This just got put up on Bluegrass Today, an old interview Katy Daley did with Ben Eldredge. It's being posted in 3 parts. Today was childhood in Richmond VA up to playing with Cliff Waldron.
Sit back and enjoy. I've only talked with Ben a little, but here you can really appreciate his beautiful old Richmond accent. It's very interesting to us guys of a certain age, to banjo lovers, to old country music lovers, bluegrass personalities, etc.
Two more to follow, soon I hope.
Ben is one of my fav pickers. I had the pleasure of speaking with him on the phone from NZ in 2018. My old band 'Slim Pickin's' had a reunion that year and qwe did two numbers that the Seldom Scene did. I was having problems figuring out how Ben played the banjo break in 'Brother John' and if he employed any special tunings. He advised that he played it standard G. From that (and help from another BHO'r) I worked out his break almost note for note. Very friendly and helpfull.
My only chance to speak with him for more than "Hello" was at Jenny Brook Festival in VT when the Scene performed. A few of us talked to him for quite some time backstage and he told us about the Tokai banjo he was playing. Very friendly and happy to talk banjos.
The "Seldom Scene" was my favorite bluegrass band. Their music "drew" a lot of new people to bluegrass music. The original lineup was outstanding. Every person stood out. Ben Eldridge played a lot of original and enjoyable material on banjo.
I saw the original "Seldom Scene" at Charlotte Mi. years ago. Lots of humor and good music. I also enjoyed watching and listening to John Duffy. He put a lot of emotion into his singing.
John Duffy made promoters pay before they left for an event. So they did not appear as often as some other groups. Smart move by an experienced entertainer.
I was lucky to get Ben to sign my banjo head at Thomas Point in Sept. 2001.
He didn't have a pen but I did.
A great player. Got to meet him briefly at Bluegrass Canada in the 1970’s ,,,at the banjo workshop later on he and Raymond McLain tore it up on “Grandfather’s Clock” (“timepiece” as John Duffy referred time it...lol) for a good 7 or 8 minutes. I thought I’d get another chance to see him at the Blythe Fstvl a few years ago but Dudley announced he couldn’t make it due to his bad back preventing him from sitting in a plane for hours.
A very interesting first hour—some great stories. Especially revealing is Ben’s account of going onstage at Camp Springs with Cliff Waldron, his first really big festival, with most of the greats of Bluegrass in attendance.
I will add that for anyone interested in the history of the Seldom Scene or Country Gentlemen, “John Duffy’s Bluegrass Life” is a fascinating read.
Ben’s playing with Cliff Waldron was exceptional, especially on the LP “Right On.” It’s fast, very clean, appropriately loud and very musical. That band also included Mike Auldridge on dobro and Mike’s brother Dave on mandolin. Those three were founding members of the Seldom Scene very shortly afterward (although Dave left the Scene before it recorded its first LP). When I moved to Washington in the early 80s one of my first stops was the Birchmere on a Thursday night. I was thrilled to see the band in person. I remember that I got autographs from Ben, Mike, and John Duffey, and all three of them were very friendly.
My introduction to the Seldom Scene was the Cellar Door album album, laid out on the table at the local BG hangout in Long Beach. I had never heard of them, but I took the owner's word for it that they were a hot band & bought the album the following week. That double LP set, done live, just knocked my socks off! The Scene quickly became my favorite band & Ben my favorite banjo player. Every time I heard them do a song I didn't have, I'd add another one of their albums to my collection.
Being on the west coast, I didn't think I'd ever get to see the Seldom Scene perform live. But they did make several trips to Ca, & we always made it a point to see them. We pulled into grass valley late one time. By the time I got to the stage the Scene was wrapping up, having done their set & a quick Q&A session. They were really beat, just off the plane & rushed to the festival. I asked Ben If there was any chance of getting a private lesson while they were there. He asked where I was camped & said he would try to make it back in a couple hours after they'd had a chance to unpack & relax a bit. I was on cloud nine!
Paula had left find a jam session as I sat out front of our little trailer, blank tape in the recorder, set on record/pause, noodling around while waiting. Ben came sauntering up, sat down & talked, showed me some of the stuff I was having trouble with, anything I asked about. He was there for, I don't know how long. Time stood still, but it seemed like hours. I was prepared to pay whatever he asked. Ben wouldn't hear of it. It wasn't until after he left that I realized I had forgotten to start the recorder.
Thanks for posting that link. It took a couple days but I enjoyed listening to every one.
Edited by - monstertone on 08/18/2020 19:11:57
I hope in a future episode he is asked how he conceived that odd and beautiful break to "Last Train from Poor Valley".
'1979 Gold Star GF-100W' 2 hrs