17 September 2016

'Mr Winfield' - and the Irish connections

Thanks to the Walnut Valley Association (WVA), organisers of the annual instrumentalist championships and festival at Winfield, Kansas, for the news that guitar maestro Dan Crary has made his thirty-fifth appearance at Winfield, having been at the very first event in 1972 and contributed greatly to its development. The WVA is happy to endorse the title 'Mr Winfield', given to Dan by a fan in 1992. The photos above show him in the 1970s (left) and this year (right).

Flat-picking lead guitar was not unknown in bluegrass before Dan Crary, but the examples of Don Reno, Bill Napier, and George Shuffler were not widely followed; and although Clarence White had demonstrated how the immensely influential style of Doc Watson could be used in a bluegrass band, Crary's stunning work with the Kentucky-based Bluegrass Alliance seemed to open the gate for its full acceptance in bluegrass.

Crary's tastes range widely in music, and he is also a first-class communicator. This year's Winfield festival includes a special performance of his 'Primal Twang', a stage presentation of the guitar’s long history, comprising on-stage narration, video projections of rare historical footage, and live performances by Crary and international guitar stars. A DVD of 'Primal Twang' is available. The WVA adds: 'It has been said that viewing “Primal Twang” should be a requirement for anyone that has played or has the desire to play a guitar.'

Dan Crary first performed in Ireland at the Tailor's Hall, Dublin, in autumn 1978 with the Sackville String Band (in its new four-piece bluegrass-oriented format) opening for his impressive solo act. He has subsequently played here on several occasions, both solo and as a band member in Berline, Crary & Hickman and its expanded version, California. He became a good friend of Frank Robinson of Derry, and Frank's choice of a Taylor dreadnaught as his personal acoustic guitar owes something to Dan's example and advice.

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