineers, produces, and plays on various projects including an award winning series of instrumental recordings for Pinecastle Records, and has worked with the likes of Bill Monroe, Sam Bush, David Lee Roth, John Jorgenson, Tim O’Brien, Jim Lauderdale, Rick Moranis, Shawn Camp, Ricky Skaggs, Pat Flynn, Jerry Douglas, John Cowan, Tony Rice, Vassar Clements, Larry Sparks, Doyle Lawson And Quicksilver, Livewire, Continental Divide, Donny and Marie Osmond, Chris Thile, Paul Craft, John Randall, SHeDAISY, Shawn Camp, Hank Williams III, Laura Love, Kenny Chesney, Ashton Shepherd, Jim Lauderdale, Del McCoury, Dierks Bentley, Dailey and Vincent, Daniel O’Donnell, Tommy Shaw, Joe Nichols, Billy Ray Cyrus, Alan Jackson, Dolly Parton, John Oates, and many others.
In addition to being an outstanding musician, Scott is also a composer, writing nine of the thirteen compositions on his first solo project, “In Pursuit Of Happiness”, and nine out of twelve on his latest release, “Millennia”.
Along with his busy recording schedule Scott has been touring with Sam Bush for the past 10 years and has his own banjo company, Stealth Banjos, <stealthbanjo.com> which he has designed and developed over the past 25 years.
Scott Vestal Wins Steve Martin Banjo Prize
– The New York Times
By Peter Libbey | July 30, 2017