• The 2024 Band: Jamie Thomas, Del Purkey, Jimmy Drummond,
    Steve Spence, Richard Kleese


    Jimmy Drummond:
    540-465-4741/Cell 540-331-4422
    Richard Kleese:
    540-465-8498/Cell 540-325-8498

The Five of a Kind Story

For more than 40 years the Five of a Kind bluegrass band has been entertaining audiences up and down the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Based in Strasburg, Virginia, the group's personable and involve-the-audience approach to the music has gathered them a large following throughout the area with their traditional blend of bluegrass and classic country. Founding member Jimmy Drummond, who plays left-handed guitar and sings most of the lead vocals, has stated that he attributed the band's longevity to the fact, that even with changes in personnel, new members coming already know the music in the old traditional style. They are able to run through a few songs and be ready to go. Drummond is a big fan of the music of The Country Gentlemen and the band's repertoire reflects that influence as well as other Bluegrass and Country music pioneers, like Flatt & Scruggs, Mac Wiseman, Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, and Hank Williams.

Five of a Kind started in 1980 as a group of friends who were jamming in a garage behind the home of local residents, Winston and Martha Brill. The group included Drummond on guitar, Gene Stokes on mandolin, Doug Arthur on bass, Charlie Nicholson on banjo, and Richard Kleese on resonator guitar. They soon started playing shows at parties, and other events around the area and before long they were invited to play at Winchester, Virginia's Apple Blossom Festival. Five of a Kind was now official. During these early years hey were able to open for the Country Gentlemen at the former Hupp's Hill Park in Strasburg. Other bands playing there included the Lost and Found, and a band from Washington DC called Appalachian Reign, led by a young Tom Knowles, who years later was to become a member of the band. After about a year with the band bassist Doug Arthur left and was replaced on bass by Vince Poling.

Throughout the 1980's, the band continued to perform at private parties, fireman's carnivals, wineries, church yard parties, and other local events. Toward the end of the decade, the group felt confident enough to enter the studio and in 1988 they recorded and released their first cassette project "First Deal". Feeling good about that recording effort and getting a good fan response, the band soon returned to the studio and released their second cassette "Dealer's Choice". Later that year bassist Poling decided to leave the group, and was replaced by another local bassist, Norman Racey, who remains in the band to this day. They were soon back in the studio to record an all-Gospel project "Little White Church". With the personnel staying pretty consistent for the new few years, the band was continuing to be quite active and subsequently were also able to find time to produce and release three more cassette projects, which included "Traditions" (1991), "Memories" (1992), and "Ridin' The Blue Ridge" (1992). In January of 1994, Five of a Kind was invited and featured to play at the inauguration of Virginia Governor's George Allen, an event held at the famous Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond. During the nineties, the band traveled more extensively in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, sharing the stage with such artists as Jimmy Martin, Ralph Stanley, County Gentlemen, Seldom Scene, Lewis Family, Mac Wiseman, Grandpa Jones, Johnson Mountain Boys and many others. They also appeared often at the Lucketts Community Center in Lucketts, VA where in a 1998 survey Five of a Kind was voted the most popular traditional band in the local/regional category.

As the nineties ended, the band was back in the studio and they brought in the new century year 2000 with their first CD project, "Best Hand". This project included their latest addition to the group, fiddler Bill Poffinberger, a veteran musician having played with Cliff Waldron, Del McCoury and Benny and Vallie Cain. The band now had six members but the band name stayed the same considering the now had five right-handed musicians with Jimmy Drummond being the exception. Change would soon come again with the departure of founding member Richard Kleese, who had been with the band since the beginning. To replace Kleese, the band signed on a young, guitar/mandolin picker named Joe Passolano. The band now had two guitarists and two mandolin players, and to mark this change, the band released their second CD project "New Addition" in 2002. But as before, change would come again and like the others, the pull of day jobs, travel and family took its toll as both Poffinberger and founding member Charlie Nicholson left the band. With no banjo player, Drummond, Stokes, Racey, and Passolano, were concerned about the band’s future. However, they soon found a Louisiana transplant named Terry Barbin, who played both banjo and Resonator guitar. Barbin was a former and founding member of Louisiana's "Louisiana Grass" band. Barbin was also a big fan of the bluegrass styles of Flatt and Scruggs so he was able to fit right into the mix. The band, now back to five members, played on for a good while until marriage and a move took Passolano off to the Carolinas. And again, they were back to four, but only for a brief time.

In the Summer of 2006, the band was playing at a Firemen's Carnival in nearby Star Tannery where they asked newcomer Bill Foster to sit in. Foster had recently moved to Strasburg from Florida, where he was a member there of local band “Swinging Bridge”. Foster played mandolin and guitar and sang lead and harmony. Since moving to the area, he was looking for other musicians to pick with. They members liked what they heard and he was asked to join the band. Now back to five and with a full schedule, they went to Phoenix Studios in Browntown, VA and in 2007 recorded and release their most recent CD, "Royal Flush". This project is still available from the band at their shows.

In November of 2007, founding member Gene Stokes decided to retire from the band after 27 years, leaving Jimmy Drummond as the remaining founding band member. Drummond has always been the band leader and along with long-time bassist Racey, had kept the group on the same musical path. For most of the 2008 season the band played as a four-piece group, however in the summer of 2008 fiddler Tom Knowles joined the band adding additional lead vocals as well. Knowles was a veteran of the aforementioned DC area band "Appalachian Reign".

Now that the band was back to five, they continued their busy performance schedule of carnivals, yard parties, and an occasional festival. 2011 saw the band's 31st year and again change would come, as happens to all bands. That fall and early the next year, mandolinist Bill Foster, and fiddler Tom Knowles both decided to leave to either seek new musical endeavors or have more free time. However, on the other side of the change, original member Richard Kleese came back to the group, and they added young mandolinist Ben Whitman, who had been invited to join the group. This brought the band back to full strength with founding member Jimmy Drummond, along with Terry Barbin on banjo and long-time bassist Norman Racey. But by 2015 change came again as banjo/dobroist Terry Barbin decided to leave and was soon replaced by Richard "Buggs" Frank on banjo and vocals. The year 2016 saw mandolinist Ben Whitman moved out of the area and was replaced by Tim Lansberry on mandolin who was a veteran of a number of Shenandoah Valley bluegrass bands. With Lansberry only available on a part-time basis, the group brought in fiddler James "Jamie" Thomas, who had taken up playing fiddle again after a number of years. Thomas is also to add lead and harmony vocals to the group. During the immediate past several years, the band has had the privilege and pleasure of appearing at Belle Grove Plantation, the Shenandoah County Fair, the Warren County Fair, and the Page County Fair, among other venues. Holding a band together for 40 years is quite an accomplishment, and founder Jimmy Drummond deserves the credit for being to attract and bring in mostly like-minded players, and for a local band, the many changes over the past 40 years is somewhat low compared to other groups. The other advantage is the overall philosophy of pretty much staying local to the northern Shenandoah Valley area as their musical homeground, especially with band members that have day jobs and families. This allows the band to keep a devoted fan base who can be somewhat counted on to attend their shows. Admittedly there is some obvious graying at the temples amongst the members, but the commitment and strength toward the music and performance is still there and should be for some time to come.