Hooked on Bluegrass

Greg Cahill

I was in a folk trio while attending college in Winona, MN in the mid-1960s. Folk music was big at that time, especially in my home town area outside of Chicago, and I taught myself how to play "folk" guitar.

I actually played the accordion for about 8 years prior to heading to college so I did have some knowledge of how to make music, but nothing grabbed me like the sounds of some of the "pop" folk groups of the time - the Kingston Trio; Peter, Paul and Mary, etc. I loved the banjo style of Dave Guard of the Kingston Trio and I bought the red Pete Seeger "How To Play The Five String Banjo" book and purchased a Vega long-neck banjo. I played both guitar and banjo in the folk trio - we had a great time performing in local coffee houses along the Mississippi River in MN and WI.

Then one Saturday afternoon the guitar player in our trio knocked on my dorm room door, walked in and without a word put an LP on my stereo player. He then said "Oh, God, you have to hear this." The recording was the Foggy Mountain Banjo album by Lester & Earl. I played it over and over and over until my roommate and neighbors came to take either the record or me away - or both. I turned the music off, realizing that I was "a changed man."

My Mom bought the recording for me for Christmas and that was the beginning of the end of my sanity. From that day on, I could never find enough time to play the banjo - I hated to put it down for any reason, including to eat and sleep - a problem that continues to plague me some 30 years later...

(posted 12/31/2005)

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