Randy Saltsman, a lifelong Leitchfield resident, is one of many musicians putting Grayson County on the bluegrass map.
Saltsman has been singing and playing music since his early teens, and although he has played other instruments, he has found the most success as a banjo player. He has been a member of at least four bands, and has filled in for many more.
From 1996 to 2014, Saltsman has been a part of a Kentucky state champion bluegrass band 13 times and an Indiana state champion once - with the Caney Creek Ramblers, Timberline Drive, Blue Tradition, and most recently Higher Ground, the 2013 and 2014 Kentucky state winners.
Saltsman’s den wall hosts many more awards, but he said “No one man does it all. It’s always been a group thing. I’ve been a part of some good bands.”
A former Vermont-American employee, Saltsman now owns and operates Saltsman’s Wings, a motorcycle sales and repair business specializing in Honda touring bikes - but he still manages to make time for bluegrass.
Saltsman’s wife, Donna, and son, Matt, also played alongside Randy in the award-winning Blue Tradition. Donna Saltsman learned to play the upright bass in order to be a part of the band. For years, she handled the booking and scheduling while working at Lawler Elementary.
Randy Saltsman said it has been quite hectic at times, but the team effort of family, friends, and fellow musicians has made it all possible. He extended these thoughts to the Grayson County bluegrass community as well.
Speaking of some of the county’s other leading musicians such as Barry Downs, who manages the Grayson County Bluegrass Opry, Dennis Haycraft, and others from surrounding counties, Randy Saltsman said, “I owe a whole lot to some of these guys…You are only as good as what’s around you.”
In addition to playing locally, Randy Saltsman has also played and toured with professional groups like Gary Brewer and the Kentucky Ramblers.
Aside from participating in contests, festivals, dances and parties, Randy Saltsman is also active in local charitable benefits and concerts.
As a leader of the local bluegrass community, Randy Saltsman emphasized the quality of musical talent in Grayson County. Jimmy Mattingly, Steve Day, Matt Flake, and Eric Payton are just a few that he admires.
“A lot of good musicians have come out of this county,” he said.
With recent additions of contemporary music into the repertoire of bluegrass, he also feels that the genre is “drawing in more young people.”
Coming off a win in June at the Kentucky State Championship Old-Time Fiddlers Contest, Saltsman will compete with his current band Higher Ground at the Twin Lakes National Fiddlers Championship here in Leitchfield on July 19 at Leitchfield’s Public Square.
Information on Higher Ground can be found at www.highergroundbluegrassband.com.