Ok, so the only person I can reasonably post to follow Scotty Stoneman is his musical successor, Richard Greene. Richard learned from Scotty, studied him until he understood Scotty’s unique brand of insane magical fire. And he combined that with his classical training and a willingness to explore other kinds of music. And he emerged in the late 60s and 70s as the greatest fiddler in America. I mean, Vassar Clements was great; he had a lot of skill and was comfortable in a lot of genres. But he didn’t have presence the way Richard did. The way Richard plays, by the time he’s 5 notes into a tune I’m transfixed. There’s something very alive and vivid about his playing: something that is too great to be captured by the mind. His penchant for daring double-stops, his wild energy, and his tactful knack for playing just the right notes at the right time (on par with Clarence White). He played for president Clinton, solo. Played right up in his face, really intense fiddling! I got to see him a few years ago, sitting about 10ft from the stage, and it was a totally electrifying and elevating experience, especially his solo rendition of “What If Mozart Played With Bill Monroe?”
I should, perhaps, mention that this is absolutely the best “New Acoustic” or “Newgrass” or whateveryouwannacallit album ever made. After all, Richard co-invented the genre with David Grisman, and he was the original ‘Dawg’ fiddler who would have been a part of Old & in the Way but for a prior comittment. In fact, it seems like he has always been at the inception of everything that later, lesser musicians got famous for. Vassar Clements, Darol Anger, Jean-Luc Ponty, Kronos Quartet, Turtle Island String Quartet, Alison Krauss, younameit: Richard blazed the trail and then moved on. Makes you wonder where he’d be if he’da just had a publicity agent.
Though he was never the composer that David Grisman was, he had an unsurpassed skill at reimagining and rearranging material from a wide range of sources and making it indelibly, enduringly his own. This album brings us pieces from opposite sides of the musical spectrum: Bach, Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’, Stephen Foster, Bill Monroe tunes, Ornette Coleman’s ‘Ramblin’, ‘You Are My Sunshine’… and makes them not only sit side-by-side, but sound like they were never meant to go any other way. The all-time-most-haunting version of ‘In the Pines’ with Peter Rowan on vocals is a highlight, the perfect foil for ‘You Are My Sunshine’ with Maria Muldaur singing. And his response to Ornette Coleman’s “Ramblin'”, itself a response to American vernacular music, is probably the best examble of bluegrass/jazz fusion on record. And the whole album has this classical sensibility, where everything is arranged to full & minute detail, so there is nothing lacking sonically, and nothing wanting. But WAY more energy and drive than any classical musician could give it.
“Richard Greene has such great tone and fine musicianship, he states a melody the way Lawrence Olivier delivers Shakespeare, clearly and with command of the language and the feelings.” – efolkMusic Reviews
“One of America’s most influential fiddlers – certainly one of the giants of modern fiddling, with Richard Greene you get the complete Bluegrass fiddle package: great technique, daring invention, sensitivity to the music’s inner soul and a fiery presentation.” – Bluegrass Unlimited
“I went back to violin when I heard Richard Greene playing with a group called Seatrain that had Peter Rowan in it. I’d gone to see a group called the Youngbloods, which was a great band. By then I was living in Marin County, California, and I heard Richard Greene playing this loud, amplified violin – like, “Orange Blossom Special” and all these amazing tunes really loud. It was just great for a 13 year-old guy. Richard blew my mind, and the guy in the Youngbloods, which is why I went to see the show in the first place. I think I might have been slightly aware of Sugarcane Harris, but Richard blew it all out. I was just discovering bluegrass music. Somebody gave me a Scott Stoneman record, Richard Greene’s “mentor” as far as bluegrass went. They both had that crazy, demented, psychotic style. I thought, “Well, this is how you play fiddle. This is the way to play.” So I learned all that wild, crazy rhythmic stuff, and then started realizing that there was more to it.” – Darol Anger
Richard Greene, “one of the most innovative and influential fiddle players of all time,” grew up in Los Angeles and studied classical music until his encounter with the pyrotechnic fiddling of Scotty Stoneman; from then on Richard was a fiddler. Scotty, in turn, exposed Richard to the recordings of his hero, Chubby Wise, the greatest of which were made with someone named Bill Monroe. Exposed to the primal bluegrass, Richard Greene started telling anyone who would listen, “I want to play with Bill Monroe. That’s the whole focus of my life.”
His networking worked. In early 1966, Greene got a last-minute call from Ralph Rinzler to join Monroe in Montreal and subsequently landed a full-time job with the Blue Grass Boysas one of Monroe’s first “northern” band members. Highly influenced by Stoneman’s improvisational pyrotechnics, Richard mad “Orange Blossom Special” very much his own. When Monroe unleashed him on that fiddle tour de force for the first time on the Opry, he knew what the effect would be. As the avalanche of cheers crested, Monroe was already strumming rhythm, lifting Greene into an encore.
After discovering just how hard it was to make a living in Monroe’s band, he jumped ship at the invitation of former Bluegrass Boy Bill Keith to join Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band, in time to turn their Garden of Joy album into the greatest jug band album of all time (see the first post of this blog).
