Hooked on Bluegrass

Pete Hicks

I grew up listening to country and bluegrass every afternoon on the radio on the Armed Forces Network (AFN) after school overseas in Germany and England (Air Force Brat). I didn't play music in high school, but I listened to all kinds of stuff.

I started playing guitar in college (NYU) in 1971. My gang of musical friends were all far ahead of me, and they were into bluegrass, jazz, and hot picking. None of them sang very much, and I had sung a bit in the theater. Thus I became the singer and mandolin player when we got together.

We decided to go to The Union Grove Festival in 1972 as a group, so we could play in the band contest and get in for free. We picked up our buddy, Hunter Owens, in Virginia to sing ang play guitar, and a fiddler joined us at the festival. He was a jazz kid, about 17, just getting into bluegrass, (Matt Glaser). We played on stage, and came in 17th, I think. We had grabbed a band name out of the air when we signed up, The Tennessee Teardrops. The Emcee announced us as, "The Tennessee Teardrops, from New York City." When the crowd heard that, they immediately started having a great time heckling us. By the end of our little set, they were with us and gave us a great ovation. We spent the rest of the festival wandering around and jamming with all kinds of pickers. I even got to spend some time chopping along with Sam Bush, Vassar Clements, and Byron Berline. I found it amazing and wonderful that the "famous" guys were so welcoming, friendly and helpful.

That was it. I was permanently hooked. I have strayed from bluegrass occasionally over the years, but I always return.

(posted 1/20/2010)

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