Hooked on Bluegrass

Bill Evans

I'm a native of Norfolk, Virginia. Virginia is the right state for bluegrass music but I actually grew up in the wrong region as the coast's cities are pretty much like many other major urban/surburban areas. After forced piano lessons as a small child from Mrs. Hoffenberger, a large, stern woman who lived across the street whose husband actually fought for the Germany army in World War II (I never figured out how they ended up as neighbors), I finally convinced my grandmother to buy me a guitar.

I actually wanted an electric guitar but that was deemed unacceptable, so I settled for an acoustic Stella for my fifth grade Christmas. I learned to play guitar by listening to records that I had bought from money earned doing yard work around the neighborhood - a lot of Beatles, but some Peter, Paul and Mary also and some Otis Redding. I taught myself finger picking, like I heard on the records. But when I heard Roy Clark, of all folks, playing "Cripple Creek" on Hee Haw on Saturday night television, I could hear the melodies that were alluding me on the guitar. I said to myself that "I could play that."

There was a beautiful new Aria banjo in the window at the local music store and it took a lot of convincing but that was my eighth grade Christmas. The Pete Seeger and Earl Scruggs instructional books came soon afterward, then group lessons and then I found the bluegrass section in the back of the local record store. My first two purchases were Ralph Stanley's "Plays Requests" and Country Cooking's "Barrel of Fun."

Little did I know that I was being exposed to both ends of the stylistic spectrum at once. I was hooked to all of it from that point on.

(posted 2/3/2008)

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