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Justin Rudolph, left, Drew Bolling, Jerry Cornelison and Jacob 'Dude' Gibbs put together an impromptu concert. The Ardmore High School students have formed a bluegrass band called Fat Little Break Dancers.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Justin Rudolph, left, Drew Bolling, Jerry Cornelison and Jacob "Dude" Gibbs put together an impromptu concert. The Ardmore High School students have formed a bluegrass band called Fat Little Break Dancers.

Making string music
Ardmore teens pickin' and
grinnin' with bluegrass tunes

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ARDMORE — The sign suspended from the ceiling proclaims in red-and-yellow letters, "The Red Neck Saloon."

It isn't a real saloon. It's in a garage. But it's where the band currently known as the Fat Little Break Dancers occasionally practices bluegrass tunes.

They aren't a professional band making the club circuit. They're Ardmore High School seniors who change their band's name with their mood.

One year, before a school talent show, three members showed up wearing solid shirts while one wore plaid. They called themselves Three Solids and a Plaid.

They now go by Fat Little Break Dancers because of a husky brother-in-law who used to break dance at McDonald's in the 1980s.

With a name like that, and with the four being teenagers, you might expect a head-banging, drum-thumping and electric-guitar-squealing performance.

Instead, these guys strap on an acoustic guitar, harmonica, mandolin, bass and banjo.

Strains of bluegrass and tenor voices erupt from The Red Neck Saloon as Drew Bolling, 17, Justin Rudolph, 18, Jerry Cornelison, 17, and Jacob Gibbs, 18, perform "Wagon Wheel" by the Old Crow Medicine Show.

Rudolph sings about heading South "to the land of pines" and "thumbin' my way into North Caroline." Then Gibbs and Bolling add harmony to the chorus:

So rock me Mama like a wagon wheel

Rock me Mama anyway you feel

Hey Mama rock me

Rock me Mama like the wind and the rain

Rock me Mama like a southbound train

Hey Mama rock me

"We grew up around this type of music," Rudolph said, "but we'll play all kinds except classical and rap."

Each of the four childhood friends has an interest in music. Rudolph and Bolling wrote a song in seventh grade inspired by the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Bolling plays mandolin, dobro, piano, drums, guitar and is trying to learn fiddle. They all mostly play and sing by ear.

"We're very diverse," Bolling said. "Our play list will range from bluegrass to something by Metallica to Elton John. We just like to understand our music, so I guess we lean toward bluegrass. We enjoy going to things like the Fiddlers Convention, although we'd never compete against those guys. We just go and jam."

The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention draws 15,000 musicians and patrons to Athens State University each October. Musicians can play for fun or compete.

For now, being in a band is something to do for fun. With school and jobs at places like a weekly newspaper and fast-food restaurant, they don't practice regularly.

"We just kind of come together when we decide to do a talent show or something," said Gibbs, whose nickname is "Dude." "Somehow, it just all comes together for us, at least, people tell us we're good."

But Bolling said the four want to do more songwriting and performing at local venues. They are scheduling gigs at coffee shops in Ardmore and Huntsville and expanding their play list.

Graduation in May and moving to colleges like Alabama, Auburn or The University of Alabama in Huntsville won't break up the group, Rudolph said.

"We'll find a way to keep this up," he said. "We've been finding a way for the past four or five years."

Fans just need to find a way to keep up with the band's name changes.

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