Hooked on Bluegrass

Bill Rogers



I'd been bitten by the Pete Seeger bug in the 9th grade, and was begging my parents for banjo. Within a year (this was 1960) I had a $32 Kay and was fighting my way through the Pete Seeger book.

I'd read of an incredible banjo player in the South, named Earl Scruggs--but I had no clue about bluegrass music. Then, one late night on KPFA radio in Berkeley, I heard the Redwood Canyon Ramblers, with Neil Rosenberg on banjo. It was an eerie, mysterious and utterly captivating sound that came from the speaker. I knew I had to hear more of this sound--and learn to play that way.

From there it was finding a copy of "Foggy Mountain Jamboree," still one of the best bluegrass albums ever, and really tuning in to the music. Mike Seeger's "Mountain Music Bluegrass Style" also helped pave the way.

My high school classmate Eric Thompson, whom I'd introduced to folk music, had leaped far ahead of me and with his contacts came up with some much-copied tapes recorded by Mike Seeger at bluegrass concerts in the mysterious (to Californians) Southeast. That was when I began to appreciate the Stanley Bros. and grasp the idea that bluegrass was really more about the singing, not the picking.

More than 40 years later, I'm a listener to bluegrass, having found my playing niche with clawhammer banjo--but I'll never forget the excitement of discovering a music that few in California at that time knew about and adopting it as a lifelong interest.

(posted 11/27/2005)


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