Tag Archives: john hedgecoth

RedWhen 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 Hedgecoth, Dale Crider

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, Dale, Red, Chris at Gamblefest

(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!

RedFolks, I just ran across this old photo, and thought you’d like to see it. This was take in Florida on a warm day in August 1969 (every day on August is warm in Florida!), and it shows banjo wizards John Hedgecoth and Mike Johnson showing off by playing each other's banjos-- Mike was doing the right-hand on his banjo and the left hand on John's, and John was playing the right hand on his own banjo and the left hand on Mike's!

(Click on the photo for a larger version. Mike’s playing his old Gibson bow-tie RB250, and John’s playing his then-new RB800.)

John Hedgecoth, Mike Johnson

The tune they were playing was "Cripple Creek." Mike and John could play it this way because they'd both learned it right (read: they’d learned Earl Scruggs' version). This meant that they both knew exactly which left-notes to finger on each other's banjos all through the tune, and they both played exactly the same rolls with their right hands, and it all worked and sounded great!

However, at the moment of the photo, right in the middle of the tune, John had detected that his second string was a bit flat. So, timing it just right (during the square rolls in the B part, so Mike's notes would blend with his), he deftly reached over to his own banjo's tuners and adjusted that B-string note, then went right back to playing those Cripple Creek licks on the fingerboard of Mike's banjo. Nobody noticed. Unless, like me, they were right there watching. Or unless they saw the photo!

The moral is: Some pickers can tune a string in a short time. Also, don't forget to practice Cripple Creek! --- Just in case you ever get a chance to play two banjos at once...