From firefighting to jamming

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 11, 2023

Bluegrass duo Moron Brothers to perform Sunday

As you can gather from their name, the Moron Brothers enjoy a good joke, especially if it is at their expense.

They aren’t brothers and they aren’t stupid and the name of the bluegrass duo comes from an unkind critique after one of their early performances.

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Banjo player “Lardo” (Mike Carr) and guitar picker “Burley” (Mike Hammond) went to high school together but met again in 1995 when Lardo was a firefighter at Lexington Fire Station No. 5 in Lexington, Kentucky. When things were slow, Lardo would bring out his banjo and play, which attracted more bluegrass musicians to play.

“We were having a jam session and he came up one day,” Lardo explained. “And he got to picking and carrying on and I realized he was a little bit of a cut above everybody else.”

The pair started jamming together and started off with songs they both knew.

“Then he wrote some songs and I wrote some songs and then I wrote about half a song and went to his house and we finished it. It was ‘If My Nose Was Running Money, Honey, I Would Spend It All on You,’” Lardo recalled. “And I said ‘This guy right here is worth hanging around with.’”

Burley lived a couple of blocks away from Lardo’s mom’s house, “so we hooked up and the rest is history.”

When the pair started doing gigs together, they performed under the name “The Firehouse Pickers.”

At one show, a guy sitting next to Lardo’s wife asked if she had “seen those two morons who were just up on stage? And she said ‘Yeah.’ And I looked over at Burley and said ‘I guess we are the Moron Brothers.’” Lardo said. “Well, the next promoter that booked us, he booked us as the Moron Brothers and it stuck and we couldn’t get away from it. And that is how that began.”

Lardo did admit that if they had a chance to do it over again, he probably would have picked a different name.

“I feel like it has held us back. I know it is politically incorrect for people to introduce you like that,” he said. “We’ve been on the Grand Ole Opry a couple of times and they don’t want to say Moron. I feel like it has held us back, but then on the other hand, maybe it didn’t. I don’t know.”

As for their stage names, they are about as Appalachian as their music.

Since they are both named Mike, they need names so people could tell them apart.

Lardo got his because of his love of lard sandwiches as a kid. 

And Burley, well he “chewed tobacco like a tobacco worm,” Lardo said. “I mean he’d get up in the morning and put a chew in his mouth. And when he laid down at night, he’d take it out. So, I name him Burley after the burley tobacco they used to grow around here.”

Their music combines humor, gospel and bluegrass because “the Good Lord means for people to have good, clean fun and laughter. Maybe that is why he gave us the talent to play and write these funny songs,” Lardo said. “This music is what we heard all our life, it is what we grew up with.”

He recalled that his family members would break out a fiddle or banjo and play and “everyone just was having fun. That’s how I got into this music.”

The duo has toured a lot in the past three decades, from Maine to Colorado and a lot of gigs in Florida.

“Man, we wore Florida out, we’ve played there so many times” Lardo said. “We’ve played all over the nation.”

The Moron Brothers will perform in Ironton at the First Presbyterian Church at 7 p.m. on Sunday as part of the Ironton Council for the Arts concert series. 

Tickets are $15. Students are admitted free.