First of all, on the subject of bands with "Shenandoah" in their name, the Shenandoah Valley Trio should not be confused with the much later country-rock aggregation Shenandoah, nor the ensemble under the leadership of Jim Eanes known as the Shenandoah Valley Boys. There is also no connection with the Shenandoah Orchestral Ensemble or the Shenandoah Cut-Ups. The Shenandoah Valley Trio was a glorified example of a tradition in country music which began sometime in the '40s, namely an opening act in a country show that is actually made up of membership drawn from the headlining group. The most common examples of this practice -- which has also provided a way of creating warm-acts for soul and blues shows as well -- would involve an individual performer from the star's group who gets a 20-minute slot in which to perform as lead vocalist. Some country stars such as Cal Smith got their start this way, while plenty of others found it a defining experience in their decision to remain a sideman. Bill Monroe did the entire tradition one better, or perhaps three better would be more accurate, by creating a vocal trio from the membership of his Bluegrass Boys, but the resulting ensembles were popular enough to warrant recording activity on their own. The membership of the vocal trio was subject to the same sort of sometimes rapid turnover as the band proper, but the most famous version of this trio featured lead vocalist Joel Price, guitarist and baritone Jimmy Martin, and the fiddle and tenor vocal of Merle "Red" Taylor.

This lineup recorded for Columbia in the early '50s, augmenting the basic trio sound with a fine steel guitarist who unfortunately has never been properly identified, although guesses are that it is Jimmie Selph from Red Foley's band. Despite founding-father Monroe's status in bluegrass, the recordings of the Shenandoah Valley Trio fit snugly in the mainstream country tradition. Monroe's daughter Melissa Monroe also recorded for Columbia around this time, and it seems as if the Shenandoah Valley Trio provided both instrumental and vocal backup on these sessions as well. By the early '60s, business was down in both the bluegrass and country genres, meaning promoters decided the only way to sell tickets was to create package shows. Just Bill Monroe's band plus whatever subdivisions might come out of that weren't good enough; in the new style of lavish spectaculars, three or four "name" country or bluegrass acts were on the bill, one of them getting the traditional warm-up slot. As a result, there was no longer a need for Monroe to provide such groups, and the vocal trio idea fell by the wayside, along with other casualties such as a stand-up comic "mascot" for each band. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi