Hooked on Bluegrass

Eric Thompson

I got turned on to bluegrass as I entered my teens, about 45 years ago. We had a small clique of folk music enthusiasts at my high school in Palo Alto, including my friend Bill Rogers, whose "labor liberal" parents' record collection included Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and Pete Seeger. Pete's banjo instruction book suggested checking out Earl Scruggs, which we did with a passion. The music and documentary work of New Lost City Ramblers Mike Seeger and John Cohen opened my ears to a myriad of fabulous old-time and bluegrass musicians. Those were heady times indeed.

I found my Herringbone D-28 in a San Jose music store in 1961 (I had to scrape together the $89 to buy it!). My friend and mentor Brooks Otis introduced me to record collectors Bob Pinson and Chris Strachwitz, from whom I got invaluable tapes of old 78's. I met Clarence and Roland White through Brooks as well.

I came to UC Berkeley in 1962, at a time when vintage instrument consciousness was in its nascency at Jon and Deirdre Lundberg's shop on Dwight Way. I returned to Palo Alto in 1963 and formed the Black Mountain Boys with Jerry Garcia and David Nelson. In 1964 I ventured to NYC, where I was a New York Rambler (along with David Grisman and Winnie Winston); we won the big cup at the Union Grove, N. C. Fiddler's Convention that year.

In the ensuing forty years, I have mostly lived here in my native California, passionately involved with rootsy folk music: Bluegrass, Old-time, Cajun, Irish, Blues, Jug Band, with a variety of quaintly named bands, including Dr. Humbead's New Tranquility String Band, the Graineog Ceili Band, the Backwoods Band, Blue Flame Stringband, California Cajun Orchestra, Todalo Shakers, and, most recently, Bluegrass Intentions.

(posted 1/22/2006)

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