Popular Bluegrass Band to Perform at Pendleton Center for the Arts

The EOCenes will perform next month at the Pendleton Center for the Arts. (PCA photo)

One of the most beloved traditions of Round-Up week is back at the Pendleton Center for the Arts after a two-year hiatus.

The EOCenes (formerly Cabbage Hill), which features some of the finest bluegrass musicians in the northwest, will take the stage Thursday, Sept. 15. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and show begins at 7 p.m.

Ron Emmons, well-known as the front man for the popular Cabbage Hill bluegrass band, will be joined by classmates Hugh McClellan, Duane Boyer, and Hal Spence. While the 1960s were synonymous with hippies, counterculture and psychedelic sounds, in the small rural town of La Grande, the group of Eastern Oregon College students was experimenting with a different form of music – bluegrass.

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 lives in Hermiston and 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.

Spence of Dallas, Oregon 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.

Doug Jenkins first played with the other members at festivals and fiddle contest in the late 1960s. He went on to win many titles with his fiddle, earning the nickname “Lightning.”

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 $15 and available at pendletonarts.org 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 marketplace 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 pendletonarts.org.