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«Kukuruza» finally received their American visas in 1991, in spite of the August putsch. Dan Linder and his partner Steve Van Ness were then able to implement their plans for the group. «Kukuruza» performed twenty concerts during the month-long tour in New England . During this time, the first CD, called “Kukuruza – A Russian Country Bluegrass Band” , was recorded on Green Pastures Records. Audiences showed great interest in the group, and the first fans of Russian bluegrass were made – with famous musicians among them.

Bratelboro, VT Bill Kith, Irina Surina, Tony Trishka Dan Lindner

The peak of the «Kukuruza» tour was the performance in the Grand Ole Opry – the largest and most prestigious concert hall for country musicians. Backstage, «Kukuruza» met Victor Logvinov, a Russian-American who became good friends with and road manager of the band for all its future tours to the USA .

Grand Ole Opry, Dan Lindner, Bill Monroe Opryland, Nashville, TN Victor Logvinov

After the USA tour, Grigoriy Auerbah left the band. Andrey Zachesov, who had already worked as a sound producer, took over as the main producer of «Kukuruza».

1992, «Kukuruza» band Andrey Zachesov Country Picnic-92 (Poland)

For its second tour to the USA , «Kukuruza» traveled with its full staff. Anatoly Belchikov, the drummer, had not taken part in the first tour because conservative American fans were against hearing drums in a bluegrass band. However, on the second tour, «Kukuruza» broke the tradition and became the first band to appear at a big bluegrass festival with drums. This did not scare the «Kukuruza» fans – in fact, their song “Porushka-Poranya” soon became a hit.

Anatoly Belchikov and Edgar Mayer Mike Oldrige and Andrey Shepelev Michael Venikov and Toni Rice

The songs for the next album – “Where the Sunshine Is” – were recorded at the same studio and released in Russia by SoLyd Records. Their success grew: they held joint concerts with famous bands, made the acquaintance of famous musicians, participated in the Fan Fest International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), and were invited, together with John McEuen, as distinguished guests at the IBMA Awards Show. To top off the new success, the concert in the Grand Old Opry became a tradition for the group. «Kukuruza» gained the recognition of professional musicians and critics in the motherland of country music and took a well-deserved place among the best American bands.

Jerry Duglas and «Kukuruza» (IBMA, Ovensborro-92) Station Inn, Nashville, TN
John McEuen and «Kukuruza» (IBMA, Award Show-92)

In 1993, after surviving a difficult winter and incorporating banjo player Dmitri Vakhrameev (who, a year later created his own group, “Apple Jack”) into the band, «Kukuruza» again flew to the US to record a new album and to participate in the prestigious “Merle Watson Memorial Festival”. The annual festival usually gathers the best musicians and bands, as well as more than 10,000 fans from all over America. The festival is a tribute to Merle Watson, the son of the famous singer and guitarist Doc Watson.

Doc Watson and «Kukuruza» Dmitri Vakhrameev Jam with Doc Watson

For three days, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. , music can be heard from several stages – both open air and in concert halls.

Peter Rowan and Sam Bush Emmylou Harris

All folk and bluegrass festivals have a wonderful atmosphere of music, kindness, and joy. «Kukuruza» became the object of everyone’s affection, and Irina Surina was a bright star of the festivals.

Venikov & Fans Irina Surina Bluegrass Fans

The film group ATV accompanied «Kukuruza», and the resulting film received the same title as their new CD: “Crossing Borders”. This album was a success and was even mentioned by the press as one of the four best folk albums recorded in 1993 in America . The newly recorded song “Porushka-Poranya” was widely discussed and played during bluegrass and folk radio broadcastings for several months.

The fall tour of 1993 was a typical one, with the exception of the mixed emotions and sleepless nights spent staring at the TV during the October putsch in Moscow . It was indeed a terrible time.

Sergey Mosolov Aleksey Aboltynsh, Barry Poss (Sugar Hill owner) George Palmov

After coming back (which was a surprise each time for the US Embassy in Moscow ), «Kukuruza» was invited to take part in the live show, “Sunday Together with Dmitri Dibrov.” The successful show marked the start of one more television program with live music.

Anatoly Belchikov, Estonya

In 1994, «Kukuruza» toured in the US twice. The longer of the two tours, which lasted three months, also became the last one, as disagreements began to tear apart the band. Andrey Shepelev left «Kukuruza» and formed his own band, “Grassmaster.” Anatoly Belchikov also left in the summer of 1995.

Tir Na Nog club, NJ George Palmov and Bill Monroe

Having lost the colorful banjo and dobro players, and having acquired Dmitri Krichevskij and his drums, «Kukuruza» slowly drifted towards playing more “electrical” music. After spending so much time touring in the US , the band had missed out on a lot in Russia. Many clubs with live music had opened in Moscow during that time. «Kukuruza» was in great demand and added more and more music with elements of blues and country-rock to its repertoire.

Visagino Country-94 (Lithuania) G.Palmov and I.Surina Moscow 1995

In 1996, «Kukuruza» celebrated its 10-th anniversary in the great concert hall “ Russia ” in Moscow . The concert was entitled “In a Circle of Friends.” Dmitri Dibrov hosted the event.

Concert hall «Russia» D.Dibrov and cowboys Danila & George

Many famous musicians and bands from Russia and other countries joined the show as special guests. «Kukuruza» presented their new CD, “Endless Story”, and then followed up with a jam session in Golden Palace.

Gosha Kucenko Larisa Grigorieva and Irina Surina Golden Palace

The CD “Hey, Freezing Frost…!” appeared in 1997. The album included all the Russian folk songs that «Kukuruza» had sung for many years – and it marked the end of this period of the band’s life.

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