Brian Fesler

Brian Fesler started playing banjo

in grade school and soon formed a band in Iowa

with his sister and cousin.


After running the gamut of family band through regional bands in his home state of Iowa, he was off to Nashville where he soon found himself an endorsing artist for the Gibson Guitar Company, travelling the country with the Gibson All-Stars, featuring master luthier and good friend always, Mr. Charlie Derrington.  Brian still plays the Granada he was given by the Gibson Company.


He spent a season on the bass with Oklahoma favorites, The Arbuckles.


Then on to Ferrum, Virginia where in 1987 he took over the banjo spot in the Lonesome River Band.  He worked under bandleader Tim Austin and co-founder Jerry McMillan, and had the honor to work with two of the finest musicians and people around, Adam Steffey and later Dan Tyminski.


The fall of 1988 brought new excitement as Brian and Adam joined with Tim Stafford, Barry Bales and Tammy Rogers in the new band, Dusty Miller. Dusty Miller immediately performed at a 1988 IBMA showcase, and began touring nationally.  Two recordings were released, the self-titled debut on June Appal records, and a project known simply as "The White Tape."



Photo by Larry Steur

After winning the 1990 SPBGMA International Band Contest, Dusty Miller toured into the summer, then played its final show to an audience at the 1990 Nashville Fan Fest.  Adam, Tim and Barry went off with Alison Krauss.  Brian played an International Dance festival in Europe with Tammy, then played shows with David Harvey (Wild & Blue), Gary Brewer & the Kentucky Ramblers, and the Charlie Sizemore band.  Brian says, "Performing with Charlie Sizemore was one of the highlights of my career.  He's one of the best singers and performers in the history of Bluegrass, and a gentleman as well."


In 1991 Brian reloacted to the Twin Cities area, where he performed with area talent such as the Christensen Sisters and Monroe Crossing.   He's been featured on numerous artists' recording projects, including Chris Silver, fiddler Brian Wicklund and Wisconsin favorite Highwater.  He has also recorded with bands outside of the traditional bluegrass vein, such as Taconite Haven, Arcana 81, Spy Mob and the Lorie Line Pop Orchestra.


In January 2002, Brian became a regular member of Becky Schlegel’s touring group, and in 2005 appeared on her album Drifter Like Me. From 2007-2010, Brian and Becky co-produced four albums for Becky on the Lilly Ray Records label, achieving international acclaim for 2008’s “For All The World To See” after it was picked up by IGO Records out of Nashville.


Following the success of the latter recording project and several trips to Nashville to promote it and appear at the IBMA convention, Brian returned to Tennessee in the spring of 2009.


With a mind for–and enjoyment of–the business side of music, Brian went on to be producer or executive producer on several albums by Minnesota-based artists, including two CDs and a DVD by guitar master Leroy Glazier, an instrumental project by pedal steel virtuoso Joe Savage, and two CDs by Art Essery, a regional legend in the Midwest.


This led to an executive producer role in several re-releases for major artists, including Bobby Bare and a Vern Gosdin gospel album reissue. He is most honored to have been executive producer and distributor of J.D. Crowe's first authorized release of "Holiday in Japan," a 2-disc set that was originally bootlegged into the U.S. after the New South's famous 1975 tour.


For several years between 2013-2016, Brian spent most of his musical time performing in church or teaching in the lesson room at the Nashville Music Academy. He finds reward in teaching and helping players reach new levels. Asked about this time period, he says, "I've played with the best of the best, and just waiting for the right time to play with the right people."


That time came in January 2017, when the Band of Ruhks were ready for a new banjo player. The Ruhks–formed by Ronnie Bowman, Don Rigsby and Kenny Smith–were a natural fit for Brian. All four had contributed to the Lonesome River Band sound, Brian in the late 80s and the rest in the early 90s. He says, "I had worked with Don in Charlie Sizemore's band and known him for three decades. I didn't know Kenny and Ronnie as well, but obviously every real Bluegrass fan knows and respects their musical legacy."


Brian and the Ruhks hit it off on the first day, and he's been with them ever since. He recorded Authentic with the Band of Ruhks, released on Rebel Records in October 2019, and appeared in three videos from the album.


He is currently living in Nashville and preparing for a new solo CD release.