Remembering Dave Barney Today

With shoulder length hair of the day, he knocked on my front door. The year was 1974. Richard Nixon was our president, and my dad was trying to get reception on the radio channel WWVA of Wheeling West Virginia as he did every Sunday. I was 10 years old.

I had heard of a banjo picker from Millerton, NY named Dave Barney. Somehow he was willing to come by our house an pick some tunes on his banjo. He was an old rock and roll electric guitar player in the 1950’s, became a country music pedal steel player in the 1960’s, and eventually discovered Earl Scruggs’ banjo picking. He never turned back again and was to make playing the five string banjo and bluegrass music his passion for the rest of his days.

He was polite enough to give me a chance to pick with him, but all I really knew was a few simple tunes and a bunch of two finger chords on the mandolin. I said I knew “Fireball Mail” and we picked the tune together. He said I picked it pretty good, but I know he was just being polite and trying to inspire a young mandolin picker. He certainly was an inspiration to me and we played bluegrass together for almost 40 years until he died.

I wish I could pick a few more songs with Dave today, but I cannot as he might hopefully be having some coffee today with Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe. I think of Dave very often and miss him today.

Steve Brandt

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