Richard then went on to found the revolutionary Folk-Rock group Seatrain, pioneering the first use of the electric violin in Rock. His advanced technique and intense yet “cool” tone shocked audiences and prefigured such players as Jean-Luc Ponty and others, influencing a generation of fiddle players including Darol Anger, Alison Krauss, Sam Bush and Stuart Duncan.
Richard’s return to acoustic music occasioned the invention of “New Grass” or “New Acoustic” instrumental music, now a mainstay throughout the world’s acoustic music festivals. As one of Los Angeles’ premier string session players he founded the trailblazing Greene String Quartet creating the first ever amalgam of Jazz-Folk-Rock-Chamber music and producing three seminal albums. His many acclaimed releases in the folk and bluegrass world have been honored with Grammy and IBMA awards, his CD Sales Tax Toddle was Grammy nominated for Bluegrass Album of Year.
Mr. Greene currently leads seminars on all aspects of fiddling and violin playing nationwide, teaching courses at The Mancini Institute, the RockyGrass Academy, the Festival of Fiddle Tunes, the Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp, the Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp, The Swannanoa Gathering, and dozens of ad hoc workshops throughout the year. Also last year marked the debut of Richard Greene’s Piece for Bluegrass Violin and Orchestra entitled “What If Mozart Played With Bill Monroe?”.
Richard Greene is a master at authentic Old Time fiddle music (much of which learned one on one from Bill Monroe, inventor of BlueGrass Music) and New Acoustic (original instrumental compositions). Richard co-invented the genre New Acoustic with David Grisman circa 1974 (The Great American Music Band).
A session fiddler with hundreds of credits — and dozens of bands in which he has performed — Richard Greene’s most famous period was the 1960s, when he played with both Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys and Seatrain. He was born November 9, 1942, in Los Angeles, where he studied classical violin beginning at the age of five. By the time he entered high school, though, Greene switched his focus to folk music. He entered the University of California-Berkeley in 1960, and began playing in the Coast Mountain Ramblers and later the Dry City Scat Band. After college, Greene took a job in real estate, but also played with the Pine Valley Boys in San Francisco. On a trip to New York in 1964, he met Bill Keith of the Blue Grass Boys, and the association influenced Monroe’s decision to hire the youngster two years later. Greene played at the Grand Ole Opry with Monroe and appeared on his Decca album Bluegrass Time.
After only one year with the Blue Grass Boys, Greene joined the Jim Kweskin Jug Band — which also included Keith plus Geoff and Maria Muldaur — and played on that band’s 1968 album Garden of Joy. Not content to stay in one place, he split for California after one year and joined the Blues Project, which then evolved into Seatrain. Greene stayed for over three years, playing on the band’s self-titled 1969 album for A&M, another self-titled LP for Capitol two years later, and 1972’s Marblehead Messenger. With Eric Weissberg, Jim Rooney, and old friend Keith, he then formed the Blue Velvet Band, which recorded only one album, Sweet Moments. Greene spent the rest of the ’70s playing with James Taylor, Emmylou Harris, Rod Stewart, Muleskinner, Taj Mahal, David Grisman, and Loggins & Messina, in addition to recording three albums as a solo act with his backing band, the Zone. The first two, Duets (1977) and Ramblin’ (1979), appeared on Rounder, while 1980’s Blue Rondo was released on the Sierra label. An early-’80s tour of Japan with Tony Trischka and Peter Rowan was documented on the Japanese Nippon label by Bluegrass Album and Hiroshima Mon-Amour (both 1980).
There’s a superb interview with Richard Greene that you can read here:
‘Ramblin” is groundbreaking fiddler Richard Greene’s second solo album, following a couple of years after the innovative ‘Duets.’ As eclectic as they come, Greene was a member of Seatrain, Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band and Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys and a session player with artists ranging from Gary Burton to Con Funk Shun, Jerry Garcia and Al Kooper. In recent years, he has backed Linda Thompson, Rodney Crowell and appeared on an increasing number of soundtrack albums. His tour de force album ‘Ramblin” was cut in 1979 and features Andy Statman and Buell Neidlinger, with appearances by Maria Muldaur, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, Larry McNeely and others.
1 Ramblin’ 03:41
2 New Orleans 03:24
3 Caravan 03:35
4 Bach Violin Concerto in E Major 02:38
5 Limehouse Blues 01:56
6 Steven Foster Medley 04:26
7 You Are My Sunshine 02:59
8 Uncle Pen 02:43
9 In the Pines 03:21
10 The Walls of Time 04:06
sunshine through the walls of pine.
vinyl, cleaned | mp3 >192kbps vbr | w/ cover & liner notes | 45mb
oh, and definitely go to his website and get his more recent albums. worth every penny.
and if any of you have a source on any recordings of The Great American Music Band (Richard, Grisman, sometimes Jerry Garcia, Taj Mahal, etc.), let me know. They never officially recorded but there might be live tapes out there somewheres.