RUFFIN — Jason Moore was but five years old when he hopped atop the coffee table and started plucking his pop’s upright bass.
“I remember daddy was trying to show Mama a G and D Flatt and Scruggs kind of thing. And she was having trouble,’’ said Moore, a founder of Sideline, one of the nation’s top bluegrass bands. “It was beyond me how she couldn’t understand it, and I jumped up and starting playing and said, ‘It’s like this.’ It was in me from the start. It just needed to come out.’’
And Moore’s kept that thumping beat ever since.
Keeping rhythm to the hit ballad “Thunder Dan, ’’ Moore and his bandmates are celebrating Sideline’s ascension in the bluegrass world since the song won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s 2019 Song of the Year award on Sept. 26. The hot cut is from their album "Front and Center,'' recorded at Mountain Home Records near Asheville.
“We put in the hard work and it’s nice to be noticed for that,’’ said Moore, 45, a Ruffin native and 1992 Rockingham County High School grad.
“We’re riding a big wave now and we’re really excited,'' Moore said. "It’s really been good for us. Hopefully it will open the doors to a larger venues and a little bit bigger audience.’’
Sideline members will bring their talents to a local audience Sunday at Emmanuel Friends Church in the Draper section of Eden. "We'll perform six or seven (sacred) songs during the service,'' Moore said, noting the Rev. Dennis Seaver welcomes the public to the 10:45 a.m. event.
Founded two decades back as a spare time project by Moore, banjo player Steve Dilling and vocalist/guitarist Skip Cherryholmes, Sideline delivers a classic North Carolina bluegrass sound with plenty of bounding bass and high and lonesome harmonies.
And the band’s three original members bring to the stage years of experience from touring nationally and internationally as members of other award-winning groups. The veteran players have also appeared countless times on the illustrious Opryland stage during their respective musical careers.
Rounding out the band are: Bailey Coe on guitar, Zack Arnold on mandolin, and Daniel Greeson on fiddle.
The powerful six-piece band has Moore touring 200 days of the year, said he's excited to play so close to his home this weekend.
Moore’s bluegrass roots run deep.
The nephew of Danville native Allen Mills, bassist for the legendary bluegrass band Lost and Found, (Mills is married to Moore’s paternal aunt Debbie Moore Mills) Moore grew up to a soundtrack of Flatt and Scruggs and Jimmy Martin.
“I was around it constantly. On weekends, as everybody was getting ready to go out to listen to music, Daddy would put bluegrass records on. I had two granddads who dabbled in bluegrass. My dad was a bass player, too. And naturally we had Lost and Found. That was family,'' Moore said.
“It’s like a fell off a turnip truck with a bass in my hand and I haven’t been able to get rid of it yet.’’
The only bass that truly fits his grip and musicality, though, is the plywood 1945 Kay played by his father, the late Linton Moore.
“He was the first I ever heard play. It may not be a great bass, but it sounds like me ... I’ve had that bass on 150 different C D s and that’s the one I play. You’ll know it’s me,’’ Moore said of the instrument that bears plenty of wear near the fingerboard from two generations of music making.
“It’s not something I went out hunting. It’s just the way it happened. I can’t do it on any other one. A whole lot of it is the bass.
Playing bass is not a showy post, and Moore prefers it that way.
“We are the backbone. We are kind of steering from behind. That’s perfectly fine with me. I don’t play music to be noticed. I’m doing my job for everybody in front of me. Without us it would be pretty rough. We are a necessary thing.''
The father of two and grandfather of five cherishes his time at home in Ruffin, spending time with his wife of 20 years, Molly. But music is key to his happiness.
For Moore, who also holds the keys to the band's bus and does most of the group's booking, "the creativity is my favorite thing about it. I can put my stamp on it. Playing live is hard sometimes. I do all the driving, too. I look after the bus and try to book. And picking up the grandkids from school every day. But making music is great. It’s an awesome high.’’