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Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, brothers Tommy, Robbie, and Jonny, have quickly made a name for themselves as one of the quickest rising acts in Roots music. That is no small accomplishment when you take into consideration the trio hails from Lebanon Township, New Jersey – not exactly a hotbed for instruments like banjos and fiddles. “New Jersey is not what you would call a Bluegrass state. That’s one of the interesting parts about our story,” said Tommy. “There are definitely Bluegrass fans here, but maybe we’re making a few new ones, which is kind of cool.”
When asked why the brothers became so enamored with the style of the music, Tommy says “Probably because it’s so unique. There’s really not any other kind of music that is similar to it. We also like the pureness of the acoustic sound – there’s no way to hide behind effects or distortion pedals so you have to be proficient on your instrument to play this music well.”
The Mizzone brothers were influenced by the masters, such as J.D. Crowe, Ralph Stanley, and Tony Rice. They also – just like countless others before them – became influenced by the revolutionary five-string banjo playing of Earl Scruggs. However, they weren’t listening to Grandpa’s 78 RPM collection. They picked up the music of Scruggs the way that many others their age are discovering the classics. “We discovered Earl Scruggs through YouTube and fell in love with the music,” said Tommy.
YouTube has been instrumental in getting the name of the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys out to the public. Their videos have been viewed over 20 million times on their YouTube channel (YouTube.com/sleepymanbanjoboys). “That’s one of the coolest parts about everything,” said Robbie. “We have had several of our bedroom practice jam videos go viral and that’s what really kind of took off and helped get us out there.”