Burl Mast's Red Barn
It's a real pleasure to know the Masts'. Here's a slide show depicting some of the fun that takes place.
What is Bluegrass Music?
There's No Place
Below, are a couple of banjo tune videos. The first video is a tune I wrote and my girlfriend (now my wife), Mary Winchell, named "Blue Ridge Pines" and the next I wrote and named the "Shake and Bake Breakdown." (My apologies for the poorly rehearsed and poorly reproduced recordings done with an inexpensive video camera, but perhaps you'll be able to get the idea, anyway).
Jam Session in North Carolina with Bobby Hicks
Upper Hudson Bluegrass Festival Pictures 2010.
The Bobby Hicks Band
Few instruments have kept my interest more in the last few years than the fiddle. For many years I have visited the Scottish Highland Games in New Hampshire and taken Celtic fiddle lessons from Alasdair Fraser. He taught me to "play above the bow" and not to concern myself too much with the fundamentals if it meant sacrificing "feeling".
Thinking of 'fiddling' reminds me of the New York State Old Time Fiddler's Hall of Fame where I have had the great honor - a couple of times now - of instructing classes on music theory and fiddling at the Hall of Fame. Joining in the pedagogy with such instructors as Mrs. Jackie Hobbs of Redfield, NY, Mr. and Mrs. Phil and Gretchen Banaszak of City Fiddle in Buffalo, New York; Kathy Sommers http://www.fiddleheadscamp.com/kathy_zimpfer.html ; and Shane Cook, Susan Barrington and Hope Greitzer http://www.happyhollowmusic.com appearing this summer: http://www.nysotfa.com/NYSOTFACalendar.html has been quite a honor.
I've also had the great honor of playing standup bass for Bobby Hicks, world famous fiddler who played with Bill Monroe in the early years and then with Ricky Skaggs for 24 years. (See picture above). I played 7 sets with him (and 7 practices) for a show in which he was the featured fiddler in Osceola, NY, at the New York State Fiddlers Association's annual 3-day picnic. What an experience it was!
I've been a big fan of bluegrass music since my high-school days. I learned to play banjo when I was 19 years old back in Keene, NY, when I lived at the "Little Brown House". I fell in love with the sounds of Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, The Louvin Brothers, and of course, Bill Monroe.
Later, when I attended Ithaca College (majoring in composition and minoring in piano), I developed an interest in the fiddle after hearing one of the violin majors sawing off some old-time fiddle tunes in one of the many practice rooms at Ford Hall.
My father was a self-taught fiddler and had been after me to learn for many years. I surprised him one weekend when I was home from college by playing "Soldier's Joy" and "The Orange Blossom Special". Tears flowed down his cheeks as his dream of me becoming interested in fiddle music had finally materialized.
Since those early days, I went on to learn my way around on the viola, mandolin, mandola, guitar, uke, 10-string cittern, tenor-, cello- and 5-string banjos, stand-up bass, electric bass, "Dobro" (resophonic guitar) and other stringed instruments. In my earlier days I had already learned alto and tenor saxophones, glochenspiel, marimba, xylophone, cello, french horn, coronet, trumpet, tympani, drums, organ and of course piano which was my instrument of choice. This was all of huge benefit when being accepted to the composer's school.
My interest in bluegrass led me to many lifelong friends and participation in many different bands. My first serious bluegrass band was called "The High Peaks Boys" and was comprised of Pete Richardson, Rocky Richardson, Lauren "Ricky" Payro, Tom Wallace, Dave Warner and me.
We started "The High Peaks Bluegrass League" and signed up over 600 members (See the "ABL & HPBL" page on this site). We had several Bluegrass festivals in the late seventies and early 1980's.
