b. Joseph Valiante, 25 June 1926, Everett, Massachusetts, USA, d. 11 June 1985, USA. Although raised in the northeast, Val took a very early interest in bluegrass music, prompted chiefly by hearing Bill Monroe on radio and records. The region in which Val was raised had a very strong bluegrass affinity and he also listened to local bands and especially the work of violin virtuoso Tex Logan. Val had started out on guitar but also played banjo and later mandolin. As he gained in skill, he played with several bands, including the Radio Rangers, the Berkshire Mountain Boys, the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover. Val was in the right place to become involved with the bluegrass boom among the region’s university and college students in the 60s. He played and recorded with the Bill Keith -Jim Rooney band, and with the Charles River Valley Boys. In both these instances, he comfortably accommodated contemporary shifts in bluegrass but he never lost his preference for the traditional form of the music.
In 1970 Val formed his own band, the New England Bluegrass Boys, bringing in Herb Applin (guitar/vocals), Bob French (banjo), and Bob Tidwell (bass). The band was first recorded by Rounder Records the following year and through the 70s made several more albums. The personnel varied but Val’s conception and purpose prevailed and there is an identifiable sound to the band on all of its albums. Among others who played in the band were guitarists Dave Dillon and Dave Haney, banjo players Paul Silvius and Karl Lauber, and bass player Eric Levenson. In the early 80s, Val’s band toured well outside their home ground, including a visit to Europe where they were recorded live in the Netherlands. The band’s days were numbered, however, as Val was suffering from cancer and their last important engagement was at the 1984 Georgia Bluegrass Festival. In 1995, the International Bluegrass Music Association posthumously presented Val with an Award Of Merit.