Ambassadors of Traditional Music

Strictly Clean and Decent travels the world in search of songs and singers while staying strongly rooted in Western North Carolina

Note: This submission is the second article in a series about the 21st Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase, coming up on Sat., March 9. – MMB

LENOIR, N.C. – Since 1998, the Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase has allowed more than 200 musicians with Caldwell County roots to demonstrate their talents. The 21st Showcase is scheduled for March 9 with this year’s musicians playing tunes that are “From the Hollows to the Honky Tonks” of Caldwell County.

The founders and hosts for the event are Strictly Clean and Decent, an acoustic trio which features Patrick Crouch, Ron Shuffler, and Kay Crouch whose blend of brilliant vocal harmonies tops a solid instrumental foundation. They are dedicated to performing a variety of musical styles in an acoustic setting. Their eclectic repertoire includes modern folk songs by American, Canadian, and Irish songwriters, the fiery breakdowns and songs of family and home found in both traditional and contemporary bluegrass settings, and centuries-old Celtic airs and dance tunes. All of this is peppered with a healthy dose of popular jazz standards, swing and western swing music, and a few classic country tunes thrown in to provide a program certain to be enjoyed by all.

Ron Shuffler plays the upright bass with Strictly Clean and Decent. Ron is a veteran of the early Top 40 and beach music scene but also is well known in country and bluegrass circles. His solid bass playing and impeccable harmony vocals are without equal. Ron was raised in a musical family and his eldest brother, George, virtually created the cross-picking style of guitar playing while working with The Stanley Brothers, a first-generation bluegrass band, in the 1950s and 60s.

Kay Crouch performs on the guitar, flute, piano, and tin whistle with Strictly Clean and Decent.  Kay has a widely varied musical background that includes symphonic and solo percussion work and musical theatre as well as county and bluegrass music. Her interpretive vocals have been an asset to the trio since she joined in 1991.

Patrick Crouch handles the mandolin, banjo, dobro, fiddle, and guitar for the trio. Patrick has been performing acoustic music since 1977 when he founded New River Reign, a staple at Blowing Rock’s P.B. Scott’s Music Hall.  He turned to country music with Long Time Gone and, with Ron Shuffler and Reggie Harris, created Strictly Clean and Decent in 1989. Patrick’s intense, often pyrotechnic but always tasteful, instrumental skills are the highlight of every Strictly Clean and Decent show.

Area reviewers have been unanimous in their acclaim for the trio. The Hickory News claims that “what really sets this trio apart is the bluegrass/swing/pop/country influence of three musicians whose talents take them to virtually every style of music ever conceived!” The Morganton News-Herald states that “the music is quite lively and, while there are many intense selections, the band maintains a jovial rapport with the audience.” Of the trio, Focus says their “on-stage patter is refreshingly self-effacing and laid-back, and the band comes off as extremely likable… Don’t miss this band, because they are a truly unique listening experience.”

Since 1989, Strictly Clean and Decent has performed in Ireland eight times. They have appeared five times on the Cobh International Folk Music and Dance Festival, the Bluegrass and Olde Tyme Music Festival in Cork, and twice at the Irish Bluegrass Music Association’s festival in Athy as well as at venues throughout the country.  However, the trio performs primarily in North Carolina in places as varied as the Biltmore House, Duke Gardens, the NC Museum of Natural History, the NC Arboretum in Asheville, at the Sanford Pottery Festival, and for Winterfest in Blowing Rock. They are regular presenters on the Mountainhome Music Concert series in Boone.  Additionally, they have opened for noted performers such as Doc Watson, Ralph Stanley, J.D. Crowe, Vassar Clements, Tim O’Brien, Tony Rice, Lee Greenwood, John Cowan, Ricky Skaggs, and Jerry Clower.

Strictly Clean and Decent received an Emerging Artist Grant from the Caldwell Arts Council to produce a recording entitled Boomer Breakdown.  Of this project, Bluegrass Unlimited says the group is “precise and well-rehearsed, with a full sound for a trio.”  The trio’s third CD, Crazy Quilt, was released in March of 2003.

Strictly Clean and Decent released their fourth CD, How High the Moon, in 2007.

Since 1998, Strictly Clean and Decent has become active in recording and presenting the great number of traditional musicians in Caldwell County with a long-range goal of recording one hundred musicians in ten years.  To date, with the help of Grassroots Arts Project grants, 128 musicians have been recorded, with backing by the trio, on ten CDs: It Must Be Something in the Water (2001), I Do Re Mi (2002), and Caldwell Roots and Branches (2003), Playin’ Hooky (2004), and Good Ole Boys Like Me (2005), The Lights of Home (2006), Rear View Mirror (2007), A Story to Tell (2008), Winter Star (2009), Fresh Tracks (2010).

Kay, Ron, and Patrick performed Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity with Foothills Performing Arts in December 2014.

Kay, Patrick, and Tom Kuhn toured Germany in July 2015 in conjunction with the Western Piedmont Sister Cities cultural exchange. They performed eighteen concerts in six different Germany cities including Berlin, Munich, Altenburg, Achern, Wernigerode, and Stegen.

Kay and Patrick toured Ireland in October 2015 performing concerts in the towns of Dingle, Cobh, and Cork City. This was Strictly Clean and Decent’s eleventh tour of Ireland.

Strictly Clean and Decent has performed for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass Wide Open Street Festival in 2016,2017, and 2018 in conjunction with PineCone-Piedmont Council of Traditional Music.

Strictly Clean and Decent is included in the Touring Artist Directory and The Blue Ridge Music Trails produced by the North Carolina Arts Council.Strictly Clean and Decent may be reached by e-mail at or at (828) 729-0853.

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