When you see bluegrass musicians picking, performing, and teaching, you might assume that they'd been doing so all their lives (and in our case, it actually has been most of that time). But I didn't get into bluegrass until I was 18 years old, and I just found a picture of two of the friends who helped point me in that direction. And as you might guess, this isn't a new picture. In fact, it was taken in about 1969. The two people in this photo are my uncle John Hedgecoth, with the banjo, and Dale Crider, playing his Martin guitar.
John was a few years ahead of me growing up. He'd always had musical talent, and he got into the folk and bluegrass scene in Florida in the early 1960s. Dale was a few more years ahead of both of us, but he'd been playing since he was a kid in Kentucky, and by the 1960s he'd moved to Florida and was one of the finest singer-songwriters there.
Time doesn't stand still--- not for long, anyway. Here's a photo of us performing together last year at the Gamble Rogers Folk Festival in St. Augustine:
(John Hedgecoth, Barbara Johnson, Dale Crider, me on the fiddle, and Chris Henry on mandolin)
Dale was playing one of his festival sets, and we were all backing him up. As you can see, everybody was having a good time, and our bluegrass crowd had spread to include members of the younger generation. Now, when you've played music with someone for over 40 years, you might think you'll have them figured out. But not with Dale and John! They both keep coming up with musical surprises.
We can all take a lesson from that. Once you know a tune, learn another one. Keep learning. Keep picking your old tunes, and figure out new ways to play them. Keep your musical mind active, instead of getting in a rut. That's how to play real music!