March 12 Trivia Question

This Contest is Closed

The winners are:

Andy Bing
David Gandin
Mike Sassano
Paula Moskowitz
Vinny Nugent
Wayne Fugate

click photo to enlarge


Let’s talk Tony Rice, but let’s talk about when Tony left bluegrass behind. After playing with JD Crowe and the New South and making the landmark Rounder 0044 LP (featuring “The Old Home Place”), Tony was invited by mandolinist David Grisman to join his new band in California, to play acoustic string JAZZ. Tony moved to California and was immediately confronted with a whole new kind of music – not bluegrass in any way, shape, form or manner!

How was Tony able to play such advanced flat top guitar jazz, contributing mightily to the groundbreaking 1977 LP “The David Grisman Quintet”? Grisman called this new music “Dawg Music”.

A. Tony woodshedded with old Charlie Christian jazz records and figured it out.
B. Tony studied with his hero Clarence White.
C. Tony studied with jazz guitarist John Carlini.
D. Tony “sat in” with Woody Allen’s weekly jazz shows in Manhattan and absorbed the genre.
E. Tony found a jazz guitar teacher in Hollywood – Neil Levang from the Lawrence Welk show.
F. Tony just jumped into jazz “cold” and adapted his style and skills until it worked. Hey, he’s Tony Rice!
G. Tony studied (informally) with Jerry Garcia.

Thankfully Tony returned to bluegrass, but he also continued to play and record jazz with his own band The Tony Rice Unit. (Some of it is pretty far out!)


Additional Bowden Comments

Thanks and congrats to all the players and winners! Good to see the group growing, slowly.

The correct answer was C. John Carlini. John is a well known all purpose musician, arranger, producer, etc around NYC and NJ. He’s a well known jazz guitarist but also plays roots music including bluegrass. There’s a very fine article in the new Bluegrass Unlimited magazine about John and his work with Tony. I submitted this Trivia question BEFORE the new BU arrived in my mailbox. I chuckled at the coincidence. Please read the article. John says he learned as much from Tony as Tony learned from him — particularly Tony’s concepts of “attack” on the guitar strings. I learned from the BU article that John was also the “music director” for the entire David Grisman Quintet!

Answer A about Charlie Christian was thrown in because Charlie was known as one of the first jazz guitarists to really get “chromatic” — using al 12 notes in the scale and throwing in lots of sharps and flats not part of the melody. He’s foundation to jazz guitar I understand.

Answer B is partially right that young Tony Rice knew and hung around a bit with the older Clarence White, and Tony did worship him. Tony was living in California when he was just a kid, and got to see all the West Coast bluegrassers early on.

Answer D about Woody Allen’s weekly jam/performances at a Manhattan club was a red herring. Tony never had anything to do with that as far as I know.

Answer E is correct in that Lawrence Welk employed an excellent jazz guitarist named Neil Levang. Again Tony had nothing to do with him as far as I know.

Answer F was what I thought at the time Tony made the jump to Grisman’s Quintet. I thought he was just genius and super-guitarman enough to do it all on his own. I thought that until I read about John Carlini (decades ago). It actually raised my respect for Tony in that he sought a Teacher.

Answer G was for the DeadHeads, in that Jerry Garcia originally wanted to play banjo with Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys (but chickened out), was friends with David Grisman, lived in the San Fransisco area, and had a unique sort-of-jazz guitar style. No doubt Tony met and picked with him, but there is no record of Tony studying with Garcia.

Again thanks to all the contestants, and keep playing Bluegrass Trivia!

Dick Bowden

Dick Bowden recently retired after a 45 year career in the paper industry, and moved from Connecticut to Big Indian NY (Ulster County) where he ekes out a precarious existence as a groundskeeper. Dick has been performing bluegrass music on banjo and guitar since 1966 in his home state of Maine, throughout New England, and internationally with The Case Brothers - Martin & Gibson. He has performed for HVBA with the Old Time Bluegrass Singers, and also sent in a squadron of Dick Bowden's Flying Circus. Most recently Dick has played Dobro (tm) with the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Dick has written many articles for Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Today, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass magazine) and HVBA.

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