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!
Selected San Diego Venues/Events
Adams Avenue Roots Festival
Adams Avenue Unplugged
Americana Music Fest, Encinitas Heritage Ranch
Listen Local San Diego, numerous events
North County Bluegrass and Folk Club
Ocean Beach Street Fair
Pete Seeger 100th Birthday Concert, Encinitas Library
Poway Americana Festival
San Diego County Fair
San Diego Beer Festival, Convention Center
San Diego Folk Heritage concert series
San Diego Storytelling Festival
Sea Chantey Festival, Star of India
Sam Hinton Folk Festival
Songwriters Acoustic Nights, Swedenborg Hall
Spring Harp Fest
Train Song Festival, Old Poway Park
Woody Guthrie Celebration, Brick15
Modern Cleaning, Burnett Woods, Cincinnati, 1981, just before meltdown