I started playing trumpet in 4th grade, and continued brass instruments though my teens, ending up marching in drum and bugle corps. Great showmanship – I still catch shows when I can. I kinda stole my brother’s guitar at age 18, and started learning all the Stones, Neil Young, etc., everybody else was playing. John Prine’s first album was a revelation. Here was a guy with hugely entertaining songs who didn’t actually sing or play guitar all that well. Well, hell, no reason I can’t do that! I’m still working on it.
One of my grandpas worked for the coal mine; the other was a Texas dirt farmer; my dad sang me hillbilly songs growing up. I learned to talk in Texas, and went to bluegrass festivals down in Kentucky before I could play the music. I reckon you can hear all that in my songs.
The first concert I went to was Yes, with an opening band that was just starting to get airplay, called The Eagles; tickets cost $4.50. Later I played in what was to my knowledge the first punk band in Cincinnati, in 1980-81. Our lead guitarist walked off stage during our first concert, ending that phase of my music career.
These days my music runs pretty deep in the roots/Americana vein, also tapping into Celtic styles. I write a lot of songs that get mistaken for folk songs, and maybe they are. I play a strong rhythm guitar and banjo, and love to mess around with – and sometimes perform on – mandolin, pennywhistle, harmonica, and whatever else is laying around. My music has been compared to that of Woody Guthrie, John Prine (yay!), Pete Seeger, Warren Zevon, and Mark Twain, though as far as I know Mr Clemens was not a musician. Luck and perseverance have brought me talented musical co-conspirators such as Annie Rettic and Richie Strell to execute live shows and recordings.
I’ve got my calloused fingers in some other musical pies. Working through Resounding Joy, every week I take my banjo down to a local nursing home and play old songs for old people. Some of the ladies can’t hold a conversation, but they can bang a drum in time and sing Oh Susanna. I book local and touring musical acts for the San Diego Folk Heritage concert series, helping keep the folk arts (and artists) alive for another generation. It’s a joy to see several generations of dancers sharing the floor during a lively fiddle tune. I MC our festivals, and have started working with Storytellers of San Diego, emulating my musical heroes John Prine and Todd Snider. I also write articles for the San Diego Troubadour magazine.
Life is good; music makes it better. Enjoy!
Modern Cleaning, Burnett Woods, Cincinnati, 1981, just before meltdown