Hooked on Bluegrass

Bill Schneiderman

Good grief where does one begin? Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, I got hooked on the Weavers and The Kingston Trio. At least that’s what got an acoustic instrument into my hands. In my never ending search for folk music during the craze, I searched the radio stations and was able to pick up on AM stations from North Carolina and West Virginia that played bluegrass endlessly. So there I was in my teens and listening to fuzzy stations from Wheeling.

I lived in NY and the place to seek out music was Greenwich Village. That’s where I bumped into many of the folks playing today. The likes of David Grisman, Pete Wernich, Alan Sanauke, Dave Bromberg, Roger Siminoff, the entire Greenbriar Boys abounded in the village. So every free moment that’s where I found myself; Fare Thee Well, Amelia Earhart and Preachin’ and Prayin became pretty mainstream.

What a robust time and what a wonderful place to steep yourself in this genre. I remember that I was like a sponge and would play endlessly. Certainly it was pretty bizarre to have many of these Jewish guys singing spirituals, but heck, we were the cool ones. Saturday afternoons would find me at Columbia College with Pete Wernich and bunch of other friends playing in Ferris Booth Hall.

I actually founded my first band in 1961 which was the Summerhill Singers and we played a mix of folk and bluegrass. I guess as they say the rest is history. If you haven’t seen “A Mighty Wind,” all I can say was I lived it and still am.

(posted 1/15/2006)

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