WILDFIRE was formed in 2000 and quickly became one of the most talked about groups in the bluegrass music industry. The band has many years of musical and performance experience, with Robert Hale on lead vocals and guitar, Curt Chapman on bass, Johnny Lewis on banjo, and Matt DeSpain on dobro and vocals. Newest band member is the talented mandolin player, Scott Napier. By mixing their original songs and telling ballads, their complete dedication and love for their music, and their artistic spontaneity, Wildfire takes listeners on a journey that will spur emotion and excitement. They promise a powerful show that will please everyone from traditional bluegrass lovers to the contemporary young fans of today.
Robert Hale is from Jolo, West Virginia. He is the son of Clayton Hale, a McDowell and Wyoming county businessman, a former Delegate to the Legislature, and perhaps most important to this story, a bluegrass bandleader and music promoter. Claytons band played on a weekly television show on WOAY in the 1970s, and he promoted a successful festival in Tazewell, Virginia for several years. During his younger years, Robert was exposed to some of the luminaries of the bluegrass business, such as Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, The Osborne Brothers, Ricky Skaggs, and Keith Whitley. One of his musical inspirations was seeing Marty Stuart playing with Lester Flatt on Hee Haw. Robert began playing the mandolin full time in his Dads band at the ripe old age of nine and, at age 11, had the opportunity to play the Grand Ole Opry as a guest of Bill Monroe.
His first professional band was with Don Wayne and Dale Reno, The Reno Brothers. He then played with JD Crowe and the New South, Livewire, and Eddie and Martha Adcock before forming Wildfire with Curt Chapman in 2000. Robert also recorded with Dolly Parton on Two projects, Halos and Horns and For God and Country. He is equally at home on mandolin, guitar, banjo or just about anything with strings, and plays a variety of styles ranging from country to bluegrass to rock roll.
Curt Chapman was born in Lancaster, Ohio, raised in Nashville, Tennessee, and moved to Richmond, Kentucky in 1973 where he has been ever since. He started playing bass when he was 12 years old. Curts first real job came from Cousin Wilbur Westbrook, who was a country comedian on the Grand Ole Opry. He hired Curt and his brother and sisters to play on the road at air force bases and NCO clubs up and down the eastern seaboard. During the years, Curt has played in rock and roll, blues and country bands before he got into bluegrass. He toured with country chart artist, Josh Logan and performed with Southern Blend. In 1987, Curt received a phone call from J.D. Crowe and spent the next 15 years as bassist for J. D Crowe The New South. During that time he was on two recordings including the Grammy nominated Flashback and the highly acclaimed Come On Down to My World.
In 2000 Curt left The New South to form Wildfire with Robert Hale.
Johnny Lewis is an attorney practicing in Kentucky. He started playing the banjo at age 13 and formed his first band with Don Rigsby on mandolin. Since that time, he has been a member of many notable bands, including The Lost and Found, Kentucky Ramblers, Unlimited Tradition and the James Price Band. He lives in Sandy Hook, Kentucky, with his wife, Anita, and their twins, Ian and Kinley.
Matt DeSpain brings to the band, the unique and unmistakable sound of the dobro. Matt was one of the original founding members of American Driver and has an impressive resume that includes some of Bluegrass legends, JD Crowe and the Bobby Osborne band. Matt sings tenor, lead and plays the resonator guitar.