Some of the many wonderful people/musicians we met back in the early 1970's and later were: Don and Berta Towers, Hank and Irene Clothier, Danny and Carol Rumpf, Danny's brother Rudy Rumpf, Pete and Shirley Bishop, Roger Straight, Ben Gurtler, Al Burrows, Bob Gibeault, Nick Barr, "Roger Sprung and the Progressive Bluegrassers", Paul Bowden, Simon St. Pierre, Gordon Stone, Dan Tyminski, "Banjo Dan and The Midnight Plowboys", "Fred Pike, Sam Tidwell and the Kennebec Valley Boys"(back in the days when Dick Staber had left the band and the remaining members were Fred, Sam, Bob Denoncourt and Bill Kimball), "Don Stover and White Oak Mountain Boys", "Bill Harrell and The Virginians", "Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers", "Jimmy Cox and the Maine Grass", Charlie Gilliam and The Blue Mountain Boys, (Charlie was also with "White Mountain Bluegrass"), Al Hawkes and The Cumberland Ridge Runners (with Smokey Val. Smokey went on to play with such bands as "Tiny Martin and the Countrysiders" and also with Jimmy Cox, Charlie Gilliam and Mac and Hazel McGee), "The Mc Lain Family", "Cliff Waldron and the New Shades of Grass", "Charlie Moore and the Dixie Partners", "Reno, Harrell and the Tennessee Cutups", "Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys", Little Roy Lewis, "Wally Hughes and the Hughes Family", "Walter Hensley and The Dukes of Bluegrass", "Lester Flatt & The Nashville Grass", Earl Scruggs, Vic Jordan, Haskell Mc Cormick, JD Crowe, Hazel Dickens, Clarence "Dusty" Bevins and his wonderful family, Raymond Fairchild, Ricky Skaggs, Buck White and his family, Marty Stuart, "Billy Edwards and the Shenandoah Cutups" (I got my first ever Gibson "Bowtie" banjo from Billy Edwards), Smokey Greene, Jim Warren, Brian Jiguere, Jim and Janet Pepper, Rollie Swinton, Lynn Williams, "Tiny Martin and the Countrysiders", "The Bluegrass Ridge Runners", "Mac & Hazel McGee and White Mountain Bluegrass", Joe Val and the "New England Bluegrass Boys" with Karl Lauber, Dave Hainey and Eric Levenson, "Jimmy Gaudreau and The Country Store", Frank Wakefield, Don Reno, (and his son, Ronnie Reno who became part of his dad's band after Reno and Smiley broke up in 1965. Ronnie later played with the Osborne Brothers when I met him in the early 1970s), "The Sage Swingers", "The Chaffes", "The Mountain Dews", Jeff Aumuller and the No Name Band", Mac Wiseman, Bill Gokey, Howie Deerborn, The Morris Brothers, Brian and Dwayne Mason, "The Blistered Fingers Band" with Dick Pelletier and Sandy and Greg Cormier, Slim Tanner, Joe and Gary Parmileau, Lou Mathieu the fiddler & Don Roy the fiddler, (Lou was in the band Katahdin Mountaineers for years and then later with the Maine French Fiddlers), Tim Farrell, member of the Maine Hall of Fame, who I had the great honor of playing accompaniment guitar for at the Blistered Fingers Festival in Sidney, Maine, Mac McHale of "White Mountain Bluegrass and later "Northeast Winds", Addie and Roberta Saunders who hosted the Saunder's Apple Blossom Jam at their orchards in Maine, Wilf Clark, Dotty Farrell, Suzie Gibson, Bernie Staples and Bob Coombs of The Misty Mountaineers, Bill Sage, Jimmy Sage, Richie Chaisson, Kip Yattaw, Mike Van Alstyne, John Drake, Dennis Sauterly, Steve and Dawn Walker, Tom Ritchie, David and Nadine Nichols, Pat Ashley, Duane Ormsby and Junior Place, Charlie and Denise Bennett, Hod and Rose Ovitt, John Bertrand, Richie and Audrey Steenburn, Dick and Pauline Cook, Bill and Sally Fernald, Mr. and Mrs. Herb Dakin, Ray and Sandy Day, and literally hundreds of others.
I also belonged at one time to the High Peaks Bluegrass League (actually, I founded it), The Champlain Valley Bluegrass League, The Adirondack Bluegrass League, The Adirondack Fiddlers, and The New York State Old Time Fiddlers Association. Each of these organizations has offered up countless friendships and sponsored many an event over the years. As time - and my memory - permits, I'll post some of the many names of friends I've met at these various organizations, too.
Later I went on to pick with many bands, including "The Brass Horoscope", "Ice Cream City*", "Sweet William's Ghost", "The Valley Rascals" with Bud Feinberg, Ray Manley, John Tolbert, Junior Strack, Dave Ames and yours truly, "Mallory's Bush", "Dreadnought", "Lonesome Road", "Cedar Ridge", "The (early) Food Stamp Ramblers", "The Jugless Jugband" which included Dave Deyo, Dan Sheldon, Ed Kennelly, Frank Owen and yours truly, "The Purdyburgers", "The Dave Nichols Band", (He liked calling it "Fred and The Scuzzballs" lol), "Up on Blocks", "True Blue", "John Hudson & Friends", "Wrench's Wranglers", "Fatt & Stubbs", and too many others to remember.
* Ice Cream City, Lemon State
Excuse me honey, I forgot the date
City of love, state of wishes
nineteen hugs and sixty-seven kisses
It would fill an entire web site to name my musician friends and their families.
The love and playing of music has provided me with countless friends throughout the years.
My Favorite banjo pickers.
I have dedicated my Banjo Book to Will Challet. Will and I traded many banjo licks over a lot of years and we had a true respect and admiration for each other's banjo talent. I miss him. He was a true friend. Here, (4th picture over) his T-shirt reads "got banjo?" at Stephen Mougin's wedding.
Below are a few pictures Mary took. Some at Little Meadows, Pennsylvania and at Wrench's Wranch and at Upper Hudson Bluegrass Festival: