I fell in love with bluegrass music the first time I heard it being played live. That was Easter 1970 at National Banjo Pickers Convention, held at The Claudelands Showgrounds in Hamilton NZ. Its remarkable that many of the performers I saw there are my friends to this day.
Soon after that eventful Easter, I acquired my first 5-string banjo – a no-name instrument made somewhere to the west of the international dateline. It was good enough to get me hooked and was well used during my years at university. Learning banjo is a perfect adjunct to studying engineering.
Some time during this period I upgraded to a Fender Artist (a banjo that I wish I still had – silly me for selling it).
A move to Wellington in 1978 saw the formation of Urban Renewal. We gigged around the capital for 2 or 3 years, playing the folk clubs, several festivals and a lot of square dances.
In 1981 I set out to see the world. I ended up in Washington DC (where I had a day job at The World Bank) and stayed there for the next 6 years. It was an amazing time. I got to hear, see and pick with my heroes, making many new friends. The bluegrass community in the USA is just like here, only bigger, and once people got over my strange accent, I felt quite at home. While in the USA, I acquired my beautiful 1929 Gibson Granada banjo.
After returning to New Zealand in late 1986, I played with a couple of different bands (Southern Cross, The Terraplanes and numerous ‘pickup’ bands), playing regularly at the Auckland Bluegrass and Old Time Country Music Club, folk festivals, square dances and other venues around Auckland.
I took time off from music in the mid 90′s and for the next 7 or 8 years rarely thought of either my banjo or bluegrass music.
In 2003 I realised there was a huge gap in my life and once more immersed myself in the New Zealand folk scene. This soon lead to the formation of Wires and Wood, with whom I still play regularly.
In 2009, I joined Neil Finlay, Al Young, Beverley Young and Garry Trotman to play in Beverley and The Clench Mountain Boys. Neil left the band in early 2010, but we continued on and are still active, playing our favourite songs from Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, Gillian Welch and Garry Trotman.
In 2010 Neil, Peter and I got together to have a pick, realised we had a sound that is different from any one else playing around New Zealand, and so The Remarkables were born.
Playing banjo in three different bands is a lot of fun. There is not much overlap in the styles and it gives me a lot of opportunity to express myself in different directions, knowing I will in each case have supportive musicians (and friends) to play with.