Hooked on Bluegrass

Cliff Compton

I got hooked on bluegrass without even knowing what it was. Daddy played the banjo and pastured churches all my life. As a kid I remember singing and hearing sung “Ill fly away”, “will the circle be unbroken”, “ walking in the kings highway” and a couple of hundred other bluegrass gospel tunes. I didn't know they were bluegrass till I heard them played by Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, and particularly the Carter Family.

I started picking guitar when I was fourteen, Because the Beatles made the girls scream, and I figured maybe if I played they'd scream for me. While I was young, my house was full of music. We all played something. Dad had been in the army band, and in several orchestras and played all the brass instruments as well as Most of the strings and some woodwinds. I followed in his trail. I played brass and piano as well as guitar. In high school I discovered Bob Dylan and folk music. And in college I heard a memorable recording by the “Nitty Gritty Dirt Band”. On that record was Maybelle Carter and Earl Scruggs. When I heard that album, somewhere inside of me a light went on, and I started searching the record bins for more of this wonderful stuff.

Like with most young people Rock and Roll called. And I started playing professionally. First with a folk Group called Compton and Cumberland. Next with a Rock & Roll band that played the pacific northwest called “Rock a-bye”. Rock & Roll and what went with it about killed me. I found God and went back to my Gospel roots. Played the coast for some years with a group called “From The Heart”. Kind of a blend of all those influences.

Since then, for a time I was a church music director and an orchestra conductor, but the guitar was always where me soul lived. And at fifty years of age, I went to a festival at Live oak, and I heard the “better late than ever band” and a number of others, and something came to life in me. Next stop was Wild Iris, a folk festival in Booneville, where I met Ernie Hunt and Bob James, and life ain't ever been the same. They put me on stage for their gospel show, and they taught me how to jam the bluegrass way, and they reintroduced me to the old sounds and the old songs, and I've been hooked on bluegrass ever since.

(posted 8/8/2007)

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