Hooked on Bluegrass

Randy Allen

A child of the 50’s I remember hearing country music from people like Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and others. Then through my young adult life I was a fan of Rock, Folk and Blues. It is funny listening to some of those old tunes now (The Who & Neil Young) and hearing banjos and mandolins in those recordings.

Probably like many folks my age I have to thank the folks from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for creating the “Circle Album”. I think that album had as much to do with re-kindling an interest in the music as anything else.

Then in the late 70’s early 80’s I ran into a fellow by the name of Ken Crow who ran a Bluegrass show at KVMR (Nevada City, CA) on Saturday mornings. He was so enthusiastic about bluegrass music and I became a regular listener of his show. He played a lot of great bluegrass music, (as Eric Rice has done for the past 20 or so years for that same Saturday morning show.)

There have been many great events that have shaped my love for the music. One that is etched in my memory is my friend Chuck Erikson had a party at his home. He had invited some players over and had a fairly high level jam going on in the living room. (One of the players was Leroy McNees) I never heard music sound like that in my life! I will never forget that sound! I had a guitar with me but I couldn’t play up to speed the tunes they were playing so I left it in the case. I picked up the mandolin and over the years I have been blessed to be able to be involved in a couple of bluegrass bands. I am currently with the band “On The Loose”.

What I find unique about the music is how accessible it is to even an entry level player, and how many players there are among festival attendees. You don’t see much of this in any other music scene. Bluegrass at its core seems simple but there are layers and layers of detail that can be added as ones’ playing skills develop.

As an instrument maker it always seemed like a natural place to show instruments to potential clients. I have had many booths at CBA festivals and on a few occasions I have installed Allen tailpieces until I was seeing double!! These days I have been attending festivals just for the fun of it and I am enjoying meeting new people and spending more time jamming.

I have met and continue to meet people at bluegrass events that have become very close friends. Looking back I never dreamt I would be at a place in my life where I would be able to play with some of the people I get to play with these days. I am grateful to organizations as the CBA and IBMA for keeping the music alive.

(posted 2/3/2008)

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