Hooked on Bluegrass

Paul Knight

Originally from Boston, I moved to California and lived here until about 1985. I then moved back to Boston for a few years. I had met a dear friend while in California by the name of Jonathan Schiele. When I first met him he was a saxophone player. While I was back in Boston, I would come to California to visit, and kept hooking up with Jonathan, who was starting to get into bluegrass banjo playing.

I moved back to California around 1992. By this time Jonathan was a great banjo player, well into bluegrass, and I started getting together with him and other musicians he knew in Berkeley. Around the same time, my ex-wife managed to get a hold of an upright bass. She called me up knowing I was getting into bluegrass. I had been an electric bass player since I was fourteen, playing a variety of music including jazz, fusion, rock, and blues. This was my first upright bass, it was a small little thing, and around that time I came to Grass Valley for the first time. I brought that bass to Grass Valley and started jamming. I had little to go on, but just fell in love with the music and was impressed how the good players had a variety of styles and had a real connection to the roots of the music. I discovered that it was the rootsy stuff I liked the most. I was also attracted to the music because you could play anywhere. Unlike an electric bass, the upright is very mobile, and you didn’t need to be plugged in to play. Slowly but surely over the next three years I sold all of my electric basses…..

I had done a little bit of sound work, and so I went to the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley and signed up to be one of their sound guys. That’s where I discovered the huge world of bluegrass musicians and acoustical talent in the bay area. The area was just rich with some great acoustical musicians. I met Laurie Lewis and Tim Rozum there, did sound for them at the Freight, and then they invited me to go on the road with them as a sound engineer, which I did for almost two years. It was a real eye opener to see the festival scene across the country and meet a lot of amazing musicians like Ralph Stanley and Del McCoury.

I had only been involved in bluegrass two or three years and then got to go on a Rounder Records tour with Del McCoury, JD Crowe, Laurie Lewis, and Tom Rozum as a sound monitoring engineer. I was on the JD Crowe bus… twenty nine dates in thirty days. Talk about getting exposed to the real stuff, and quickly….. I spent all those twenty nine nights on the side of the stage watching those bands play, and talked to JD Crowe on the bus for hours at a time.

Today, I still play various types of music as long as I can learn the traditional style of the music first. Then I can go where ever I want with it.

So now I make a living doing sound and playing. Overall, ninety five percent of the music I do sound for is acoustic, and a huge percent of that is bluegrass. I have played with numerous bands. I have played with Pete Rowan for about fifteen years now. Pete has gotten me out to a lot of festivals where previously I had only done sound. So it’s nice to be on the other side of the microphone some of the time! Presently I am road and sound manager for David Grisman, so all and all I keep pretty busy.

I have really appreciated my relationship with all the good people at the CBA over the years. The CBA gave me my first sound job, for the Nashville Bluegrass Band in Sacramento. I am very grateful to Bob Thomas for providing that opportunity for me.

(posted 2/6/2010)

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