Hooked on Bluegrass

Jens Koch

I was twelve years old and I remember my first encounter with Bluegrass music like if it was yesterday. My uncle Bertel who played tenor banjo (Dixieland jazz style) played for me one day and I just freaked out in excitement when I heard that banjo and I told him "I HAVE TO start playing the banjo, just like you!!"

At that time, I didn't know about bluegrass music, but thanks to my dear uncle, that day a whole new world was opened to me.

"Jens, if you like this, you just HAVE TO hear my LPs with a totally different banjo style...it's called bluegrass and if I were you, I'd listen to it and learn this style instead. You see, when I started playing in the 60s, 5-string banjos didn't exist in Sweden, only tenor banjos. Please have a listen to this old record..." said my uncle and let the needle touch the LP and something happened inside me when the music started. For the first time in my life I heard "Dear Old Dixie" by Flatt & Scruggs and it took my breath away and turned my life upside down. I got obsessed and I was in love with this music, only twelve years old.

My uncle let me borrow his entire LP collection and I remember coming home from school listening to all these old records. I dug through a bunch of Flatt & Scruggs records which I all loved, Carl Jackson's "Banjo Player" was also a favorite, Doc Watson's "Strictly Instrumental" with F&S, Bill Monroe, The Dillards... the list goes on... I found something that just made me excited and this was it.

For Christmas that year, my uncle gave me a cheap old German Framus 5-string banjo, and I got started on it and just loved it. It took me a while to figure out that a flatpick wouldn't do the job (how on earth could they play that fast?) I didn't know about fingerpicks and the three-finger style until later but when that day came, I just took off and wanted to learn it all. This was back in the 90s when all my friends just listened to pop, rock and techno. How cool was Bluegrass? I didn't care what they thought, for me it was and still is, the coolest and the best music on this planet.

That is how it all started for me and I can't say how thankful I am for where bluegrass music has taken me. It's taken me places all over the world and it's made me meet great people and it's given me friends for life. All thanks to that day when I was twelve and jumped all around listening to Dear Old Dixie by Earl Scruggs.

(posted 2/8/2010)

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