In 2002 the California Bluegrass Association honored me with a lifetime membership. A prior commitment prevented me from attending the presentation, which was made at the annual Grass Valley bluegrass festival in June. Thanks to my brother, Bill, for attending and accepting on my behalf, and my deepest thanks to the CBA for this great honor. I prepared this short thank-you message, which Bill read at the presentation:
There are very few things that could have kept me from being here today to thank you in person, but since most of you are musicians, you will understand when I say those four magic words: “I have a gig.” For anyone involved in music, it goes without saying that a promise to play music is a promise that must be kept.
This applies to a lifetime relationship with music, as well. It’s this commitment that causes us to drive unreasonable distances, stay up until unreasonable hours, and sometimes even put up with unreasonable people in quest of that sound we just can’t seem to get enough of.
The bluegrass bug bit me on Christmas morning of 1959 when I heard the first few measures of Flint Hill Special jump from the turntable. My fate was sealed whether I knew it then or not. Since that day the banjo has seldom been far from my hands, and my passion for music has guided many of my life decisions.
In the early ‘90s an injury to my hand made it impossible to play, and I went for two years without touching my banjo. My life was full and happy, and I had all but made the decision to not resume playing. My banjo would still be at rest in its case today had it not been for the encouragement of some good friends. My thanks to Rob De Witt, Bob Wilson, Raul Reynoso, Glenn Ash, and my wife Linda for reminding me of the promise I had made to myself to play music. The road back was tedious, but the promise had to be kept.
I’m a very lucky man, for I’ve found a way of building a life around music; playing it myself, teaching it to others, and to a greater extent in recent years, seeing to the needs of musicians worldwide by developing tools that can make their musical experience more satisfying. What more could I ask? Beyond asking, it seems that something more can happen: having one’s efforts acknowledged by his peers. And that has happened for me today. I’m deeply honored, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
June 15, 2002