Although he was never a full-time musician, the Kentucky-born Dave Woolum has been active in bluegrass and country music practically his whole life. As a teenager, he supposedly played over the somewhat mystical WHBB radio in Mt. Orab, OH. This local station had a combination studio-and-headquarters crammed into the back of a store, and apparently was the source of almost as much early bluegrass and historic old-timey music as the Grand Ole Opry itself, that is if the Mt. Orab locals are to be believed. By the '80s, Woolum was still actively leading bluegrass bands out of a Florida base, although this was not the most sympathetic decade in terms of an audience for traditional bluegrass.
The guitarist and vocalist had already learned the rudiments of music by the time his family moved from Kentucky to Ohio, and worked in several different bands before deciding to start his own outfit, usually known as the Kentucky Mountain Boys. This outfit was officially formed in 1945, working regularly on a variety of Ohio radio stations including two stiff competitors in Dayton. During the '50s and '60s, this loose-knit ensemble stayed together off and on, not falling victim to the burn-out syndrome that sometimes can go along with being a full-time working band. Musically, the efforts of Woolum and company have been of great interest to bluegrass fans, primarily because of the presence of master banjo picker Noah Crase, who was as tragically under-recorded as he was brilliant. Fans of banjo are doubly delighted by the band's recording entitled "Old Age," not only a beautiful song but an arrangement boasting the dual banjo team interaction of Crase and Curtis Allen. This track, reissued in the '70s on Rounder as part of its valuable Early Days of Bluegrass series, is the side Woolum was most proud of cutting out of a batch done for small local companies such as the modest Excellent and steadily growing Pinetree, as well as bigger country and bluegrass outfits such as Starday and Sage. The group also collaborated with country singer Rusty York on a series of albums available only on mail order, issued under the name of Rusty York and the Kentucky Boys. Woolum later taped albums that were combinations of bluegrass and gospel for the Melody and Pine Tree labels out of Hamilton, OH. Bluegrass package shows such as the Renfro Valley Barn Dance and Bill Monroe's Brown County Jamboree also welcomed Woolum and the Kentucky Boys on-stage on a regular basis.
Through the '70s, Woolum renamed his backing band the Laurel County Partners, bringing mandolinist Paris Decker into the fold. He retired from his day job in 1974, and headed to Florida, where he found the scene for traditional bluegrass wanting, but well worth the efforts of a bluegrass journeyman whose contributions have been as significant as they are obscure. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi