Author: Zuniga, Henry

Starting to get it
From the moment that I first attended a bluegrass campout, I felt that my stars had finally lined up and all was correct with my universe. It was a cold, wet March, and I was oblivious to the elements. Basically, I was numb from the experience of being in the middle of this new world. Everyone was so friendly and it seemed as though they were all amazing musicians. Nancy had given me a little idea of what was to come, but the description hardly matched the reality.

For me, it was a life changing weekend. Up until that time I had considered myself to be a decent guitar player and a good singer. Then, I arrived in Plymouth. I spent that weekend going around and watching all of these wonderful people playing with a joy that I had never really seen. It was an epiphany! An experience beyond words and comprehension. An enlightenment. A dream! By the end of the first day of that first campout, I was hopelessly hooked and hoping against hope that time would stand still and that it would never end.

But, it did end. I was crushed until Nancy told me that there was a festival coming up and that there would be even more magic. Wow! Armed with that information, I began to think that I could fit in this new world. This thought would come back to kick me because I soon found out that there is so much to this seemingly ďeasyĒ music. I began to listen to CDs of

bands whose names I had never known or heard of before. Nancy began to recommend certain groups and singers that I might like. Her intuition was spot on and taking her advice, I learned a few tunes. Sheís a big fan of traditional songs and I started to learn a few. By the time we made it to the festival, I was ready to make my bluegrass debut. Iíve never really been a shy type. Over the years Iíve been in some pretty big shows and performed for big crowds and important people. In spite of this, when I sang those first few times, I found that I was terrified. It was hard to sing in front of these new friends and strangers because they were so good, and, so real.

I have a lot of respect for roots music. Because of this respect, I never learned how to play the blues. I realized that itís a very raw style and even though there are many people that try to play it, theyíve never really ďgotten it.Ē I still feel this way. There are some things that should be left to their originators. You have to live it, to feel it, to know it, and, play it with passion.

Still, I began to approach bluegrass as if greeting an old friend. I identified with the themes. Mom, Dad, the old home, friends and families, life, and, death. I could see the similarities between the Spanish and Mexican ballads that I had grown up listening to. The ďrancheroĒ songs that tell stories of ranchos, sweat and tears, heroes and bad men; life. I could understand the angst of bluegrass ballads, so much like Mexican ďboleros,Ē that I felt I already knew these songs. I found a connection between my Spanish/Mexican heritage and my six generations of American citizenry.

Now, some six years after that first foray into the world of bluegrass, I really feel that Iíve become part of this wonderful family. Iím humbled that people like my writing. At times itís a very hard thing to do. I donít have an endless reserve of memories and experiences to draw from. What I do have is respect and love for bluegrass and the people that play it. I want to be like the folks that Iíve come to know and love.

So, at this very moment, Iím at ďThe Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass FestivalĒ at Bolado Park, near Hollister, CA. Iím passing out flyers, trying to tell people about our new CBA festival in Sanger; The Hobbs Grove Bluegrass Festival,Ē going on from Sept., 26th through the 28th. You can learn more about it at Itís a great little festival and I hope that everyone comes down to join us for a good time! I also help with a few monthly jams and a weekly concert in the park in Clovis. And, somewhere in between all of these things, I practice a little music and I continue to learn new songs. And the songs are coming easier. I know that Iíll never be a flat-picking god, but Iím getting better. All of the volunteering is starting to pay off. I know that Iím living bluegrass and contributing to it. Iím playing it, and, preserving it. Iím starting to ďget it!Ē And, itís all good!

Posted:  8/16/2008

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email