Listening to the Link Family strum and fiddle their way through bluegrass and gospel music, plain and simple, is a foot stomping, knee slapping good time where time flies and hearts laugh. Yes, they’re that good.
The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) Midwest, nominated them fifteen times over the last three years and they won three - Gospel Group of the Year, Becky Link (mom) won Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year and Kyle Link (oldest son) won for Fiddler Performer of the Year.
What is so impressive about this family of entertainers is their obvious love and pleasure of being together - laughing and teasing each other one minute, bragging on a family member the next. This amazing family of nine are a fun-loving, happy family who have found something they love doing together - making music.
Mom Becky, raised in Missouri, was brought up with music, singing around the house, in high school and college and playing the piano at church, weddings, funerals and for singing groups.
Dad Lance was born and raised in Missouri. As a man of business since high school, it was in college he became a sound man for a young woman which eventually would lead to marriage. After graduating from college they both got “real” jobs.
“The kids came along and were musical like their mom,” said Lance. “Five or six years ago they started performing and that little snowball grew until here we are living in a bus as a family.” Trailers follow along for the two newlywed couples from last year.
As a music teacher, Becky passed on her love of music to their five children teaching them piano and music theory at an early age. Later, as their interest in music increased, they began learning many of the stringed instruments - mandolin, fiddler, banjo. As they began learning, it seemed a natural fit and the children loved it.
“I thought they needed somewhere to perform what they were practicing. For about a year we went to nursing homes doing about two to six shows a month,” said Becky. “Then a church called us and we were guest bands at some bluegrass festivals. It started and just continued to happen.”
At the beginning there was some juggling to be done to make sure all the children were involved.
“When we started I didn’t have baby sitters so the two younger ones would be on stage with us - one by Dad and the other by me,” Becky said, laughing at the memory. “I’d have toys so while we sang they would play. There’s been a few times where we’ve done our show, walked off stage with our instruments then a couple of us would walk back on stage, pick up the little boys who were asleep on stage and carry them off.”
Now there’s no problem - everyone’s a part of the show. John, the youngest, plays the spoons.
“I’m learning the mandolin,” he said, seriously conveying his information. “And me and Aaron (the next son in line) wrestle a lot.” The whole family laughed at his innocent honesty. Admitting Aaron usually wins, John has fun playing the music but isn’t quite sure if he likes the traveling lifestyle.
Aaron plays the mandolin and fiddle. He admits after learning the mandolin the fiddle was a lot easier to learn. Singing lead on one song, he sings along with his brothers also. Typical of the family when asked whether he was an artist, he quickly spoke up about the next son-in-line, Ben.
“Benjamin’s really good,” he said.
Drawing eagles, deer and battle scenes - ancient and current - is Ben’s specialty. But banjo playing is his contribution to the band.
“They needed a banjo player so they gave me a banjo,” said Ben. “I really like it. It’s a lot of fun. I can also play the bass and mandolin and I sing lead on a couple of songs.”
Seems it was a good choice for Ben for now, when asked what he wants to do with his life, he replies, “Play the banjo.”
Rachel, one and only daughter, is the one who really turned the tide for the family when she approached her parents about four years ago. At the time, she played and taught the piano and mandolin.
“This is what I want to do. I want to play and sing bluegrass,” she told her parents.
“I had a good job but I said the words every good father says,” said Dad Lance, with a grin. “‘Well, honey, we’ll give you every opportunity we can.’ I didn’t realize this thing would grow into having to give up my good job. Our hobby grew into a business.
“The last year I was in the office we did 240 concerts plus I worked full time. I had to decide either get out of the band or get out of the office. You only have kids once so we put my Edward Jones job on a 2 year leave of absence, which now will be longer, so I guess I really am separated from my company,” he said, happily.
Oldest son Kyle is a gifted fiddler and loves his work.
“That’s the way it looks like God wants me to go so I’m headed in that direction,” said Kyle, about his winning fiddle playing. “When you’re on stage and in the grove, it’s very fun. Yea, there’s work parts to it but even carrying the sound equipment I enjoy because it’s a little bit of exercise.”
2008 has brought two new members into the family. First, Rachel married Landen Keeler who joined the traveling band.
“It’s fun. They are a blessing and you can tell they’re doing it for the right reason - for the Lord,” said Landen, with emotion. “It’s quite the experience. At first my body wasn’t used to it because I was used to the dairy farm life where you get up early and you go to bed early. Now it’s a lot of concerts late in the evenings so you go to bed late and you get up late. It’s different but I’m the kind of person that I’m content wherever I am.”
Kyle married Ashley whom he met at church camp a few years ago.
“We’ve been courting for about a year and a half. I asked her to marry me back in Deer Season when we were deer hunting. She’s a spelunker, a hunter and she plays the fiddle!” Kyle said, proudly.
Traveling mostly in the central time zone - a little Canada and about five states wide, the Link Family spreads their message of love and faith through their music.
“We have a very strong faith in Christ and church has been very central in our life from both of our childhoods,” Dad Lance said.
Mom Becky sums up their life, “About three years ago, maybe four, Lance and I decided we were going to get old sitting around drinking our hot tea and we’d think, ‘Why didn’t we sing with the kids more when we had the chance?’ So - we’re taking the chance.”
For more information, see linkfamilymusic.com or call (417) 718-3606.