The “Kinda” winner is Wayne Fugate
This set of questions is really for anyone willing to take a stab, but Michael Sassano hopes it will stump Dick Bowden.
Dick, tell us…..
- Who is the father of progressive banjo playing (also from the northeast)?
- What ‘Genre Bending’ NYC artist produced Hartford’s ‘Aereoplane’?
- What is Hartford’s ‘New Grass’ classic that Sam Bush continues to cover in honor of his great friend?
- And lastly, for today, please tell us of two Legendary ultra progressive, mind bending, Grass Bands from NYC in the 70’s & the bands’ line up.
Mike Sassano!!! Who doesn’t love Mike Sassano? Sorry, no one could possibly love him more than I do. He encouraged me when I was a shy jammer about 20 years ago and he’s still encouraging beginner and not-so-beginner players. He’s incredibly generous with his time and his bluegrass knowledge.
That being said, Michael posed several questions last week that were directed primarily at Dick Bowden, but definitely open to anyone who cared to take a stab at them. And many stabs were taken.
Check out our comment section below to see the answers. I am so impressed with the knowledge of our readers.
Ah, you want the answers. Here you go.
Michael says he was originally thinking that Roger Sprung was the “father of progressive banjo playing.” However, after more digging and research, he now thinks that answer is probably up for debate. He would include Eric Weissberg, Bill Keith , and John Hartford as debatable answers.
So Question A is really a wash and we aren’t going to linger on debating that one. Done!!!
By the way, Michael highly recommends that you find and read Pete Wernick’s article “The New York Banjo Story.”
B: David Bromberg produced John Hartford’s “Aereo-Plain.”
C: “With a Vamp in the Middle” is the cover that Sam Bush still performs.
D: Breakfast Special and Wretched Refuse are the two legendary, ultra-progressive string bands based in NYC.
The crown, this week, goes to Wayne Fugate. He was correct on B and C and came close to nailing the answer to D. Michael is used to carrying Wayne’s mandolin case around for many years and hopes this dubious honor will soften Wayne up enough to allow Michael to play with him soon.
Hey, Dick Bowden, you did extraordinarily well for a trad-Nazi!!! I hope our readers will continue to try to trip you up to keep you humble.
Special thanks to Michael Sassano for all the time he has spent on these question.
Lastly, check out Breakfast Special
Mike, I am still beyond the Pale, so this is for bragging rights only, but here goes:
A Roger Sprung
B David Bromberg
C Back In The Goodle Days
D (1) The Wretched Refuse String Band (Andy Statman, Tony Trischka, Alan Kaufman, Richard Shulberg, Bob Jones, Michelle Weiss, David Markowitz)
(2) Skyline (Tony Trischka, Danny Weiss, Dede Wyland, Barry Mitterhoff, Larry Cohen, Rachel Kalem).
Well Mssr. Sassano, that’s actually 4 questions, but who’s counting? I can answer A and B off the top of my head, but I’ll take a crack at C and D also for extra credit, so here goes:
A. the father of progressive banjo playing from the northeast is usually thought of as Bill Keith from Massachusetts in the early 1960s — he became a Blue Grass Boy and many other things. New Yorkers might hold out for Tony Trischka in the late 1960s early 1970s as being every MORE progressive. Finally Pete Wernick was an early partner with Tony and he went on to do some VERY progressive things with the banjo, including his electronic effect “phase shifter”. But I’m gonna stick with Bill Keith. (I’m discounting Roger Sprung, if that’s who you had in mind.)
B. David Bromberg produced Aereo-Plain. It’s often forgotten (or wilfullly ignored) that Randy Scruggs played electric bass on it.
C. I can’t speak to what Sam Bush performs most often of the Hartford repertoire but on Sirius/XM I frequently hear him and his band doing Steam Power Aereoplain. No doubt he does other Hartford numbers. Some people call Hartford the Father of Newgrass, but I personally think Sam Bush deserves the title. Although I think the New Deal String Band might have been first!
D. This is a poser, since I grew up and was living in Maine at that time, and my exposure to super progressive New York City bands was mighty slim. Just guessing, Breakfast Special which I believe included Tony Trischka AND Pete Wernick plus Andy Statman and others. I saw them ONCE at a festival and that was enough for me. Were they a NYC band? I had the vague impression they were more Ithaca, but what do I know? I’m drawing a blank on a second NYC progressive band, but if it comes to me, I’ll post something later. Are you thinking of Skyline? Not very genre-bending though. Tony, Danny, Dede, Cohen, and Barry. Thanks for the FOUR challenges.
Sweet Jesus…I thought Dick’s questions were tough! Anyway, my guesses:
A. Depending on how strictly you define “progressive,” I would say either Bill Keith or Bela Fleck.
B. My hero, David Bromberg.
D. Newgrass Revival: Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, and a bunch of others
Country Cooking: Tony Trisha, Peter Wernick, others…
B. David Bromberg
C.Steam Powered Aereo Plane
A) Bill Keith
B) David Bromberg
C) Vamp in the Middle
D) Wretched Refuse String Band / As fluid as you could imagine though the mainstays included Richie Schulberg, Kenny Kosek, Marty Cutler Bob Jones & Matt Glaser.
D Part II) Bottle Hill (though not based in NYC proper) / Again, fluid lineup but core members included Walt Michael, Barry Mitterhoff, Dave Schwartz, Joe Selly.
I admit I missed Wretched Refuse. I agree that Sam Bush performs Vamp in the Middle, but he also does Steam Powered AeroPlain (I hear it on Sirius/XM’s “Derailed” shows of newgrass). I hope when the full set of my answers is published, it will be seen that I “discounted” Roger Sprung, and named Bill Keith as one of my 3 “fathers of progressive banjo”. I got David Bromberg too. So I’m going to claim at least partial credit on all 4 of these good trivia question!
Let me add that I appreciated the link to the Banjo Newsletter article by Pete Wernick. Very enlightening! I know there were a lot of banjo pickers in NY because of the folk revival. Thanks for providing the link. For some reason I never got around to subscribing to the Banjo Newsletter.
Wow! Let us welcome new contestant Shin Akimoto, who is known far and wide as “The Bill Monroe of Japan”. Hi Shin!! Glad to have you participating! Shin is a left-handed mandolin player, with a gorgeous mirror-image Gilchrist F-5 mandolin. Even the logo “Gilchrist” is inlaid in mirror image. I guess this is so that when Shin plays looking in the mirror, he looks just like all the other mandolin players!!! He know his bluegrass trivia.
I too will claim at least partial credit on all four of these questions. I was right on A (Roger Sprung) and B (Bromberg); as to C, Sam Bush still performs Goodle Days if You Tube is to be believed, and as to D, I named one of the two bands Mike was thinking of (Wretched Refuse), and the other one I named (Skyline, also named by Dick) was a correct answer to the question Mike asked, if not the answer Mike was thinking of.