The ToneWay® Project: helping people play music

History of the Abbott Family Band

Starting in 2002, we (Carl, Leslie, Luke, and Kyle) performed as a family band. We played some small festivals and events, but spent most of our time busking (street performing) for charity on Santa Cruz's Pacific Avenue, an area known for its street performers.

The full Abbott Family Band stopped performing in 2012, although Carl, Leslie, and Kyle continued to perform occasionally as “The Abbott Family Band” with guest musicians until 2015.

AFB YouTube Video Playlists

Plus this, because it's funny.

AFB Live Album

AFB Band Bio (written 2004)

The Abbott family plays old, pre-20th century songs with a traditional bluegrass sound. Their repertoire includes standards like 'East Virginia' and 'Rabbit in a Log', along with many gems that are rarely heard today, such as 'When the Bees are in the Hive'. In fact, often someone will come up to them and say, "I haven't heard that song since my childhood . . . my mother used to sing that to me."

'Papa' (Carl Abbott) plays guitar and sings lead in the band. Luke Abbott (18 years old) plays the five-string banjo (plus the fiddle, mandolin, and guitar from time to time) and sings both lead and harmony. Kyle Abbott (15 years old) plays the mandolin as well as old-time clawhammer picking on an open-back banjo he built himself. 'Mama' (Leslie Abbott) plays the bass fiddle and sings lots of high harmony. The Abbotts play together at home almost every day.

"Are you from Tennessee or somewhere?" This is a question commonly heard by the Abbott family when performing on a street corner in downtown Santa Cruz. Actually, it was not ago that the Abbott family had almost no exposure to the old-time bluegrass tradition—they didn't even know what bluegrass music was! It wasn't until the Abbotts had a musical awakening at a bluegrass festival in 1997 that they were hooked. The prospect of being a part of such a friendly community playing such a soulful, driving music was irresistible. Soon after, Luke and Kyle began playing for tips in downtown Santa Cruz as 'The Barefoot Boys', and later at some local festivals as part of 'Hay Fever'.

The intimate social connection that this 'people music' brought to the Abbotts has launched them on a mission to help others discover the joy of playing music. To that end, they have written a songbook with over 230 traditional songs (with a play-along CD), a playing-by-ear learning method, and other resources; check them out at their web site:

Also, be sure to check out Kyle's hilarious parody on our 'official' band write-up...

Early AFB History (written 2005)

January 2002Luke and Kyle had been playing for a few years on the Pacific Garden Mall and a few festivals as "The Barefoot Boys." Papa brought up the idea of playing with Kyle and Luke in their "band", specifically at a home-schooling talent show thingy, with the purpose being to promote family music.
April/May 2002We got a fancy condenser microphone, and worked on 'working it' (using one microphone is something of an art in itself). We indeed played at the talent show (though our fancy mic didn't work there).
September 2002We got a gig at the La Selva Harvest Festival, and had to play for three hours. For the first time, we start 'practicing' as a band, working out material for the show.
October 2002We played at the La Selva gig, and we signed up for the Brookdale Bluegrass Festival in December.
December 2002Our second gig at the Brookdale worked out pretty well. Kyle was singing high baritone on almost two-thirds of the songs.
January 2003We recorded and submitted our demo CD and application to the 2003 Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival in Hollister, CA (July 11-13).
Winter/Spring 2003Kyle's voice started to drop. We began to look for songs that are suited for duets instead of trios. We started playing/practicing more and more. We also started to work up songs where Mama can sing tenor or high baritone. Things started getting "serious". Near the end of spring, we started playing on the Santa Cruz Pacific Garden Mall once or twice a month.
July 2003Finally, GOF rolled around—our fourth gig as a band, and our first with the new vocal arrangement—and we performed before an appreciative (and relatively large!) bluegrass audience. We had a lot of fun on stage, and folks seemed to enjoy our performance quite a bit. And the rest of the festival was great too: Luke stayed up all night jamming away, before he finally collapsed (literally) at eight o'clock in the morning. Thanks to the NCBS for putting on such a wonderful festival!
A Little Later in JulyThe band entered another hiatus and relief/relax/recharge period. Our CD, Live at the GOF!, which includes the entire, unedited recording from the performance (14 songs, not to mention Kyle's jokes), was produced and released.
Fall 2003We finally started playing regularly on the Pacific Garden Mall. During the summer, jams and festivals always seemed to keep us from playing down there. We built a little display promoting old-time 'people' music and how easy it is to play. We also started to prepare for the Brookdale Bluegrass Festival which we'd play for in December. Sales for the Live at the GOF CD are, well . . . let's just say less than stellar.
January 2004We performed at the Holler-Palooza Concert at Cabrillo College in Aptos, a benefit for the Cabrillo Arts Department, along with five other local bands. This was our first time on the big stage, and man were those lights bright! I was worried I'd get a sunburn! We actually sold out of CDs! Well OK, in all honesty, we only brought four to begin with.
July 2004We played again at the Good Old Fashioned with a completely new set. We were planning on combining the 2003 and 2004 recordings and producing a Live at the GOF: Deluxe Double Edition CD, but unfortunately we weren't able to get a recording. Other than that, though, it went well, and the festival was a blast as usual.
July 2004Our first (and hopefully not our last) gig at Phil's Fish Market and Eatery was a blast! All things considered it went very well, and it was a treat to be able to play there . . . thanks to Phil and Billy for booking us!
August 2004I know I keep saying our gigs are "a blast," but this latest one at the Otter Opry was just that! We 'split the bill' with a great band from up north, Cabin Fever. The recording from this performance is available as well . . . check it out.
July 2005We played the 2005 Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival again . . . our "final" gig as the Abbott Family Band. (Until further notice, that is . . . )
Late 2005I got tired of writing these little updates, and figured that nobody read them anyway. :-)