Arts & Culture

New Jersey’s Bluegrass Beginnings

When I hear the words “New Jersey,” I first think of Princeton University and tall buildings. Never would I have imagined this state as the bluegrass capital of the world. Yet three Christian brothers who formed the group known as “Sleepy Man” strive to break that notion as they perform and compose in New Jersey. The evolution of this band began with the youngest of the three: Johnny Mizzone, the banjo player of this group. Other players in the band include Robby the violinist and Tommy, the guitarist and eldest. So how did the group earn the name “Sleepy Man”? Back when the youngest of the Mizzone brothers first began the banjo, the large instrument proved too heavy for him. As a result, he would lie down and play the banjo, resembling a sleeping boy. The idea stuck, and the group earned its name, “Sleepy Man.”

It all began with Earl Scruggs, a very popular banjo player back in the day. Johnny was inspired by Scruggs’s playing and picked up the banjo in no time. Seeing the youngest of the three soon become a banjo pro, the two older brothers began seriously improving their skills with their instruments, the violin and guitar. Some of the songs they play include “Dueling Banjos,” “Rockwood Deer Chase,” Earl Scruggs’s “Flint Hill Special,” and a fun piece they composed called “By My Side.”

Though they follow bluegrass tradition when composing, they often add a little modern day twist to their music.

As the years progressed, they spent their time traveling and performing at numerous events. Two such instances include their performances at the David Letterman Show and with the famous banjo player DJ Crowe. As they perform and prepare for concerts, they spend time composing, improvising, and playing with one another. Though many consider them celebrities, they still insist that they are “normal” because they participate in everyday tasks. Throughout their musical career, they have inspired children and adults alike, sharing their talent and showing God’s glory. Though they have been introduced to the world quite rapidly, they remain true brothers to one another and are modest in what they do. Despite their fame, they remember that they did not give themselves their musical gifts. 1 Peter 4:10 points out, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” As Christians, they all proclaim God’s glory through their musical talent. Let the Bluegrass legacy in New Jersey begin!



Works Cited:

Vorel, Jim. “Sleepy Man Banjo Boys playing Decatur.”, 15 Aug. 2014, Accessed 16 Sept. 2017.

Sleepy Man. “9-Year-Old Plays Banjo on David Letterman Show.” Youtube, 18 Jul. 2011, Accessed 16 September 2017.

UPROXX. “Sleepy Man: Roots Trio From New Jersey | Uncharted: The Power of Dreams.” Youtube, 29 Oct. 2015,, Accessed 16 September 2017.

Sleepy Man. “Sleepy Man Banjo Boys With JD Crowe and The New South!” Youtube, 11 Jun. 2011,, Accessed 16 September 2017.

Sleepy Man. “Brothers bring bluegrass into the next generation.” Youtube, 11 Dec. 2014,, Accessed 16 September 2017.

“1 Peter 4.” ESV Bible,, Accessed 16 September 2017.

Nj Enjoy. “Sleepy Man Banjo Boys.” Youtube, 22 Feb. 2017,, Accessed 16 September 2917.

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  1. Wait… my state is actually the home of Sleepy Man o____________o

  2. Ohey. New Jersey produced something good. And it’s not corn.
    Also. Do you know where in New Jersey they live? Not to be stalkerish…just wondering haha.

  3. XD Yep. I think they live in Lebanon Township 🙂