Honing his chops as a young “Bluegrass Boy” with Bill Monroe, Rowan, a master of many styles, returns to his bluegrass roots with a band adept at honoring the tradition’s past masters while pushing the genre to new heights.
Listen[audio:http://media.rvanews.com/FolkFestival/audio/Rowan_Nighttime.mp3|artists=Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band|titles=Nighttime]
- Nashville, Tennessee
From the Dean’s Desk »
With a voice clear like Willie Nelson and soaring and lyrical like Bill Monroe, Peter Rowan is a bluegrass boss. While this current band has only been together for a couple years, guitarist and singer Rowan has been around the block, getting started in the master Monroe’s band and playing now for fifty years. The same things that got him into bluegrass keep his music as passionate as ever: a dark, lonesome sound and a connection to the blues.
How did college kid from Wayland, Massachusetts become lead singer in the country’s most famous bluegrass band in 1965? While bluegrass music was born in the upland South in the post-World War II years, its popularity reached all parts of the country. Though not from the birthplace of bluegrass, legendary singer, songwriter, and musical innovator Peter Rowan was embraced by the genre’s originators and has been a major force in the music’s evolution.
In the early 1950s, West Virginia bluegrass pioneers the Lilly Brothers took their tight, brother-style harmonies to New England. Performing regularly at Boston’s Hillbilly Ranch club, they could have had no idea what impact their music would have on one young man sitting in the crowd. “Bluegrass appealed to me. It was callin’ me – the high harmonies, that high and lonesome calling sound,” Rowan recalled. In 1964, he left college to pursue a full-time in career in music, and was soon invited to join Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys. During his adventurous musical career spanning over five decades, this Grammy Award winner and five-time Grammy nominee has attained nearly cult status. Through his eclectic interests in acoustic roots music – bluegrass, blues, old-time and the singer/songwriter tradition, among others – Rowan has developed a distinctive voice within the genre. He has performed with Vassar Clements and Clarence White, as well as David Grisman, Jerry Garcia, Jerry Douglas and Norman Blake. He has performed traditional old-time music, progressive bluegrass, country and “reggaebilly.” One of the preeminent songwriters of his time, Rowan has penned classics like “Moonlight, Midnight,” and “Panama Red.” During the 1980s, as a Music Row songwriter in Nashville, he wrote country hits for George Strait, Ricky Skaggs, Michael Martin Murphy and Janie Fricke.
The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band is comprised of seasoned, accomplished traditional players with a combined 100 years of experience. There’s currently a real buzz about the music the band is making. With Keith Little on banjo and vocals, Paul Knight on bass and vocals, and Jody Stecher mandolin and vocals, the group is noted for its arrangements of bluegrass classics and original songs, tight vocal harmonies and dynamic stage presence.