It all started with a tickle in the back of Whitney’s brain. “I think I want to learn to play the banjo,” he told his wife, Resa.
After almost 10 years of medical school, internship, and residency, he finally had time on his hands and his fingers were getting itchy.
“Why don’t you go in the garage and finally build that strip wood canoe you’ve been talking about for years,” Resa said.
“No,” Whit replied. “I need a banjo.”
And so Resa, being a loving and supportive wife, bought him a banjo for Christmas in 2010.
As soon as Whitney sat down in the living room to figure out how to play it, Resa realized the error in her decision. But by then it was too late. Whit took all the intensity he had put into medical school and applied it to playing the banjo…in the living room…for hours, and hours and hours.
A year passed.
“I want to go to banjo camp,” Whit announced one afternoon.
Resa was more than happy for him to go off to banjo camp. It would be fun and her ears could do with a rest.
So Whit went off to Boulder, Colorado where he spent a week with Pete Wernick and 30 other happy banjo players in a dark, dingy room at the Best Western in the coldest days of January.
“Honey,” Whit exclaimed upon returning from banjo camp, “You’ve got to learn bluegrass music!”
Now, up until this time, Resa had always been the only musician in the family. She had played guitar since childhood, sung in choirs and at coffee shops and was, at that very moment, trying to launch a solo career as a singer/songwriter. But with limited success. And it wasn’t very much fun. And all Resa had ever wanted to do with her life was be in a band, but had never gotten the nerve up to be in one.
“Okay, let’s go to Bluegrass Camp,” she said, with great trepidation. She had never held a guitar pick in her life. She had six months to figure out how to play with one without dropping it into the guitar hole.
Six months later Resa and Whitney showed up in Oak Hill, New York to attend Pete Wernick’s Bluegrass Jam Camp, which was being held at the fire house just across the road from a farm where a whole bunch of people were lining up to attend the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival.
Whitney and Resa knew absolutely nothing about Grey Fox, but noticed that everyone around them was really excited about going.
After a grueling week of jamming, where they struggled with the 1, 4, 5, the entire class crossed the street to Walsh Farm and gave a performance on the Grey Fox stage in front of 5,000 empty lawn chairs.
Resa and Whitney returned home to Maine, determined to continue playing Bluegrass music. They put up posters hoping to find other bluegrass musicians. Only one person answered the call - a mandolin player named Jesse. They met up once a week to jam for about a year and began to wonder if they might be able to start performing in public. They invited their friend Peter to join them but still needed a bass player.
They searched for months, posting want ads on Craigs List, talking to local musicians, but they still couldn’t find a bass player who didn’t expect to be paid. In a final act of desperation, Resa looked across her living room at her then 20 year old daughter Emily.
“You!” Resa exclaimed. “You will be my bass player!”
“But Mom,” Emily replied. “I don’t know how to play the bass.”
“That’s okay,” Resa said. “You can figure it out.”
One month later, on October 30, 2013, Miners Creek debuted with Whitney Randolph on Scruggs-style banjo, Jesse McWilliams on mandolin, Peter Proeller on clawhammer banjo, Resa Randolph on guitar and Emily Randolph on bass.
Miners Creek 2013 with Peter Proeller, Jesse McWilliams, Emily Randolph. Whitney Randolph, Resa Randolph
Within a few months, however, Jesse had to withdraw from the band due to job and family obligations.
The band settled into having fun and playing gigs. They opened for Red Molly and David Dodson at the Camden Winter Fest, competed in the Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass band competition, performed in the Joe Val Showcase, Bluegrass on the Bogs and the North Branch Bluegrass Festival. They released two CDs - “Ulysses on the Highway” in April 2015 and “Strong Black Coffee.” in June 2016. Both albums contain a mixture of covers and originals written by Resa and Emily.
Miners Creek opening for Red Molly & David Dodson, Camden Opera House. Feb 2014
But a band is never a steady state, and so, in the fall of 2016, Peter decided to switch to a different band. The remaining trio - Whitney, Resa and Emily - continued performing in and around New England. They performed at the Bronze-Wound Showcase at the International Bluegrass Association Conference, and also the Joe Val and Jenny Brook showcases. In August 2016, they won 2nd place at the Billy’s Belly Bluegrass Competition.
In January 2017, at a local chorus concert, Emma Theobalds stepped up to the microphone and blew the roof off the house. Resa, (who, coincidentally, was sitting right next to Emma’s dad at the concert) was floored. She never knew Emma could sing like that. She knew that Emma had gone to school with Emily. She knew that Emma had been their dog groomer for a time, but she never knew Emma had such a voice!
As soon as the concert was over, Resa tackled Emma and asked her to join the band. Emma jumped at the opportunity, and then, in hindsight, realized she had no idea what Bluegrass music was. Her only caveat to joining the band was that she not be asked to play the spoons… She really didn’t know what Bluegrass music was.
2017 brought a lot of changes to all the members of the band. Emma had to unlearn a lot of her classical vocal training and drop the ends of her words - especially the “ing”s and “t”s. Meanwhile the rest of the band had to step up to her vocal level, creating more complex harmonies, blending their voices, supporting their breath. With Emma, the band was finally able to push their harmonies into places they had always dreamed of going. Emma not only pushed the band to expand their vocal aerobic capacity but also stretched their take on bluegrass - encouraging the band to explore crossover material from pop, rock and even a bit of hip hop.
In June 2018 the band released "All Stove Up,” a seven song EP about people who've just about had it up to here. The album highlights not only the band's new-found vocal prowess but also their sense of humor.
June 2018 CD release party
But there was still a big hole in the sound. One which the band had attempted repeatedly to fill with no success. Miners Creek desperately needed a fiddler.
One of the difficulties with finding a Bluegrass fiddler in Maine is that anyone who grew up playing fiddle in Maine learned to play at Maine Fiddle Camp, where they teach New England, Québécois, and Old Time Fiddle, but no Bluegrass.
After five years, after asking numerous fiddlers to join the band, Miners Creek was finally able to convince world-traveling fiddler Cara Lauzon to join the band.
After the summer of 2018, founding member and bass player Emily Randolph announced her plans to spend a significant amount of the next couple of years in Perth Australia. And so, once again the hunt was on for a bass player. This time it was an easy find.
Ethan Hotchkiss, who happened to be working with Whitney in the ER as a med tech just happened to mention that he was a bass player. Ethan joined the band in September 2018. Ethan hails from New Hampshire, has played jazz and rock bass for years as well as singing in a cappella men's groups on Martha's Vineyard.