WEST ALEXANDRIA — Luke Montgomery recalls the first time he stepped out on stage with his banjo.
It was at the Preble County 4-H talent show during the fair. The young musician was so anxious about what was going to happen next.
“I was so nervous in front of 200 people,” he said. “Now I’ve seen at least 500 people just in Old Smokey in Gatlinburg.”
Montgomery grew up playing music – anything from the mandolin to the guitar to the banjo to singing tenor – since he was young. He played in church and in his home, but not in front of a large crowd.
But from that moment on, he was hooked.
Now the three time talent show winner in Preble County is busy touring Europe and carving a new path with his music.
He started out in Gatlinburg, Tenn., playing at Smokey Mountain Tunes and Tales before jumping on at the Old Smokey Distillery in town.
“It was different because I’ve never been away from home from an extended period of time, but I loved it. I couldn’t get enough of it,” said Montgomery.
The 19-year-old just finished up a two-week European tour with the bluegrass group Po’ Ramblin Boys, where they played in Belgium, Netherlands, Amsterdam, Denmark, and Switzerland.
Montgomery recalled a particular set during their tour when the bluegrass band found itself in a bar that played nothing but rock and roll. The group had to win the crowd over.
“They went absolutely crazy. They loved it. It was something I’ve never seen before,” he said.
The crowd started hollering and clapping their hands, dancing and jumping around, remembered Montgomery.
“It doesn’t have the same feel but they absolutely love bluegrass.”
Just a few weeks after his tour ended, Montgomery also headed down to the International Bluegrass Music Association festival in Raleigh, N.C., where he teamed up with the Clay Hess Band and performed over the course of four days there.
One thing is for certain, the future is looking bright for the West Alexandria native.
He has sung tenor on two of his friend’s albums on iTunes and is planning on releasing his own within the next few months.
The album will include an original song by him, a gospel song his dad wrote, and several covers. He also hopes, like every aspiring bluegrass artist, to play at the Grand Ole Opry someday.
“I hope one day that, if people are listening to the radio and they hear me kick off something on the banjo, I hope they know that’s me,” he said. “Playing banjo and singing tenor, that’s what I love.”
Jeremy Erskine may be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH