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‘Fifty Years in the Bluegrass’ to Feature Peter Feldmann

Marking an amazing 50 years in music, Blue Dalmatian Productions is pleased to announce a special musical event honoring bluegrass great Peter Feldmann at 8 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 2, at the historic Lobero Theatre.

Peter Feldmann
Peter Feldmann

“Fifty Years in the Bluegrass” will celebrate Feldmann’s long career as a performer, collector, professor and presenter of bluegrass, old-time, folk and blues music in Southern California. Re-creating some of Santa Barbara’s folk music history, featuring many of Feldmann’s musical friends and associates, this one-time-only event will include virtuoso violinist Jim Wimmer, guitarist, composer and bluegrass historian Mayne Smith, bluesmen Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan with Alastair Greene, country and folk musicians Rick Cunha and David Jackson (Mother’s Boys), Tom Lee, David West and Blaine Sprouse (The Very Lonesome Boys), Francine Feldmann, and three-time National Fiddle Champion Byron Berline. Berline just received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Nashville last month.

Representing the Appalachian string band tradition are the Gap Tooth Mountain Ramblers — “From the land of hog and hominy, possum and taters, where the whiskey’s made out of corn and the women don’t smell like talcum powder. ... A string band with the hairy side out,” said Feldmann, who knows what he’s talking about since he’s in the group with Wimmer, Michael Mendelson and Tom Wolverton.

Each part of the show will reflect one of Feldmann’s wide-ranging musical interests, including the folk tradition, Appalachian string band music, country blues, hillbilly music and bluegrass.

“I’ll have a great bunch of fiddlers, and I’m planning to keep them busy!” he said. “We’ll have lots of other instruments and some fine singers up there as well. I greatly enjoy putting musicians in different genres together, just to see what happens next. We often achieve a unique musical synergy with truly delightful results!”

Interjecting little skits, stories and bits of humor into the musical landscape for the one-night-only program will complete the circle of fun.

“If we don’t see you in the future,” Feldmann says with a sly grin, “we’ll see you in the pasture!”

Arriving as an immigrant from Switzerland to Los Angeles in 1946, Feldmann soon discovered and was enthralled by early cowboy and country music.

“It was a way for me to learn about the USA, its people and its history,” h said.

When his family made the move to Santa Barbara in 1957, Feldmann found and began trying to play an old Martin guitar. Moving east in 1960, he encountered the new Old Town School of Folk Music on Chicago’s North Side, where he first met performers such as banjoist Frank Proffitt and balladeer Horton Barker. He was soon hosting a radio show on WNUR, interviewing, photographing and writing about folk musicians, and building his record and tape library of traditional folk recordings.

Returning to Santa Barbara in 1962, he began by organizing Santa Barbara’s first “Hootenanny,” a collective gathering of folk singers, in Orpet Park. This event, with its emphasis on sharing and educating fellow citizens about the music, became a common thread in Feldmann’s musical enterprises.

Resuming his studies at UCSB, Feldmann soon formed the Old Time Music Front, a student organization dedicated to “subverting the student body to appreciate traditional folk music, bluegrass, and blues,” as he put it. His first concert produced at UCSB featured Mance Lipscomb, a 70-year-old bluesman and songster from Navasota, Texas. Shortly thereafter, Feldmann presented his newfound friends Mike Seeger, Tracy Schwarz, and John Cohen, The New Lost City Ramblers at the Lobero.

He began a 21-year-long stint at producing regular radio shows for a half-dozen stations in Santa Barbara, including its first FM station, KRCW, located above the central plaza in the El Paseo and KTYD-FM when it was in the Granada Building. Along with Kajsa Ohman and Gene McGeorge, Feldmann formed one of the most definitive and seminal string bands on the West Coast, The Scragg Family, based in the Mountain Drive community, who traveled and performed across California for ten years beginning in 1962.

In 1971, Feldmann founded the Bluebird Cafe on Anapamu Street, a venue that quickly attained national recognition as a music club, featuring folk, country, jazz, blues and bluegrass greats along with world music from Scotland, Ireland, Japan, Turkey and India. Many performers made their first appearances in town at the Bluebird, which in many ways functioned as a school of music.

In the following year, Feldmann was asked by UCSB to create the Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention, an event that continues to this day. For a dozen years, he taught banjo, guitar and fiddle for Santa Barbara City College’s Continuing Education department, as well as country music history classes for UCSB Extension. Founding his own record label in 1973, Feldmann began issuing original recordings of string band music, as well as reissue material from his 78 collection, and a series of instructional records for fiddle, banjo and guitar.

Today, Feldmann continues his music enterprises, with trios based in Albuquerque and Los Angeles, as well as his four- or five-piece bluegrass band, Peter Feldmann & The Very Lonesome Boys. His website, BlueGrassWest.com is a central point of information regarding acoustic music in Southern California. A monthly newsletter is available for free subscription.

Tickets for “50 Years in the Blue Grass” are $35 for general admission; students with valid ID are $25 on sale at the Lobero or online by clicking here. The Lobero Theatre is located in the heart of downtown at 33 E. Canon Perdido St. Box Oofice hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and two hours prior to all shows. Call 805.963,0761. The Lobero Theatre is wheelchair accessible and has the Assistive Listening System in place for patrons who are hard of hearing.

— Maureen McFadden is a publicist representing Blue Dalmatian Productions.

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