Hello everyone. Happy New Year! As we start the new year, it brings me good pleasure to share with you an interview with our very first female bluegrass musician. I have had many good times picking with Linda Garrison and know her as a friend and admire her as a wonderful person. She definitely loves her banjo playing and singing. Make sure you say hello next time you see her at one of our local jams.
BB: Introduction – Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Linda: I was born and raised most of my life in Missouri and have been married to Dennis for 50 years next July. We have one son, John and 2 granddaughters, Jessica and Rachel.
I have had 3 careers in my life, so far. Number one, I was a hairdresser for 18 years. Two, I had my own company and designed and marketed quilting books and soft sculptured items in the US and internationally for 15 years. Three I was a realtor for 15 years. But, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
BB: When did you get started in your musical journey?
Linda: I have always loved music and played some kind of instrument most of my life. My dad’s family lived on a farm and supplemented their income with their band, playing for dances. That was before bluegrass.
BB: What happened after that?
Linda: I was always whining and wanting music lessons, but there was no money,
so my formal music education came with a clarinet in junior high school, which I played through high school.
BB: Where did you go from there?
Linda: The next instrument I tried was a Sears’s guitar I bought for 5 dollars and taught myself finger picking style playing. After all it was when folk music was in.
BB: How did you get into Bluegrass/Old Time/Other Music?
Linda: In the 1970’s some friends of mine that I square danced with played Bluegrass and got together once in a while and no one played the banjo, so that’s how I decided to play banjo. Plus, it was my favorite instrument.
I found Jeff Elsloo for a teacher and took lessons for about 6 months, but that was when I was starting my quilting business and found I had not time for my banjo, so I put it down.
Fast forwarding to 2001, I was retiring and thought I would try the banjo again and looked around for someplace to take lessons. I looked on the internet and figured Mountain Music might be a good place to start. I walked in to talk to them about lessons and there was Jeff. So he was stuck with me again. He can run but he can’t hide.
BB: What is your favorite Bluegrass Band or Artist? and who influenced you the most?
Linda: Early on I found Nashville Bluegrass Band and loved their songs and style and Alan O’Bryant on banjo. I got to meet Alan at a banjo camp this last summer in Michigan. I wanted to tell him “I was his biggest fan”, but I thought that was to Kathy Bates.
I also am a great fan of Russell Moore and III Tyme Out and do a number of their songs.
BB: How many songs have you written?
Linda: I have not written any songs, but I do love a well-crafted song. Becky Bueller has written several songs I try to do, and I love her play on words.
BB: What advice would you give to young people wanting to get started in Bluegrass?
Linda: Other than practice, practice, practice, the main thing is to get out there and jam with other people. You learn nothing being a closet player. When you first start just sit in the background and learn to play backup quietly. Your knowledge will increase greatly sitting in with good players.
Learn how to sing, this will increase your playing ability greatly and increase your repertoire.
Always be a courteous jammer and follow good jamming etiquette.
BB: Anything else you want to say to wrap up this interview?
Linda: I want to thank all the people who have allowed me to jam with them and put up with all my inadequacies’. This is what makes playing fun, coming together with other people and making a unified sound that is pleasing to the ear.
Bill: Linda, thank you so much for sharing your musical journey.