By Shelley Koppel
TITUSVILLE - When Rick Spinney was growing up in Ontario and Nova Scotia, the Canadian boy was more interested in sports than in music. It was his older brother Allan, exactly one year older, who began playing the guitar as a boy.
"My brother had the more natural musical ability," Mr. Spinnney said in a phone interview from Nova Scotia. "For me, the excitement was when I first heard Earl Scruggs playing the banjo. That impacted me like nothing else had.
"I knew I had a desire to play it and I spent a lot of hours practicing. I never had a bad day in practice. I didn't know how far I would go, but each day as I progressed, it gave me so much fulfillment."
Today, the brothers, along with Gary Dalrymple on mandolin and fiddle and Terry Mumford on bass, form the Spinney Brothers, a bluegrass group that has gathered a following at home and abroad. They make a return appearance in Titusville on Oct. 11 at a concert in the North Brevard Shrine Club.
Mr. Spinney said that bluegrass music has a surprising history in Canada.
"Celtic music is the heritage in Nova Scotia," he said. "Fiddle music is part of that culture. Bluegrass in the Maritimes and Nova Scotia evolved some 40 years ago when a group of gentlemen heard some and started the Nova Scotia and Old Time Music Festival. It's the oldest such festival in Canada."
When legendary performer Bill Monroe came to the festival in the early 1980s, he drew more than 10,000 fans and interest in the music grew. Soon, there were festivals nearly every weekend in summer. The Spinney Brothers have played an important role in keeping the music alive and fresh.
Mr. Spinney said that the audience should expect the old and the new at their concert.
"We're selective in choosing songs when we do a stage show," he said. "It's important to know the demographics. Family-oriented is where we like it to be, a mixture of old-time country classics, bluegrass and new music. Writing new songs is important for the growth of the music and the band."
Mr. Spinney said both the audience and the band will have fun.
"We strive to put on an entertaining show," he said. "It's high-energy, and it's not just the music, it's the audience. With new audiences, we try to break down barriers, so everyone has a good time. We love the music, and we love performing. It's evident we're enjoying it and if they see we're having fun, it feeds into everyone."
Mr. Spinney said the group is especially proud of its new CD, "Memories," its first recording for a label. In July, it hit the top of the Bluegrass Music Profile chart. All 10 of the group's CDs will be available for sale at the concert.
The Spinney Brothers come to the North Brevard Shrine Club, 545 N. Washington Ave., Titusville, on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $21. For more information, visit the website www.jtbluegrass.com.