Hooked on Bluegrass

Larry Kuhn

While growing up in the 40’s and 50’s in Pasadena, California, I can remember my father was a very good and clever whistler. He could also yodel, and as a young boy, I heard him yodel many times. Later on, I came to realize that he yodeled like Jimmie Rodgers and other “singing cowboys” of the early years, and I think it planted a seed deep inside of me. As I matured into a young man, I came to enjoy all types of music, classical and contemporary, but my buddies and I listened mostly to the country music of the 50’s and 60’s. Then I joined the U.S. Navy, serving with a lot of really nice guys from the southern states. In the evening time, even on the open deck out at sea, out would come a guitar or two and those guys would sing many of “their” songs. Some I knew, some I had never heard. My world was expanding.

Skipping ahead, into the late sixties and seventies, I remember waking up on many Saturday mornings to a bluegrass music show on the radio. I remember hearing The Golden State Boys (I think Del McCoury was one of them), and I also distinctly remember the tune “Bringin’ In The Georgia Mail”. It was about this time I realized that I wanted to learn more about this music they called “bluegrass”. If and when I ever picked up a guitar, that would be the kind of music I would learn to play. It might have been those masterful G runs that Del does so perfectly.

In the mid eighties, I happened to hook up with Thom Bentley of Georgetown, CA, an extraordinary bluegrass guitar player. He taught me the intricacies of flat picking and to play fiddle tunes and other bluegrass songs. One of the nicest things he did for me as a teacher was to give me cassette tapes (this was before CDs were available) of all the songs performed by “The Bluegrass Album Band”. He told me that the music on those tapes was what bluegrass music should sound like, and that was the way I should strive to sing and play it. I’ll never forget that, and if I was a teacher, that is what I would do for my students.

As I progressed on the guitar, I met more and more people just like me who loved the music. I learned to play the mandolin and later the upright bass. I learned the lore of the music and stories about the entertainers. Slowly, I met members of the CBA’s leadership team. As time went on, I soon found myself immersed in the activities of the CBA, first as a volunteer and later serving as a member of the Board of Directors for five years. I managed many projects and duties. By now, I was truly “hooked on bluegrass.”

It has been an extraordinary personal journey for me. It has opened up doors I never could have imagined earlier in my life. I have met and enjoyed the company of the most wonderful and talented people all across this country – bluegrass music professionals, amateurs, and fans alike. I have learned to play the songs, sing some of them, and have had so much fun and shared so many laughs with so many great friends who share the passion. Life has been good, and bluegrass music has been a big part of life for me.

(posted 12/28/2009)

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