Hooked on Bluegrass

Kenny Blacklock

I first became aware of bluegrass as a child when I went with my music loving family to watch my grandfather, musical saw player, Charlie Blacklock, sit in with various northern California bluegrass bands.

When I was about twelve years old, I took up the violin and joined the school orchestra at Herbert Slater Middle School in Santa Rosa, California. Many of the violin players in the orchestra at that time developed an interest in learning fiddle tunes. We were especially fascinated with bluegrass and old-time style tunes. I remember experimenting a lot with slides and double stops and even coming up with simple twin fiddle parts.

My grandfather learned of my interest in fiddling and started to take me to bluegrass festivals and fiddle festivals at every opportunity. One of the first bands I remember really liking was the “Good Ol’ Persons” with Laurie Lewis and Paul Shelasky on fiddle. I saw them play live many times and even purchased their first record. I spent many practice sessions at home trying to play along with that wonderful recording. More than anything, I wanted to learn to play fiddle in the rhythmically driving somewhat jazzy style that both of these great fiddlers had. I also attended the first ever Cloverdale Fiddle Festival along with my grandfather and have continued to attend just about every year since.

My first opportunity to play in a bluegrass band myself was with Steve Goodbar (www.stevegoodbar.com), a fine singer, songwriter and guitarist. I met Steve in the early 1980’s and played in a number of Sonoma County bands with him throughout that decade. Strictly speaking none of these bands were “bluegrass bands,” since they all played a variety of American music styles including old-time, bluegrass and other folk styles, a habit I continue to this day with the band, “Bluegrass Contraption.”

(posted 3/13/2008)

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