Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers makes its Arizona debut at the Desert Bluegrass Festival this weekend.

The Ohio-based band, performing since 2006, has reached new levels of popularity since joining Rebel Records in 2010.

The group plays more than 80 dates a year.

When Mullins isn’t on the road, he is running his chain of Classic Country Radio stations, three AM stations and one FM station, in southwest Ohio.

The group won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s best emerging artist nod in 2012. It made its first Grand Ole Opry appearance in July and its latest album, “They’re Playing My Song,” was the No. 1 most played bluegrass album on SiriusXM radio for four months following its release last October.

Expect to hear tracks from all of the band’s albums at the festival, as well as songs from Mullins’ recent effort with guitarist Junior Sisk, called “Hall of Fame Bluegrass.”

Mullins spoke to Caliente from his office in Xenia, Ohio.

What is your background in bluegrass? “I am fortunate to have had a 30-year career in broadcasting and bluegrass. My dad did the same thing. He was a popular radio personality and a bluegrass fiddler. He was always working with a bluegrass band, with a fiddle under his chin. I’ve been on radio and on stage with a banjo since the early 1980s.”

How did the Radio Ramblers get started? “My stations all simulcast the same programming. We include bluegrass in a big way. The music we played created such a demand that by 2006, my phone was ringing off the hook from people needing bluegrass entertainment.

“I had a reputation regionally and nationally as a banjo player. Often times, I would put together musicians to fill dates locally. In 2006, I got a regular band together to fill some of these availabilities. I had four strong musicians in the neighborhood willing to help me out.”

What was your Grand Ole Opry debut like? “We couldn’t have had a better night. The Opry House was sold out. We were blessed to receive a very warm reception from the audience, the Opry management and other Opry stars. We immediately got a return invitation and we were back in September. Hopefully, we will be on the schedule for a couple of guest appearances this winter.

Was it a special evening for you? “It was a dream come true and a lifelong goal if you come from where I come from — a family with a tradition of broadcasting and bluegrass entertainment. While the Opry is not the same as it was in 1946, it is still credited as the birthplace of bluegrass. When Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe on that stage, it was the shot heard around the world.”

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at or 807-8430.

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.