Hooked on Bluegrass

Snap Jackson

Living with my Mom I grew up listening mostly to soul music. Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang, Stevie Wonder, The Stylistics, Switch, and bands of that nature, were household names. I had been exposed to classic rock & pop through my father. He listened to more mellow music along the lines of The Eagles, Simon & Garfunkle, The Beatles, John Denver and America.

None of the above aforementioned could have prepared me for the unique, beautiful and haunting sounds of old time and bluegrass music. I was exposed to bluegrass music for the first time in my mid-teens by my best friend’s family, who were “deadheads.” They put on an album that they simply described as “one of Jerry’s side projects”. The album was by the bluegrass super group, Old & In the Way, featuring Jerry Garcia, Peter Rowan, David Grisman, John Kahn, and Vassar Clements. The band’s thought-provoking lyrics, beautiful melodies, and lush harmonies melting into intricate layers of instrumentation was like nothing I had ever heard before.

Unfortunately, at the time, I knew no one who listened to bluegrass music, but that wonderful sound stayed buried in the back of my mind until years later, when this same friend played the album, Mark Twang by John Hartford. This is the moment I got ‘hooked on bluegrass.’ The wonderful, timeless, brilliant tone of Hartford's 5 string banjo called out to me like nothing I had ever heard before, or since. I knew, at that moment, that I would learn to play this amazing instrument, or die trying! I saved some money up, bought myself a cheap little 5 string banjo, and the rest is history.

A few years later I am still unlocking the many mysteries of the banjo and having the time of my life doing so. I hold the music, experiences, and the people that bluegrass music has afforded me very close to my heart.

(posted 12/18/2009)

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