John Hartford won Grammy awards in three different decades, recorded a catalog of more than 30 albums, and wrote one of the most popular songs of all time, Gentle On My Mind. He was a regular guest and contributor on the Glen Campbell Good Time Hour and the Smothers Brothers Show. He added music and narration to Ken Burns’ landmark Civil War series, and was an integral part of the hugely popular "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack and Down From The Mountain concert tour. But that hardly explains John Hartford.
Béla Fleck is often considered the premier banjo player in the world. A New York City native, he picked up the banjo at age 15 after being awed by the bluegrass music of Flatt & Scruggs. While still in high school he began experimenting with playing bebop jazz on his banjo, mentored by fellow banjo renegade Tony Trischka. In 1980, he released his first solo album, Crossing the Tracks, with material that ranged from straight ahead bluegrass to Chick Corea’s “Spain.” In 1982, Fleck joined the progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival, making a name for himself on countless solo and ensemble projects ever since as a virtuoso instrumentalist. In 1989 he formed the genre-busting Flecktones, with members equally talented and adventurous as himself.
Attending the Black Prairie concert in March 2013 at the historical McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California, I had the pleasant opportunity to catch up with multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk. I really enjoyed hearing his thoughts about songwriting and playing music, advice to those starting out on the banjo and his adventure with the instrument.