Hooked on Bluegrass
When I was in sixth grade and Leigh was in fifth, we got home from school one winter day to find our dad waiting for us in the kitchen of our farmhouse. He greeted us with, "Boys, there's a man giving lessons at Dick's Country Store (our local guitar shop). One of you will learn to play the banjo and the other the guitar."
I could tell he wanted some musicians in the family and thought it was time. Dad had tried to learn the banjo at one point and I had tried to teach myself the guitar at age eight (with no success). Those were the two instruments laying around the house, so I spoke up, thinking about my guitar failure, and said, "I'll play the banjo."
We started taking lessons from a recent Syracuse University grad named Eric O'Hara. Luckily for us, Eric had a lot of patience and fire for the music. I will never forget something he said. "You can learn as long as you live. I hope I learn something new on my last day on Earth." He also gave us a copy of "Flatt and Scruggs at Carnegie Hall," the album that hooked us on bluegrass for good. Earl's fiery banjo and Lester's smooth singing and emcee work, along with the intense crowd response, opened my mind to possibilities I would not find on the family farm.
Eric O'Hara planted the seed during that year or so of lessons, but our parents nourished us. They would listen to us for hours at a time. They were just so encouraging and genuinely tickled at our progress, placing better and better instruments in our hands as the years went by. We are forever grateful. Now we are blessed to be able to take our music all over this country. We have met so many of the heroes that we grew up admiring and emulating. It would not have happened for us without our parents' support.
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