The winners are Al Gassman, Steve Margulis, Gary DiGiovanni, and Andy Bing
Additional Bowden Comments
Congrats to all the winners! Andy Bing of course is the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). Steve, Gary, and Al, well done!!
Of course Del played many a time as a Blue Grass Boy at the Ryman in Nashville, but as a guitar man, not banjo. And not the FIRST place he was a Blue Grass Boy.
Sunset Park in southeastern PA is a place Monroe played almost every year, and Del certainly played there at one time or another (his little brother Jerry was bass player with the “house band” at Sunset Park — Alex and Ola Belle.)
“The Bucket of Blood” is placeholder name I made up for all the gun and knife clubs in downtown Baltimore where Del cut his teeth as a young banjo picker. One of the bands he played with was Jack Cooke and the Virginia Playboys. (Jack is best known as bass player for about 30 years with Ralph Stanley.) Yes, Del was a sideman for Cookie! Del told me one time just how rough those bars were. He said his bass player at the time “was a good man with a knife”!
Del did play the Ash Grove in LA as a Blue Grass Boy, for a week-long gig. Again on guitar, not banjo. It was there that he started adding to his network by meeting Roland & Clarence White and their band The Kentucky Colonels, the Dillards, Jerry Garcia, Vern & Rex Gosdin, Don Parmley, etc. It led Del to return to California after he quit Monroe where he played in The Golden State Boys, but they starved out and he came back home to the York PA area.
NYU was indeed the correct answer. Monroe’s business was at a low point at that time, and there were periods, espcially in winter, where there wasn’t enough work to keep the Blue Grass Boys together. If he got a gig, he’d just call who he could get, and go. He knew there were plenty of sidemen who knew his music — no sweat! So he took the NYU gig with his “companion” Bessie Lee on bass fiddle. A phone call to Kenny Baker took care of the fiddle. Monroe knew Jack Cooke (ex Blue Grass Boy) was living in Baltimore (see Bucket of Blood) on the way to NYC, and a phone call later Jack said he’d also come up with a banjo picker. That was Del!!! His very first gig as a Blue Grass Boy, on banjo, in the Big Apple!
Yes, you can hear the recorded concert as Al mentioned. It is a GREAT concert. Del picks great banjo, a bit in the style of Don Stover, and sings a little baritone.
Based on his good performance, Monroe invited him to Nashville to formally audition for the full time slot in the band. Trouble was, Monroe had given the same invitation to banjoist Bill Keith! Del and Bill bumped into each other in the Nashville hotel lobby!!!!! Bill Keith auditioned first and got the job. Monroe told Del he would play guitar and “You’ll like that better!”