Hooked on Bluegrass

Dan Bernstein

In 1969, I lived in New York City and would go up to Killington, Vermont to go skiing every weekend during the winter. While skiing there I met a guy named Howard who I became really good friends with. As it turned out, he was into folk and other acoustic music, as well as Bluegrass. He played both guitar and autoharp.

I had picked up a mandolin for five dollars when I was in college. It wasn’t much of an instrument and was collecting dust in the closet. One day I took it out and Howard and I started playing a folkie style of music.

The day I got HOOKED ON BLUEGRASS was when Howard invited me to join him to go hear a group in Greenwich Village. He said “You have just got to hear these guys!” The concert took place in an old church, The Westminster Methodist. JD Crowe was on banjo, Doyle Lawson on guitar, the late Larry Rice (Tony’s brother) on mandolin, and Bobby Sloan on bass and fiddle. I was just blown away by the talent and the sound of this group. I then purchased a Gibson A1 mandolin and was on my way. (Although I was still playing my funky style of folk music at the time.)

In 1971 I moved to San Francisco at a time when bluegrass was taking hold in California. I found Paul’s Saloon in SF, and one of the bands I heard was High Country with Butch Waller. I was in awe and perplexed as to how Butch could produce such a sound. I spent a lot of time at Paul’s Saloon and became very friendly with the High Country folks, which further inspired me to play bluegrass. I slowly worked my way into jam sessions at Paul’s Saloon, and over time, had enough guts and skill to take a break on stage.

In 1984 I moved to Fair Oaks and played with various bands. A couple of years ago I helped put the band “Natural Drift” together and we were accepted to play at the 2008 Fathers Day Bluegrass Festival, the same festival I have attended for so many years.

I attended the very first CBA Grass Valley (now Father’s Day) festival, and today I am one of only a half dozen people that have attended every festival since it’s beginning. My involvement in bluegrass since moving to California has included playing, teaching and performing, as well as working with the CBA Board and putting on the Midsummer Bluegrass Festival for eight years.

(posted 8/28/2008)

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