One simply cannot talk about people of importance to this genre without tipping the hat to the most masterful musician, teacher, musicologist, producer, folklorist and preservationist of the traditional blues. By now, Stefan Grossman is a venerated, iconoclastic and respected acoustic blues figure of mega-proportions. He came out of the vibrant Greenwich Village, New York, 1960s scene around Washington Square, where so many American folk and blues musicians launched their careers. His friend and occasional collaborator, Steve Katz, formerly of the Even Dozen Jug Band, the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears, once half jokingly told this writer: “There we were, all these New York Jews playing the black blues.” Indeed, the blues had a strong influence on young New Yorkers during the folk revival. These musicians, Stefan Grossman, Happy & Artie Traum, Danny Kalb, and many others, in turn had a powerful influence on the acceptance of the blues by the American baby boomer generation at large; and, they significantly helped to launch the folk, roots & blues revival, thereby reinvigorating the careers of many original blues musicians whose careers had waned.
Many people know Stefan Grossman as the paramount teacher and entrepreneur in what has become the world’s largest “blues school”, Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop. He is one of the most skilled guitarists in the genre, having been a student of Rev. Gary Davis in New York City. He also picked up lessons directly from Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and others.
This album was original recorded and released in 1973. This is the first time it is available in CD format. The eighteen selections played by myself and Ton Van Bergeyk show a wide cross-section of ragtime possibilities. These range from classic rags to ragtime songs to ragtime dances to the ragtime guitar styles of Blind Blake and Rev. Davis. The concept of this project hopefully combines an enjoyable listening experience with instructional information for guitarists. Detailed notes on each tune is presented in the 8 page insert booklet. A 48 page tab/music book with transcriptions for all the tunes is on this enhanced CD as a PDF file.
Track Listing: (click on tracks for mp3 sound samples)
8. Bill Bailey
10. St. Louis Tickle
11. Twelve Sticks
12. Powder Rag
13. A Salty Dog Rag
14. Ton of Blues
18. Franklin Blues
Review: Before there was Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop - the world's guitar teacher -there was just, well, Stefan Grossman. And his acoustic guitar. And his genuine earnestness to share his wellspring of knowledge with anyone who had access to a hi-fi and six strings. How To Play Ragtime Guitar is one such early act of fingerpicked altruism. Originally released back in 1973, Grossman, along with fellow string-dazzler Ton Van Bergeyk, set out to teach the many thrilling delights of a dancing guitar by way of 18 instrumental originals and traditionals. Their album actively buzzes like a beehive. But, since all the instruction gets neatly tucked away into the liner notes (and now also embedded as a 48-page tab/music PDF booklet), the CD is pure listening pleasure for the non-student too. Combining compositional inventiveness with the nimbleness of a tap dancer, these two unplugged heroes crafted their own Struttin' Rag, after already mastering Sam McGee's fetching Franklin Blues and the hotshot showpiece of Grossman's original guitar teacher, Rev. Gary Davis' Twelve Sticks. Spinning barrel rolls and winging loop-de-loops with the greatest of capo'ed ease, Georgia Camp Meeting, Ton Of Blues and See That Girl Sittin' On The Fence incorporate snazzy elements from dusty piano rolls and Eddie Lang licks, Blind Blake's blues and Jelly Roll Morton moves. Then, true to mission, A Salty Dog Rag gets run ragged: It's a D7 chord and a cloud of dust. – Dennis Rozanski/Bluesrag
Review: Kicking Mule Records first released this collection in the mid-1970s. On 18 tracks, Stefan Grossman and Dutchman Ton Van Bergeyk survey solo fingerstyle arrangements of raggy blues, classic ragtime, popular songs and related genres. Their playing sounds fresh today, and as a tutorial the disc provides an excellent introduction to the styles of early players, including Blind Blake, Reverend Gary Davis, and Sam McGee, before moving into classic rag territory with St. Louis Tickle and the cakewalk, Georgia Camp Meeting. Some of the best playing is heard on bluesy pieces like Grossman's original Struttin'Rag, Hard Hearted Hannah, also by Grossman, Van Bergeyk's Ton of Blues (which bears a filial relationship to Hesitation Blues) and the pop song, Jealous. Other gems include Grossman's rendition of Powder Rag, (Rory Block's arrangement), the Gary Davis rarity, Slippin' 'Til My Gal Comes in, Partner and Frank McGee's Franklin Blues. The disc is also noteworthy for presenting the seldom-recorded Van Bergeyk, who has since become a minor legend among fans of ragtime and blues fingerpicking; his bouncy, smart arrangements are a treasure (Van Bergeyk also has several recent videos on YouTube). This music was formative for many fingerpickers in the 1970s, and I'm happy that it's available again. – Patrick Ragains/Minor 7th