Hooked on Bluegrass

Todd Phillips



I started playing when I was eleven years old. The electric bass was the size of an upright acoustic bass to me at that age (I must have 4 foot something). So, I played all the typical radio music of the 60s - Beatles, Beach Boys, then late 60s rock - Hendrix, Cream, then started to go folkier - James Taylor, Crosby-Stills-Nash. I played music after school everyday in my little-kid band, instead of playing baseball or getting in trouble. Then in 1971, the year I graduated high school, I picked up a little radio station in Los Gatos CA, KTAO (predecessor to KPIG and KFAT). Al Knoth and Bill Iberti were regularly playing Bluegrass. I still had only played electric bass, but that summer I borrowed an acoustic bass and found myself in a bluegrass band with Bill Iberti, and Jeri and Greg Canote, playing up to 4 times a week at the Straw Hat Pizza in San Jose for the next 3 or 4 years.

A few years later, when I was about 22 years old, I went to a mandolin class that David Grisman set up in Sausalito CA. As a Bluegrass bassist my interest naturally went to the mandolin! I had first heard David on a Red Allen record - it wasn't until later I found out he was a "Hippie!". Well, we started to regularly hang out and work on his original tunes while I learned the mandolin. From there I've met and worked with many great Bluegrass musicians, mostly through the connection with Tony Rice. It still kinda blows my mind that a California kid like me has been able to stay in California and gotten to work with guys like JD Crowe, or Bobby Hicks.....real 1st generation founders of the music, and also guys like Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush....real next generation guys. I've got Grisman and Rice to thank for bringing me into that world.

(posted 3/23/2008)


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