Getting the Band Back Together: Bluegrass Players to Play Sept. 13-14

EOCenes, formerly Cabbage Hill, are back together and will perform at the Pendleton Center for the Arts on Sept. 13-14. (Photos: Pendleton Center for the Arts)

Just as the traditions of Pendleton Round-Up week come back around each September, top-notch bluegrass returns to the Pendleton Center for the Arts this month. The show features some of the finest musicians in the Northwest playing with the fluid grace that only comes from having played together for more than 50 years.

The EOCenes (formerly Cabbage Hill) will take the stage on two nights, Thursday, Sept. 13 and Friday, Sept. 14. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and show begins at 7 p.m.

Hermiston’s Ron Emmons, well known as the front man for the popular Cabbage Hill bluegrass band, will bring his classmates Hugh McClellan, Duane Boyer and Hal Spence back to Eastern Oregon for Round-Up week. The group will be joined by Alan Feves on bass and National Old-Time Fiddle Champion Dan Emert on fiddle.

The original group some 50 years ago – with a few personnel changes in between.

Emmons and Boyer met during freshmen orientation week at Eastern Oregon College and connected with Spence and McClellan through their involvement in the Eastern Oregon College Ambassadors, a musical touring group that performed high school assemblies all over the Northwest. Each man went on to have great success over the past five decades on the national bluegrass scene, performing with a wide range of groups and ensembles.

Bluegrass musicians tend to mix and match themselves into different arrangements for different performances. The name EOCenes is a play on the college’s monogram, EOC (which later became EOU) and the Eocene epoch, a period on the geological time scale that occurred 55-34 million years ago.

Emmons has played mandolin and sung lead tenor and baritone with the Blue Mountain Crested Wheatgrass Boys, the Muddy Bottom Boys, Blue Heat and The Thatchmasters, as well as Cabbage Hill.

Boyer now lives in Haines and plays banjo and guitar, and sings lead, tenor and baritone. He taught banjo and guitar at EOC and played a major role in bringing national Bluegrass acts to that part of the state.

McClellan resides in Oregon City and plays rhythm guitar, harmonica and is known for is low, lonesome bass voice. He’s also fronted a country-swing band and sang in a gospel quartet.

Hal Spence of Dallas, Ore., played guitar and sang tenor for 27 years with The Sawtooth Mountain Boys, one of the nation’s best known bluegrass bands, whose travels included three tours of Europe.

The performance is made possible through the generous support of Dr. Cynthia Holmes and is part of the Blue Heron Live Music Series of the Pendleton Center for the Arts. Tickets are $12 and available at or by calling 541-278-9201. Early ticket purchases are recommended.

The Pendleton Center for the Arts is located in the heart of downtown Pendleton in the renovated Carnegie Library Building on the Umatilla River. The Center features a contemporary art gallery, a fine craft gallery and 110 seat performance auditorium, as well as art, ceramics and graphic design studios. A large portion of their art and music class offerings are free. More information is available online at