Hooked on Bluegrass

John Karsemeyer

I had been a long time folk music fan, but had never heard a bluegrass band until I returned from a tour of Europe that was funded by my "uncle" ("Uncle Sam" that is, U.S. Army). After returning to the USA I frequented a small Pizza Parlor, that regularly had two or three rotating bluegrass bands. They were very good bands, caught my attention immediately, hooked me a little, and started me on the road to learning the 5 string banjo, taking lessons from one of the band members.

I already played guitar, so that helped regarding basic music theory and chord changes that I could generalize to the banjo. I progressed, slowly I would say, playing with a few other folks for a few years. But the Big Hook was when I attended the 2nd annual CBA Fathers Day Festival. There were so many bands to be heard on stage (but not that many compared to recent CBA Festivals), and then there was the jamming.

After this festival there was no turning back. Attending more and more CBA festivals, I got more and more hooked, learned the mandolin and fiddle, and got into a bluegrass band that actually played for other people once in a while, and evolved to playing frequently for parties, restaurants, and the Sonoma County Fair for 7 years. That band, the Sonoma Mountain Band, is still playing regularly at various venues.

After retiring from my full time job this year, I turned my attention to teaching the bluegrass instruments more, and currently have a number of students (thanks to the CBA website). Interestingly enough, I think I continue to get a little more hooked on bluegrass each time I attend another bluegrass festival!

(posted 9/24/2006)

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