Old-timey bluegrass and gospel songs take center stage when local band Days Of Old resins up the bow. And it’s not just the toe-tapping tunes that delight; the ages of the band members offer hope for the future of good, old-fashioned music.
The band is comprised of five young men, most just entering their twenties and one still in high school, who get together a couple of nights a week to practice. In true bluegrass fashion, the band includes family and friends. Kurtis and Benjamin Rohrbach, brothers from Shoemakersville, play the fiddle and guitar, while their cousin, Dustin Rohrbach joins in on mandolin. Friends Dennis Bausher, of Pricetown, and Ben Solt, of Longswamp, play the five-string banjo and bass, respectively. Their songs are well-played and well-known, and harken back to an earlier, simpler time.
Kurtis Rohrbach, who was homeschooled along with his brother, has been playing the fiddle since the age of eight. They were inspired by their parents, Allan and Beth Rohrbach, and sister, who are also musicians. He and Benjamin met the other members of Days of Old about eight years ago.
“We started going to Dennis’s church, the Mohrsville Church of the Brethren,” Kurt said. “That’s where we met, and we’ve been together ever since. We all play just about any instrument we can get our hands on, and some of us sing, too.”
Citing their faith as an important influence, the band members gravitated toward gospel, bluegrass and older country music. Despite having jobs, families and classes, they meet twice a week to work out arrangements by sitting down and talking over the songs they’ll play.
“None of us really care for this new type of country music,” Kurt said. “We like the older country music and most of our bluegrass songs are so old that no one knows who the artists were back then.”
A typical set list includes old favorites like “Amazing Grace,” “I Saw The Light,” “Orange Blossom Special,” “I’ll Fly Away” and the “Swallowtail Jig.” Sing-a-longs are encouraged. The band will be the opening act at this Saturday’s Picnic In The Park at the Centerport Fire Company band shell, beginning at 3 p.m., and will also be featured as strolling minstrels at this year’s Kutztown Fair in August.
Noted Northern Berks musician Yodeling Betty Naftzinger, of Shartlesville, is a big fan of the boys in the band.
“I hope the Days of Old group are going to be the “days of new,” Betty said. “They’re singing music that’s fit to listen to and I hope other young people will pick up on it. There are more young people than ever getting into this type of music and it’s so good for our youth and our country.”
Yodeling Betty plans to join the band at the Picnic In The Park on Saturday for two songs, including one in Pennsylvania German, “Sundawg won Ich in de Karrich gae” (Sundays When I Go To Church). Days of Old’s performance will be followed by the Jalappa All-Stars at 5 p.m., and concert goers can enjoy homemade food for sale beginning at 1 p.m. and throughout the event, which is sponsored by the Central Berks Lions Club.
The band’s schedule continues to fill up with concert dates at local venues and they have no plans to stop. Because the members of Days of Old are so young, those who enjoy old-fashioned music can rest assured that live gospel and bluegrass are secure in the talented hands of this generation.
“We’d like to continue on,” said Kurt Rohrbach. “It’s really fun to us, but we play to make other people happy, too.”
Catch Days of Old on Saturday, July 26, at 3 p.m. at the Central Berks Fire Company, 111 Callowhill Street, Centerport. Admission and parking are free.