Hooked on Bluegrass

John Gwinner

I'm not sure exactly when I got hooked on bluegrass, but I can make a pretty good guess. There was a series of events that began in my childhood. I started paying attention to the radio when I was about 10 years old; both rock and roll and country stations. The first music that really grabbed me was rockabilly - Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, etc.

Occasionally I would hear Flatt and Scruggs on a local country station, KTRB. I liked it but didn't realize there were also other people playing that kind of country music. Sometimes in church, I would hear a Gospel string band. I always enjoyed that. Fast forward to college years: a couple things happened. I had a roommate from Bakersfield who played guitar, banjo, mandolin, and fiddle. He played bluegrass, country, and rock & roll. There always seemed to be an extra guitar around so he showed me some basic chords, some back-up, and some Chuck Berry licks. About that same time, I heard Doc Watson on the radio playing Freight Train Boogie. This was in 1968 on KSAN, which at the time was a progressive rock station, but they occasionally played some country and bluegrass. I had no idea an acoustic guitar could be played like that. As soon as I could, I bought my first bluegrass type albums; Elementary Doc Watson, and the Dillards album, Wheatstraw Suite.

I guess I didn't realize it then, because I still did (and do) like country and old rock and roll, but I was hooked on bluegrass. Many things have happened since then that have made bluegrass and old-time music a very rewarding and central part of my life. And it's not just the music, it's all the wonderful people who are part of bluegrass music and all the friends I have made in bluegrass. It's hard to imagine not being a part of all this.

(posted 12/4/2005)

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