Hooked on Bluegrass

Leslie Abbott - 2009 version

I was 16 the first time I heard bluegrass music was at the Grand Ol’ Opry. Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys played. I didn’t know the first thing about bluegrass and was just there with a family friend who was showing me around Nashville. The music was very different to me. It was entertaining but I wasn’t hooked. I had seen Minnie Pearl on TV many times so that was pretty exciting. Then in my early 20’s I lived in Berkeley and took my degree from college and made sandwiches at an eatery near UC Berkeley. It was custom for workers to take turns playing their choice of music. A fellow sandwich maker was heavily into bluegrass. I would be chomping at the bit for his album to finish so I could put something else on, preferably reggae or Afro-funk. I wasn’t hooked. I left that job and moved to Santa Cruz and wouldn't be re-introduced to bluegrass until 25 years later.

Our two sons, Luke and Kyle, were born.1986 and '89. Soon into their lives we played folk music with them. Carl's mom came over to and joined us. Carl and I are not musicians by any means but we believe that music is good for the soul. We just enjoy ourselves. Musically our sons passed us up quickly but that didn't stop us. In 1997 we saw a flyer for the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival in Hollister. We went. I was taken by how friendly and informal people were. I was used to concerts where you would never see the band afterward. Here bands were jamming with people in the camp. The music was great. It was there “I got hooked.” Luke took his banjo and went on "Kids on Stage" with Frank Solivan. He played a rippin' "Petticoat Junction". He said he has never played that fast since. He was hooked too. Kyle . . . well, you'll have to read his article about that.

When I got home I started listening to CD’s like the Stanley Brothers, Southern Grass (The Paisleys), the Crooked Jades, Kathy Kallick, Laurie Lewis and others. I appreciate when a song is played with honesty and soul. I connect with the depth of the songs and the stories being told. They withstand the test of time.

I was raised around music. My dad played 4 string banjo and as far back as I remember there was a Dixieland jazz jam at our house every Sunday evening.. Great merriment ensued. I loved it. Dad taught me C.C. Rider, Goodnight Irene, St. James Infirmary, Corrina on the ukulele and tenor guitar. That was a special time together but as his life got busier he didn’t play music with me much. I wasn't motivated to play by myself. When I look back I would say that some of the happiest times I saw my dad were when he was playing music. After a depression he ended his life which had a big impact on me. Now sometimes when I sing I am singing for him. .

Our family feels music it’s such a gift to give one’s children and to one self. This music is "people music". Through this journey our family is dedicated to helping others play music. We encourage families to play together too. If you have ever wanted to play, but thought you couldn't, take a look at our website at http://www.toneway.com.

(posted 10/5/2009)

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