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History of the Band

Spontaneous Combustion was formed in the summer of 1986. Following the simultaneous break up of two bands, Roger and Leo's “Total Strangers” and Marvin and Scott's “Smokey Hill Band”, the two pairs were introduced to each other through a mutual acquaintenance. At their first encounter, all factors indicated that this ensemble had great potential: inspired vocal harmonies, dynamic and driving rhythms, hot instrumental solos, a smooth blend of all of the above components and a unified musical direction. With the exception of several well-loved bluegrass “standards”, the new group had little interest in the bulk of bluegrass repertoire, nor did they desire to emulate a typical bluegrass band. All four shared the desire to appeal to a far wider audience, to music lovers of all ages and affiliations.

Within a few weeks of their first meeting the new band had established a sizeable repertoire. Their primary emphasis was of their own creation, “BlueRock”, i.e., a fusion of bluegrass style with popular “golden oldies” from the 50's and 60's. To these arrangements were added some traditional bluegrass, some Irish tunes, some western swing and some “new acoustic” music (à la David Grisman and New Grass Revival). Their first gig came offer Labor Day weekend, only one month after their first meeting, at the Santa - Cali - Gon Days festival in Independence, Missouri, under the name “Boulevard Bluegrass Band”. Following this appearance, Walnut Valley Festival director Bob Redford asked them to play an opening set on the main stage at Winfield, the first show of the 1986 festival. Having not yet firmly decided on a name for the group, the suggestion made by emcee Roz Brown that he had always wanted to name a band “Spontaneous Combustion” was immediately embraced, and the new band was introduced to the crowd as "The Spontaneous Combustion Bluegrass Band". For the next two Walnut Valley festivals, in 1987 and 1988, the band performed as a six piece group, “Spontaneous Combustion/Total Strangers" and included former Strangers Randy Rousseau and L.C. Lacy, owing to the large following enjoyed by the former group in Winfield during previous years.

“BlueRock” remains the band's primary emphasis, and over the years they have sought extensively to find ideal songs that are adaptable to the bluegrass style. Additionally, several original “new acoustic” instrumentals have enjoyed wide audience appeal (the title cut “Spontane” from their second album is a Prowell/Gruenbaum composition). as have Prowell's “Irish” originals. They continue to play some traditional bluegrass, western swing and humorous feature arrangements (such as the “Marlboro Medley” based on western T.V. show themes), but the most exciting innovation in recent years (slightly influenced by Marvin's affiliation with “that other band”, the Kansas City Symphony) has been the adaptation of some classical favorites of Mozart, Brahms, Rossini, etc., into the bluegrass style.

Spontaneous Combustion has produced three albums: “BlueRock” (1988 - cassette), “Spontane” (1991-cassette) and “Where There's Smoke” (1996-cd/cassette). They recently released "BlueRock/Spontane" (1997), a compilation of their first two albums on one compact disc. Plans for the near future include the production of one or more live albums, as they are currently recording all of their performances. Microphones will also be set up to record audience response, so whoops and hollers are decidedly encouraged!