Heard on the Hill

Roe Gets the Band Back Together in D.C.

Tennessee Republican plays guitar for a fundraising event and reunion of his bluegrass band

Rep. Phil Roe’s band that he formed in medical school more than 40 years ago got back together Monday.

The Tennessee Republican and three of his friends — Jim Arthur, Steve Barnes and Tom Eades — formed the bluegrass band The Pony Express when Roe was in medical school at the University of Tennessee in the 1970s.

The band played a concert to a full crowd at D.C’s Hill Country Barbecue as a fundraising event for Roe’s re-election effort. Roe, 72, played the guitar and sang. 

The Pony Express got back together last year for the first time for a fundraising event. On Monday, they were joined by Lucas White, a former intern for Roe who toured with the Zac Brown Band, and his friend Ben Hill.

Also in the crowd were several Republican members of Congress, who sat in the front to take photographs on their phones and cheer for their colleague.

Roe asked that they all raise their hands. Spotted were Republican Reps. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, Ralph Abraham of Louisiana, Jodey C. Arrington of Texas, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, Diane Black of Tennessee, Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Greg Walden of Oregon.

Walden yelled out to Roe, asking where his favorite guitar is from. Roe answered Oregon, Walden’s home state.

In between songs, Roe gave a shoutout to his new wife, Clarinda Jeanes, whom he married in May.

[Rep. Roe Marries Rep. Kelly’s Sister-in-Law]

He also touted his role as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

“All of us old guys are all veterans, and we appreciate what the military has done for us and this country,” he said

He also mentioned his career as an obstetrician-gynecologist before coming to Congress, saying, “I delivered most of my voters in Northeast Tennessee.”

He also gave a shoutout to the town in his district from which, he said, country music sprang.

“Everyone thinks country music started in Nashville. It did not,” he said from the stage. “It started in Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia.”

Roe said The Pony Express was officially formed while he and his friends were working in a hospital emergency room, and they would play guitar when “things would get quiet.”

The band signed a three-record deal with Memphis-based Rebel Records in 1972, but after one album Ro was drafted into the Army Medical Corps, in which he served from 1973 to 1974. The band then split up to pursue individual careers.

He told HOH in 2012 that he still has three good guitars at home, and one in his office in D.C. that he occasionally strums after votes.

[Phil Roe Says He’s Now Cancer-Free]

Roe has had an eventful year leading up to his band’s reunion.

Besides getting married, he announced in July that he was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer and underwent treatment at home in East Tennessee over August recess.

He announced August 11 that he was cancer-free after a follow-up appointment. 

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.