Lighthouse String Ensemble

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About Us


Mike Benton
vocals, lead guitar, mandolin, slide guitar

Born in Troy, Alabama before the age of remote control television, before the extinction of the wooly mammoth, Mike developed a strong interest in musical things.  His earliest memories included plunking away on his mamma’s electric organ.  He got his first guitar from the Western Auto at the ripe, old age of 16 years.  It didn’t take too long before young Mike had taught himself to play that thing.  His taste in music has always been a very wide reaching plethora, resulting in his early involvement in a variety of bands from blues to rock to bluegrass to neo-psychedelia.  Mike plays many different instruments with breathtaking brilliance and almost won the Big Pickers Award at the Slew Foot Stomp back in the Spring of 1925.  He and his daughter, Amanda, formed the LSE in 1994 after Mike got saved and set on a straight path. 

Mike enjoys eating and is a regular poster on Facebook and a member of the Rifleman Fan Club. 

Amanda Smothers – vocals, guitar

Raised on beanie weenies and macaroni, Amanda cut her teeth on the records of Doc Watson and Norman and Nancy Blake.  After Mike picked her up and wiped off the records, he sent her off to college where she realized they offered no formal degree in bluegrass music so she studied art where she met a cluster of interesting artists who inspired her to paint things no one can identify and give them long names. Amanda started learning to play guitar at age 13 and has realized her musical destiny stops in Troy, Alabama.  The 800 Youtube videos she’s posted of her two children are sweeping the internet. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Counseling & Psychology so she can finally diagnose all of the disorders she thinks she may have.

Amanda enjoys eating, reading, and over analyzing things.

You can view Amanda’s artwork by clicking this here link:  Kitty Smothers Art


Ray Rossell
– vocals, banjo, bad jokes

This guy here is a real gem.  A real historic treasure.  Ray lives in Montgomery, Alabama where he owns a little appraisal business and goes to the Y every morning to swim.  Ray picked up the banjo in the summer of ’61 when he still had hair.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but eventually he took a shine to it.  He has toured with Flatt and Scruggs playing on the eight track radio, in his car.  He took the trophy for 2011 Master Banjo, but they caught him at the gates and made him bring it back.  Ray started playing with LSE around 1998 and signed his life away on a $5 contract with the band.  He’s been a member of the First Baptist Church Choir for over 30 years!  Can’t you just picture the bellbottoms he must have had? 

Ray enjoys eating and his retirement plan includes going into the full time clown business.  Seriously.  He has a bag full of clown noses in his car. 


Hugh Atkins
– upright bass, heavy lifting

This dapper fella comes to us from the thriving city of Union Springs, Alabama.  He is a newlywed (2011) and you can’t tell them nothing.  He learned to play guitar at the age of 12 after a little instruction from his Dad.  He always aspired to join up with a successful, chart-topping band.  Instead, he joined up with LSE first as a sound tech and finally, after a tear-filled plea of desperation, agreed to learn to play bass.  And play he has.  Never would he have dreamed to have seen such venues as Ozark, Alabama!  Montgomery!  Smut Eye!  Troy!  But with LSE, he has seen it all.  And if he sticks around, he’s liable to see even more. 

Hugh enjoys eating, motorcycles and billiards.  Note: he does not eat motorcycles.  I did use a comma. 

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