He's only 32, but Lonesome Will Mullins is considered "the last of the old-timers" by fellow bluegrass musicians.
"I was the last one to be trained by the last generation," Mullins says. "The good Lord has blessed me far beyond what I deserve."
Mullins and his band, the Virginia Playboys, will play The Pickin' Parlor at Randy Wood Guitars in Bloomingdale on Saturday.
From the time he was born, Mullins was around music.
"Dad's name was Archie, and he played old-time claw-hammer style banjo," he says. "He was also a good guitar player. He taught me to play.
"Pretty much everybody on his side of the family played music. We can trace it back five to six generations.
"My dad never played professionally," Mullins says. "He was content to play with friends and sit on the porch, which is where you find a lot of the best musicians."
Despite the wealth of music, Mullins grew up poor.
"For a little boy born in Dickinson County, Va., about the only job you could take is either working in the coal mines or being a prison guard," he says. "Neither one ever sparked my interest."
Dickinson is where Ralph Stanley and the Stanley Brothers came from. Mullins' talent did not go unnoticed.
"When I was a teenager, Ralph Stanley took an interest in me," he says. "I was playing in some local shows, trying to get a band started.
"Ralph really gave me a shot in the arm. He would bring me onstage to do a couple of numbers. I was very fortunate that I got such tutelage from the old-time players.
"Jimmy Martin was one of my heroes," he says. "I was friends with Earl Scruggs, which meant the world to me."
Ralph Stanley's bassist, Jack Cooke, became Mullins' mentor. "That's where I got the nickname of 'Lonesome Will,'" Mullins says.
"One time when I was 19 or 20, they called me on stage. Jack started calling me 'Lonesome Will,' and it stuck."
From the time he was in high school, Mullins had a band.
"When I really set out on my own was 2005," he says. "I was just bright-eyed and green to the business, but I was hungry and really wanted to make it.
"I started out playing county fairs and small music halls. By 2006, I was on the festival circuit in bluegrass.
"The next year, I got invited to play at the Smithsonian, which was a big feather in my cap," Mullins says. "I was also asked to play the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts." Through his friendship with Scruggs, Mullins got to know Lizzy Long and Little Roy Lewis. While playing the 2008 Bing Cherry Blossom Festival in Indiana, they were joined on stage by Scruggs.
"He came out and did three numbers, and I had the honor of playing rhythm guitar with him," he says. "We closed out with 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown.' It was my most enjoyable moment of picking.
"My favorite part of it all has been the people I've met," he says. "There is no music quite like bluegrass.
"It's the only music left that is person-to-person, not big labels, not music videos," Mullins says. "It's a simple relationship with the people, and I've met the finest people in the world playing bluegrass music."
Lonesome Will & the Virginia Playboys was formed in 2004. In addition to Mullins, its current members are brothers Jake and Adam Burrows, who are 17 and 19.
"Adam plays upright bass," Mullins says. "His brother Jake is one of the best five-string banjo players I've ever taken the stage with. He is absolutely phenomenal."
Mandolin players, take note. Mullins' mandolin player had to leave the band, and he's seeking a replacement. "David McLaughlin from the Johnson Mountain Boys has been performing with us lately," he says.
Today, Mullins lives in Hiltons, Va., where the Carter Family is from.
"I live within rock-throwing distance from the Carters," he says. "When I'm not on the road with my band, I try to help with the Carter Family Fold."
The Carter Family Fold is a performance and concert venue dedicated to the preservation and performance of old-time country and bluegrass music.
The Fold was founded by Janette Carter, daughter of A.P. and Sara Carter, in 1979, and today, it is run by her daughter, Rita Forester.
"This past June, they made me an official member of the Carter family," Mullins says. "If you had put me on the Grand Ole Opry, it wouldn't have been better."
In Savannah, Mullins will play old-time traditional mountain music.
"I don't play contemporary style," he says. "To me, you have to be true to yourself and play what's in your heart.
"We do a great traditional show, with all kinds of hard-driving bluegrass music," Mullins says. "What separates our show is that we have the most energetic stage show of anybody in the business with phenomenal pickers.
"My focus has always been on being an entertainer. That's sort of a rarity in our business. When we're on stage, it's like cannons going off."
In addition to playing banjo and guitar, Mullins does some comedy onstage. "I've had so many people tell me we look like we're having so much fun up there," he says. "I have the greatest job in the world.
"We do a lot of original music and some of the standards my heroes have done before," Mullins says. "I like to pay honor to the people who have helped me along the way."
IF YOU GO
What: Lonesome Will Mullins & the Virginia Playboys
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Pickin' Parlor Concert Hall, Randy Wood Guitars, 1304 E. U.S. 80, Bloomingdale
Info: 912-748-1930, randywoodguitars.com