Hooked on Bluegrass

Tim Stafford

I first discovered bluegrass as a freshman in high school. I grew up in East Tennessee, right in the "Bluegrass Heartland" where so many of the first- and second-generation artists are from, but I was into rock music, like so many kids of my generation.

That all changed the day I walked into Concert Choir and two guys I knew were playing mandolin and guitar and singing duets. I was fascinated. I remember asking the mandolin player what kind of instrument he was playing--he told me and pointed out the window towards a little house a hundred yards or so away: "That's Doyle Lawson's Mom's house down there. He's the best." There was a big bus pulled up near the school track. It said "Country Gentlemen" on the side. Before the class period was out, I had decided to learn how to play the banjo, so I could play with these boys.

A few weeks later, an English teacher at the school brought the bluegrass band he played guitar in to the Choir classes, and they played. That was my first experience hearing this sound, being right in the middle of it as they played. I still remember that feeling, and I keep trying to recapture it, the feeling of wanting to be part of that sound. I got a cheap banjo and learned by trial and error how to make sounds on it. Before long, I was buying bluegrass records downtown and going to festivals like the Wise County Shriner's Festival in Wise, VA, where I saw the Country Gentlemen, Seldom Scene, Boone Creek, Ralph Stanley, Larry Sparks, J.D. Crowe and many others for the first time. The addiction was cemented!

(posted 2/3/2008)

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