Hooked on Bluegrass

Tom Bekeny

I had to traverse a lot of musical distance musically to land where I am now. I lived in Ohio the first ten years of my life before moving to CA and remember running to the radio dial to change the station if anything "country" came on. But, eventually, I got caught up in the middle to end of the the whole urban folk revival thing. I had a friend who played banjo in junior high (Mark McCornack of Lone Prairie) and I guess that was my first up close introduction to anything bluegrass related.I had another friend, Mike Beck, who was into the folk revival stuff and under the influence of the times, my friends, and my own growing interest in music I started listening to people like Bob Dylan, Woody Gutthrie and Joan Baez.

I took up guitar at 14 and I began playing and singing stuff from the folk world and also more pop/rock oriented stuff. My uncle (the same one who gave my my first guitar) had a mandolin hanging on the wall more as decoration than anything else. I got interested in playing around with that, and, later, my friend Mark loaned me two albums to listen to as an introduction to the music---High Country's second lp and Bill Monroe's Greatest Hits. By the age of 18 I was taking up mandolin spending hours a day practicing. We started driving up to Santa Cruz from Monterey in the early 70's to hear the Bear Creek Boys on regular basis and, by then, I was well on my way to getting hooked on the music.

When I went off to college to Sonoma State in 1972, I heard a guy playing banjo in one of the dorm rooms. That turned out to be Mark Hogan. We became good friends. He was a great music mentor who turned me on to all these great bootlegged tapes of live bluegrass shows---Monroe, the Stanleys, Flatt and Scruggs. Mark and I spent many hours in the dorm laundromat late at night high on multiple cups of coffee playing music . I went to live in Nashville for 6 months in 1974 and got further exposed to the music. At first, like a lot of city people, it was the instrumental work that got me excited, but it wasn't too long before the singing attracted me as much of more than the playing.

(posted 3/13/2008)

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