2010 Best of San Francisco Award Winners!

The Nellies “turn any gig into one big, whoopin’ bluegrass party.”
— Chuck Poling, Bluegrass Breakdown

SFBOTF 2009. Photo by Mike Melnyk.

SFBOTF 2009. Photo by Mike Melnyk.

Though the Nellies often joke that they play “traditional bluegrass, just a fifth higher,” they constantly push the boundaries of the genre, adding elements of classic honky-tonk and Western swing to get their driving, energetic sound. Grounded by their lush duo and trio vocals, these gals take their picking far beyond the “girl group” label, with Betsy Maudlin’s hot Texas-inspired fiddling, Jess Beebe’s thumping bass, Nicole Solis’s muscular chop, and Prentice Sellers’ powerful banjo playing—and of course, “Barefoot Nelson” Adam Roszkiewicz’s driving rhythm guitar. Their repertoire includes plenty of chestnuts from Flatt and Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, and Jimmy Martin; well-chosen covers by Lyle Lovett, George

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Strait, and even Nancy Sinatra; and country-inspired originals by Solis.

In 2009, the Nellies played the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and were featured the following year in SF Weekly’s Best of San Francisco awards. They have headlined the Hobb’s Grove Bluegrass Festival in Sanger, California, and Anderson Marsh Old-Time and Bluegrass Festival in Clearlake, California. The band also performed at the inaugural Vern’s stage at the California Bluegrass Association’s Father’s Day Festival in 2007. Since January 2006, they have graced the stage at Amnesia in San Francisco as part of the wildly popular Bluegrass Monday series. Their first CD, Let Me Down Easy: Live at Amnesia, was released in 2008.

Nellies in the News

“As comfortable covering Led Zeppelin and Nancy Sinatra as they are retooling the Stanley Brothers and Bill Monroe…. All four women are red-hot players — from Betsy Maudlin’s heart-stopping fiddling and Jess Beebe’s pounding bass to Prentice Sellers’ brawny banjo playing and Nicole Solis’ supple mandolin strumming. It doesn’t hurt that Solis originals like ‘It’s Harder for Me’ are as heartbreaking as cautionary tales like ‘I Found Jesus on the Jailhouse Floor.'”
— SF Weekly, Best of San Francisco, May 19, 2010.

“With a sound that’s something of a cross between Loretta Lynn and Flatt & Scruggs, the Nellies’ blend of harmony vocals and inspired guitar- and banjo-pickin’ is rich enough to churn butter, and recommended by four out of five cowpokes as a cure for the lonesome blues.”
— Eric K. Arnold, “Arts & Culture: Bluegrass Bellies,” East Bay Express, August 31, 2005.

“Monday nights just wouldn’t be complete without the Barefoot Nellies…. The Nellies serve up a mix of classic honky tonk, Texas fiddling and swing just in time to get over the mid-week hump.”
— Christina Troup,”The best of modern bluegrass tunes,” San Francisco Examiner, January 30, 2008.

“O Shoes, Where Art Thou?: Barefoot Nellies ‘ain’t your mother’s bluegrass band'” Matt Kramer, Pacific Sun, January 19, 2007.

Meet the Nellies

Jess BeebeJess Beebe, bass
Six-foot-two, blonde, a voluptuous 55″-46″-70″…that’s Fiona, the 1973 Engelhardt Swingmaster bass that fills out the Nellies’ bottom end (we call Fiona the sixth Nellie). When Jess first picked up Fiona after playing guitar for many years, she knew she had found her (musical) true love. Jess enjoys the challenge of laying down a solid rhythmic foundation in the traditional bluegrass style and contributes baritone vocals to the Nellies trios.

Betsy Maudlin, fiddle
Hauled off to classical violin lessons at a young age, Betsy moonlighted on the East Coast, playing venues Betsy Maudlinranging from the subway to Carnegie Hall. She then dipped her foot in bluegrass’s waters and decided to throw herself in headfirst. In addition to playing and singing with the Nellies, she has sat in with local Bay Area bands the Shut-Ins, West of Kentucky, Homespun Rowdy, and Lone Mountain. She was a finalist in the 2005 Western Open Fiddle Contest, has performed as part of the Bluegrass in the Schools program, entertains children of all ages in the Toodala Ramblers, and blended traditional and progressive bluegrass in the Folkslayers of Yore.

Adam “Roscoe” Roszkiewicz, guitar
If you’ve seen the Nellies play recently, you may have noticed that one of these things is not like the other. Yes, the Nellies have opened our ranks to a regular Barefoot Nelson, and if you’ve ever heard Roscoe’s white-hot guitar breaks, spot-on rhythm playing, and wide variety of G runs, then you’ll understand why. (And if you haven’t, why haven’t you been to one of our shows recently? Seriously, you’re missing out.) Adam also wields a wicked Tele in the Whisky Richards, plays with A.J. Roach, has toured with Michelle Shocked, and appears in many, many other bands.

Prentice SellersPrentice Sellers, banjo and vocals
After discovering bluegrass in the mid-1990s, Prentice devoted herself to mastering the banjo, and her melodic breaks and relentless rolls are key to the Nellies driving sound. She has learned nearly every tenor, lead, and baritone part to hundreds of traditional bluegrass songs, and fills in the Nellies trio with her strong baritone and lead vocals. Prentice also plays in Lone Mountain with her sister Cameron Laughlin and their husbands, Jeff Dasovich and Scott Laughlin.

Nicole Solis, mandolin and vocals
Nicole SolisAt one time the rhythm guitarist and lead singer with the Acme All-Purpose Swing Band (Portland, Oregon), Nicole picked the occasional fiddle tune in the privacy of her own home until she traded the rain for fog and immersed herself in the Bay Area bluegrass scene. She switched from guitar to mandolin and brings a solid chop, traditional-sounding breaks, original songwriting, and powerful tenor, lead, and occasional baritone vocals to the Nellies. Nicole has performed for elementary school students in the Bluegrass in the Schools program and played electric guitar in country band the Local 44s.

And sitting in with us…

Before we asked Roscoe to go steady with us, we were playing with some of the finest guitar players in the Bay Area, so let’s give credit where credit is due. Here are some of our favorite adjunct Nellies, subs, and Barefoot Nelsons.

Molly TuttleMolly Tuttle
One of the Bay Area’s rising stars in bluegrass, old-time, and pretty much any other style she plays, Molly plays with her brothers as the Tuttle Kids and with Angelica Grim and others in the School of Bluegrass. She recently recorded a CD with her dad, Jack, called The Old Apple Tree. Molly sat in with the Nellies on non-school nights; her emotional vocals, tasteful flatpicking, and energetic rhythm guitar perfectly complement the Nellies sound.

Mary Gibbons
One of the finest rhythm guitar players in the Bay Area, Mary Gibbons has been playing bluegrass and country music for more than 20 years, playing, touring, and recording with The All-Girl Boys, Laurie Lewis and Her Bluegrass Pals, and the Fog City Ramblers. Mary currently plays in the Mike Stadler and Mary Gibbons Band and occasionally lended her soulful singing and powerful rhythm to the Nellies.

Yvonne Walbroehl
Originally from Virginia, Yvonne lends a little Southern cred to the Nellies’ sound, as well as a powerful, bluesy voice and strong guitar playing to match. After moving to the Bay Area, Yvonne joined forces with Larry Carlin and Claudia Hampe to form The Warblers. After short stints with the Twisted Oaks and the Prune Rooney Band, Yvonne became a founding member of Cabin Fever.

And some of our favorite Barefoot Nelsons: Joe Kenny, Jon McNeill, Larry Cohea, and Bruce Campbell.