David Grisman on the DGBX | SummitDaily.com

David Grisman on the DGBX

Interview by Erica MarciniecSpecial to the Daily

Bluegrass music was my first musical love as a mandolin player. Although I have my own style of music, I never felt I had to “leave” bluegrass. Through the years I’ve made bluegrass recordings and played bluegrass gigs. In 1989 I started the DGBX for a tour to promote “Home is Where the Heart Is,” a double album of traditional bluegrass. The Del McCoury Band backed me up on that tour and that was the first incarnation of the DGBX. When my son Sam started playing bass and digging bluegrass I put together some local musicians here in the Bay Area to play some concerts at his school and a few benefits. One day Keith Little and Jim Nunally came over and we developed a great chemistry. Chad Manning was on board playing fiddle, and it became a “serious” bluegrass machine! So now I have a vehicle to play this music that I’ve loved for over 50 years.

The DGBX plays hard-core traditional bluegrass, with little touches of the Dawg arranging style, but very little of my own original tunes, other than those that were composed in the bluegrass style, like “Dawggy Mt. Breakdown,” which became the theme for the radio show, “Car Talk.” I also usually give a lecture on the history of bluegrass music, which the band illustrates with musical examples. I’ve always been interested in musical history, and I like to share some of that with the audience.

We have lost two giants of American music. Earl and Doc were heroes of mine and I was privileged to collaborate with both of them musically. Earl recorded the aforementioned “Dawggy Mt. Breakdown” and Doc was the first professional musician to invite me on a stage, when I was 17 years old at Gerde’s Folk City in New York where he was appearing. We became friends through Ralph Rinzler, my musical mentor and the man who discovered Doc and first recorded him on the Old-Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s albums on Folkways records in 1960. These two were musical titans whose influence can never be over-stated.

I’m working on a whole slew of projects for AcousticOasis.com, my website devoted to high quality downloads. We just released “Del & Dawg: Hardcore Bluegrass in the Dawghouse,” recorded in my studio in the 1990’s. It’s me and the Del McCoury Band playing some real traditional bluegrass classics. I’m planning to launch a new series of high-definition projects that sound noticeably better than CD’s. These will start to become available in July with a special edition of the first Garcia-Grisman album coming in August, with a complete alternate version of that project with never-before heard takes.

I’m very proud of my son Samson. He’s turned into a world-class bluegrass bass player and has a great affinity and appreciation of many other styles of music. It’s great to get to play with him, although he’s getting pretty busy with his band, The Deadly Gentlemen, and gigs with Noam Pikelny of the Punch Brothers. I’ve already had to hire a sub for him on a few occasions. He definitely is making his mark in the bluegrass world.

Hopefully to many good places, including where it started. Bluegrass is a perfect form of music, so too much “progress” is not necessary. It needs to be preserved and nurtured as the amazing American art form that it is.

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