Tim Stafford

Guitar Instructor

Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival, SMSWF Bluegrass Camp, Ole Smoky Moonshine, Tim Stafford, Songwriter, Gatlinburg, TNA native of Kingsport, Tennessee, Tim Stafford began playing guitar seriously at the age of 18 after starting out on the banjo four years earlier. He played with various groups in the Tri-Cities area of East Tennessee as a teenager.  In 1990, he joined Alison Krauss and Union Station, along with Adam Steffey and Barry Bales. The band was named IBMA Entertainer of the Year in 1991. Tim won a Grammy in 1993 for his work on “Every Time You Say Goodbye” (Rounder, 1992). 

In 1994, he organized the group Blue Highway, which has won 27 IBMA Awards. The band  has recorded ten records; three of which have been nominated for Grammies.  ‘Wondrous Love’ won the Dove Award in 2004 for Best Bluegrass Recording.  

Tim can be heard as a guest on hundreds of bluegrass projects.  His unique lead and rhythm guitar style has been praised and studied by several top guitarists, including Kenny Smith, Shannon Slaughter, Jim Hurst, Tony Watt and many others.  His rhythm style is among the most influential in modern bluegrass.

In 2010, Tim and Caroline Wright co-wrote the authorized biography of Tony Rice, Still Inside:  The Tony Rice Story (Word of Mouth Press, 2010).  

Tim was also named IBMA’s “Songwriter of the Year” in 2014 and 2017, as well as SPBGMA’s Guitar Performer of the Year in 2001 and 2015.  His co-wrote (with Steve Gulley) the IBMA Song of the Year in 2008, “Through the Window of a Train.”  He was named a Distinguished Alumnus in the Arts by ETSU in 2015.

Tim Stafford is a prolific songwriter, with over 175 songs recorded.  In addition, he is a sought-after studio musician, having recorded with over 75 artists in addition to Blue Highway, including Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney, Jorma Kaukonen, Jesse McReynolds, Benny Sims, Marty Raybon, Joe Isaacs, Ronnie Bowman, Charles Sawtelle, Tony Trischka, Larry Sparks, Jim Mills and others. He has produced many award-winning records for various artists, including Kenny Chesney, The Infamous Stringdusters (IBMA 2007 co-album of the Year) , and Knee Deep in Bluegrass, the Acutab Sessions (IBMA 2001 Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year).

Tim performed many times with Hazel Dickens, including the Lincoln Center in New York (2006), Sundance Film Festival, Park City, UT (2005), Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, San Francisco, CA (2010), Wintergrass, Tacoma WA (2003). He has taught at every major bluegrass-oriented camp, including Rockygrass Academy, Camp Bluegrass (South Plains College, TX), Augusta Heritage, Wintergrass Academy, Sore Fingers (UK), Bluegrass at the Beach, Nashcamp, Kaufman’s Flatpicking Camp, California Bluegrass Association Camp at Grass Valley, St. Louis Flatpick, Resosummit, Summergrass Academy, Grand Targhee, Bluegrass Masters Weekend, and Nashville Flatpick and Songwriting Camp.

Tim released his first solo record, Endless Line in 2004 on FGM Records to critical acclaim. It was nominated for IBMA’s Instrumental Recording of the Year in 2005. His second, Just to Hear the Whistle Blow, was released in July 2014.

Tim was born and raised in Kingsport, Tennessee.  Although his sisters played piano, there was no music to speak of played in the house.  After starting out on drums, Tim discovered bluegrass in the mid-1970s as a freshman at Ketron High School, becoming a banjo player.  He switched to guitar in the late 70s and became a member of several groups, including Mountain Memories and The Boys in the Band.  In the late 1980s, Tim formed Dusty Miller with Adam Steffey and Adam’s wife at the time, Tammy Rogers (later a founding member of the Steeldrivers), Brian Fesler and Barry Bales.  Alison Krauss hired Tim, Adam and Barry in 1990 and Union Station proceeded to record a Grammy-winning CD, Every Time You Say Goodbye (Rounder, 1992) and become one of the most influential bands in modern bluegrass history. After leaving the band in 1992 to spend more time with his family, including his infant son Daniel, Tim worked odd jobs and taught at different colleges and universities until he formed Blue Highway in 1994 with Wayne Taylor, Shawn Lane, Rob Ickes and Jason Burleson.  The band released its 10th recorded project, The Game in January 2014, which went on to spend six months at the top of the Bluegrass Unlimited National Radio Survey. Their 20 years together with the same members is a record in bluegrass history; the band is one of the most decorated and influential in bluegrass history as well, having been nominated for 2 Grammies, winning a Dove Award, and nearly 30 IBMA Awards.

Tim worked on a PhD in History at Miami University in the mid 1980s. He has taught American History, Western Civ, Appalachian Studies, Mass Communications and Popular Culture, Personal instruction in guitar and banjo, and Bluegrass Traditions at several colleges and Universities, including Miami, East Tennessee State, and Appalachian State University. He and Caroline Wright co-authored Still Inside: The Tony Rice Story, the critically-acclaimed authorized biography of bluegrass Hall of Fame member and living legend Tony Rice in 2010. Tim gave the keynote address at the 1994 IBMA World of Bluegrass in Owensboro, KY and has been on the IBMA Board of Directors two different times, serving as Vice Chair from 1995 to 1998.