Hooked on Bluegrass

Dave Guarente

When I started High School in 1971, we went out to see many acoustic acts who came through Syracuse, New York. The War Memorial was a big spot, as well as many other smaller venues near the Syracuse University area. The Orange, Jabberwocky, Hungry Charlie’s, all kinds of places. Seeing great shows like Ry Cooder, Dave Van Ronk, Martin Mull, Bob Dylan, Mississippi John Hurt , Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, just a host of great guitar stuff. Of course, we were also all huge Beatles fans. All the finger picking stuff, blues and folk left over from the great folk “scare “ of the early 1960’s.

I was on my way to one of these shows, sitting in the back of a 60’s Ford Galaxy 500 “winter rat” when these golden, dripping tones of sunshine came pouring out of radio station WCNY, (which played some of the blues and finger style guitar we loved), and the music hit me like a lightning bolt, like it had been meant for me and me only: The fabulous banjo of Earl Scruggs. I had never heard “Bluegrass” before this. The fast improvisational trade off’s of the instruments, the beauty of the acoustic sound, the refreshing honesty of it all ... this was it! A voice was delivered to me and I knew its language. I bought a simple, plastic Harmony banjo from a friend of mine that I was visiting at Harper College, for $25.00, and never looked back.

I sought out some local Bluegrass and was totally pleased to see the Down City Ramblers, County Cooking, Country Granola, Buffalo Chips, all kinds of bands. Those banjoists were really great, as well as everyone else of course, but seeing Tony Trischka, Pete Wernick, John Lanford and Dave Dolbear, right in my back yard was just so great ... from that point on, I’ve never turned away from the banjo and I am so very grateful for all the wonderful experiences and friends I have made over the years, just playing my Banjo, pure and honest.

(posted 9/23/2006)

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