Printer-friendly versionPDF version

SALYERSVILLE - After 50 years and hundreds of stages, the Dixie Bridge Band has decided to make this Saturday’s performance at Community Day their last before retirement.

 The band originated in 1964 as The Constellations, consisting of Sam Miller, Phillip Joseph and Danny Wireman, with their first performance in the old Salyersville High School library. 

While many members came and went, the following is the total roster of the band:

Sam Miller, Danny Crace, Phillip Joseph, Charles Joseph, Danny Wireman, Terry Miller, Debbi Miller, John Randall Salyer, Rick Howard, Eddie Ratliff, Devon Helton, Doug Joseph, Dave Kretzer, George Younger, Ron Salyer, Cherie Wireman, Jerry Watson, Marty Howard, Arvis Austin, Keith Branham, Steve Porter, George Younger

Danny Wireman, on guitar and vocals, and George Younger, on the saxophone, are the two members that have passed away since their Dixie Bridge Band days.

Their first paid performance was at a restaurant called H & H, which was located where Mineral Labs stands today, Sam Miller said. That Friday night in 1964 each band member walked away with four or five bucks, Sam laughs.

Another big event early on in the band’s history, Miller remembers playing his own senior prom in 1966.

“We all got matching blazers, then had $3 or $4 dollars left after that,” he said.

Sam left for a few years, but when he came back in 1972 the band got back together, with his brother Terry coming on board, bring a new dynamic to their music.

Jimmy Randall Salyer became the group’s manager, coming up with the name “Dixie Bridge Band” since the band had to cross the Dixie Bridge for practice.

“We took over his living room,” “ Terry Miller remembers. “Our equipment never left unless we had a show.”

The band took off in the 1970s, playing all over the state, as well as in Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana and Tennessee. They released their one and only record in 1978. 

For extra cash, they would play at the Community Center on the weekends, with all the middle school and high school-aged kids coming out for the shows. Now those 40-somethings are their die-hard fans, Sam said.

The band broke up in 1982, but reunited, again, in 1992 when asked to play at a Relay for Life.

“And thank God for Community Day,” Sam said. 

The Dixie Bridge Band played countless charity and benefit shows, reviving 1970s southern rock, with a little country music, a little blues and a hint of bluegrass. In only one year, they helped raise over $30,000 in benefit shows in 1977, alone.

One of their favorite shows was at an outdoor concert in Bardstown, which they compared to Woodstock. With roughly 5,000 in attendance, Sam said they were terrified the crowd would not like them.

While they were received well by the large crowd, things almost got a little hairy at a club in Virginia.

“We had been booked for the weekend and we were getting ready on stage and the manager calls me over and asks if we played disco,” Sam remembers. “He told me, ‘You’re supposed to play disco. We won’t need you tomorrow night.’”

Terry said he didn’t know they had just been fired, so they were playing what they play best.

“I got my fiddle and got up on the table and next thing you know everyone is out on the floor,” Terry laughed.

They were asked to come back for the next night and when they returned, they were met with a line teenagers waiting to get in for the show.

While they played a lot of festivals, the band remembers playing their album at the Sorghum Festival.

“You would have thought we were playing at Rupp,” Sam said. “It was so rewarding. They went crazy. We were signing autographs, throwing our drumsticks out in the crowd and people fighting over it.”

Though the Dixie Bridge Band probably could have pushed it further for more fame, the group said it was never a job for them.

“It was fun for us,” Terry said. “It’s just what we did after work. We weren’t playing music; it was like we were playing softball.”

With this year being their 50th anniversary, the band decided to retire the name. Since that decision was made, Magoffin County Judge Executive Dr. Charles Hardin and Salyersville Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd signed proclamations honoring the Dixie Bridge Band for their service to the community, making this year’s Community Day, August 16, 2014, “Dixie Bridge Band Day,” as well as making them “Salyersville’s Official Favorite Hometown Band.” Governor Steven Beshear sent a letter, commending them for entertaining thousands of Kentuckians over the past five decades.

Beshear wrote: “Very few musical groups have shown such endurance and fewer still have made as many contributions to the good of their community as have the band’s members. Through countless benefit shows, festivals, community gatherings, proms, parties and fundraisers, The Dixie Bridge Band has grown to become one of the most recognizable names in Eastern Kentucky. Salyersville and Magoffin County are justifiably proud in calling them their own.

While members have come and gone over the last 50 years, the core group of Sam Miller, Terry Miller, Debbie Miller and John Randall Salyer continue to bring fine musicianship and positive energy to every stage on which they play.”

“We want to thank people for supporting us,” Sam said. “We never had to pursue a gig, they just came to us. We had a life full of great experiences around music and Magoffin County has always opened their arms for us.”