‘My grandfather gave me my first guitar’: Stokes County sheriff has lifelong passion for bluegrass

Roy's Folks

DANBURY, N.C. (WGHP) — As long as he can remember, Joey Lemons’ life included music. 

“My grandfather gave me my first guitar,” Joey said. “He showed me my first few chords, and it took off from there.”

His grandfather Cleo Lemons, known as the “Music Man,” is credited with bringing bluegrass to Stokes County. 

“In 1948 my grandpa was out of the Army and had heard that Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs had left Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys and starting their own band,” he said. “Grandpa sent a letter to the radio station in Bristol inviting them to come and play at Sandy Ridge.”

Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs started coming year after year.

“I think Earl Scruggs was quoted as saying that Lester and Earl and the Foggy Mountain Boys played Sandy Ridge more times than any other venue other than the Ryman Auditorium,” said Joey, who would go on to become an accomplished musician himself on the mandolin. “That became my instrument of choice and what I became most comfortable with.”

Joey’s talent caught the attention of the group Terry Baucom’s Dukes of Drive who asked him to join the band.

“We had several hits on the bluegrass charts but one of the coolest things was being able to play on some of the big stages around the country that I wanted to go to hear people perform on, and here I was performing on the stages,” Joey said.

Like many bluegrass musicians, he still maintained a day job with the Stokes County Sheriff’s Office.

“My dad retired from the sheriff’s office, and so I grew up around here,” Joey said.

He was appointed sheriff after his predecessor retired earlier this year.

“This is obviously my career and where my time and effort are going,” Joey said.

But you can bet his mandolin will always be close by.

“I may not be as polished and as practiced as I have been, but I still like to get it out and remind myself I can still play a little bit,” Joey said.

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