I was a student at UC Santa Barbara when Ralph and his band did a concert there in 1968. My friend Steve Keith and I were on the front row. After the show I asked Ralph where I could learn to play clawhammer banjo in the style he learned from his mother.
Ralph said, “You need to go back to the mountains where lots of old
folks still play that style.” Steve and I left the next summer and traveled through the Appalachian mountains and fell in love with the music and the people. Steve was already a good clawhammer player and, when he brought out the banjo, folks just opened up their homes to us. The banjo has been a magic key for me. I have never lost a passion for it from that first concert by Ralph Stanley right up to today.
I consider Ralph a friend now. We have performed on many stages together and I never fail to thank him for inspiring me in 1969 to head back to the Blue Ridge Mountains to look for old-time banjo players.