Friday, 18 October 2013

Stefan Grossman - a short appreciation

Stefan Grossman
Photo courtesy of Screamsville Studios 2013

It was a great thrill for me to sit less than ten feet from Stefan Grossman the Bronx folk blues acoustic guitar master, in concert last week at The Works, Sowerby Bridge UK. Quite uncanny too, to hear my own guitar licks played back at me, only being executed much more accurately and, in all honesty, simply much better. I caught myself thinking "I play that, yeah I play that!!" then remembering why that would be the case - because I learned those riffs off Stefan in the first place!

When I began my guitar journey over forty years ago I was listening to and studying rock 'n' roll guitarists,(and I still am, of course), mainly Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins. Over time, it became evident to me that their styles, tones, choice of notes, chord progressions and so on were based on an earlier form of music - the mysterious "blues" (Remember, this was a very long time ago). Now back in those days those sounds were only accessible to me via funky old hard-to-get albums by oddly named old guys such as Lightning Hopkins, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Son House. Scary dudes from some another planet. I found myself drawn to this stuff, and would listen intently to these scratchy old records - the crackle and hiss was in the original recording - I wanted to play like that, but trying to work out what was going down seemed to be next to impossible. Bad sound, out of concert guitars, alternative tunings, bottleneck slides, capos up at the seventh fret, and so on. All this through a fog of extraneous noise and with a time delay of decades.

Stefan Grossman came along and for me he became THE MAN, the key to this other world of blues. He had the talent, patience love and dedication to dissect and lift the guitar playing out of the past and into the now. As a youngster he'd taken lessons one to one from the legendary Reverend Gary Davies, who'd apparantly told him to "bring your money, honey" and Stefan clearly had also listened and listened and listened intently to those ancient tracks until he had accurately figured it all out. He published written tutors and he released records (and later CDs, videos and DVDs). In these he would slow down and patiently demonstrate the tricks and secrets as to how it's all done. This he delivered with good humour, generosity of spirit and boundless enthusiasm. Stefan became, and remains the "go to" guitar tutor for me. A truly inspirational guy.

Stefan Grossman and Dave Peters
Photo courtesy of Screamsville Studios 2013