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Published: 2015/03/18
by Glenn H Roth

David Grisman: The Dawg Days of Spring

On Thursday, David Grisman will team up with an old friend for some springtime bluegrass.

The 70-year-old mandolin player will take the stage alongside Del McCoury to headline the first night of the 19th annual Suwannee Springfest. which kicks off March 19 in Live Oak, Fla. This will be Grisman’s fifth appearance, having played there in 2001, 2003, 2008 and 2011.

“Seeing some old friends (and new ones) and of course, playing with Del,” said Grisman, when asked what he likes about Suwannee. “Live Oak has a great bluegrass history as well, it was home base for the Stanley Brothers.”

Grisman, who had a long musical friendship with Jerry Garcia, will also be part of Dear Jerry – a concert celebrating the music of Garcia’s career. The special event takes place May 14 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD.

“I’m still planning what I will be doing,” he said, “I’m hoping to bring one of my bands with me.”

Grisman also tours with DGBX and the DG Sextet.

You’re about to embark on a mini tour where you will collaborate with Del McCoury, how did that pairing come to fruition?

Del and I have been friends since we met at his first gig with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys in 1963. He played banjo at that concert — exceedingly well I might add. The idea for us to play together as a duo had been brewing for several years and I’m very pleased that now it’s a reality.

Did you spend much time rehearsing or is your goal to just let the music take you wherever?

We got together the day before our first gig last fall. We decided to create our own repertoire of tunes that neither of us play in our regular bands. Fortunately there’s a wealth of great material that we both are familiar with and I put together a couple of instrumentals for us to play, “G-Run Blues” and “Del & Dawg.” Having said that, the music always takes us to new places. It’s a living art form!

How do you feel your musical styles best complement each other?

Traditional bluegrass was my first big musical love affair — and it hasn’t ended. Del is a powerful bluegrass rhythm guitarist and an amazing singer. We both come from the same bluegrass “school” so to speak. I love to play mandolin and sing with him. It’s a very comfortable situation for both of us.

You also have touring dates coming up where you’ll be touring as DGBX as well as the Sextet. Besides personnel, how are those lineups different musically?

The DGBX (David Grisman Bluegrass Experience) is my outlet for playing traditional bluegrass music. It’ s one of the best bluegrass bands I’ve ever played in and now we’ve been together for at least a dozen years.Although I compose and play music in many styles, I’ve always been a hardcore bluegrass devotee. The Sextet is my vehicle for playing my own music—Dawg Music!—a blend of bluegrass, jazz, and other traditional acoustic music genres. Next year will mark 40 years since the formation of the original quintet. The Sextet is the culmination of everything I’ve put into that music.

Any special plans in the work to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original quintet? Could the founding members reunite for a tour or a special evening performance?

Probably not due to the fact that Tony Rice is not well but I plan to do extensive touring with my Sextet as well as a few “Dawg Festival” large events which we are in the planning stages now.

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