Hooked on Bluegrass

John Erwin

I was a sophomore living in a dorm at San Jose State in 1969. I was running out money messing around and decided to focus on something. I always enjoyed folk music, as my Dad would serenade Riverside in Southern California with Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers and other groups on his hi-fi. So, since I was introverted, I decided to learn the banjo. The banjo seemed to let my stubbornness and argumentativeness come out in a safe way.

A friend who had worked in a music store said that Gretsch made good beginner's banjo. I started with the Pete Seeger book and gravitated to bluegrass. I would obsess for hours trying to figure out the timing of the song's in Scruggs' book. I also bought a Bacon Professional in pieces from Campbell Coe, made the fret board and began to appreciate well-made instruments and what it took to make them.

In 1973, while camping alone in the Marble Mountains, the timing thing really clicked in and I began to really hear the music. I became hooked on the sound and began looking for people to play with. The banjo and bluegrass helped me get over a lot of insecurities and find a sense of self-worth.

(posted 2/3/2008)

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