Bluegrass legends Del McCoury and David Grisman play Vilar Performing Arts Center
If You Go ...
What: Del and Dawg, bluegrass music with Del McCoury and David Grisman.
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 6.
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, 68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek.
More information: To purchase tickets, go to vilarpac.org or call the box office at 970-845-8497.
Del McCoury and David Grisman have been making bluegrass music together since the invention of blue.
What you really want to know, though, is about Grisman’s white, full beard.
“The last time I shaved was in 1978,” he said, smiling.
The duo was young when they started playing.
McCoury, 77, is in the International Bluegrass Hall Of Fame and cut his teeth in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. Grisman, 70, pretty much invented his own style of music — “Dawg Music,” a blend of bluegrass and jazz.
They’re so synced that they celebrated the arrival of first-born sons, Monroe Grisman and Ronnie McCoury, within a month of each other.
“It’s been a good run, and it ain’t over yet,” Grisman said.
Pick with me in ‘63
McCoury was playing banjo in his first show as one of Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1963 at New York University in Greenwich Village. The legendary Earl Scruggs had occupied that spot not so long before, so McCoury was a little apprehensive.
He figured they’d rehearse, but no. They tuned their instruments and walked out on stage. He met Grisman after that show.
“I met a lot of people that night, and it’s actually pretty vague,” McCoury said. “A lot of times you meet people backstage after a show and you’re kind of confused as to who you did meet.”
Some of the Blue Grass Boys stayed at Grisman’s parents’ house.
Three years later, Del and Dawg played their first gig together in Troy, New York, at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
They’ve shared the stage at venues and festivals celebrating almost every function and malfunction known to humanity. In 2012, they released “Hardcore Bluegrass,” a collection of bluegrass classics they recorded at two of Grisman’s Dawg studio jam sessions in the 1990s.
McCoury was born in York County, Pennsylvania. When everyone else was crazy about Elvis, McCoury heard Scuggs play with Monroe’s band in the early 1950s. He was bitten by the bluegrass bug, and his path was set.
He became a banjo picker himself, working in the rough but lively Baltimore and Washington, D.C., bar scene into the early 1960s. He joined Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, and before long, Monroe moved him from banjo to guitar, made him his lead singer and gave him a lifetime’s worth of bluegrass tutelage in the year he was with the band.
While McCoury is a bluegrass traditionalist, Grisman forged his own path, combining elements of jazz and bluegrass with many international flavors to create his own “Dawg Music,” from the nickname given him by long-time friend Jerry Garcia.
Dawg Music is what he calls his mixture of bluegrass and Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli-influenced jazz, which he highlighted on his 1979 album “Hot Dawg.”
He grew up playing piano in a conservative Jewish household in Hackensack, New Jersey. He discovered bluegrass music from friends at Passaic High School, which was beginning to get some airplay on New York radio stations.
He recorded his first albums in 1963 with the Even Dozen Jug Band.
In 1966, Red Allen offered Grisman his first job with an authentic bluegrass band, the Kentuckians. Grisman began composing original tunes and playing with other urban bluegrass contemporaries such as Peter Rowan and Garcia, with whom he would later form Old & In The Way.
“Bluegrass got me into mandolin playing, but I always liked all kinds of music,” he said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.