BANJOIST DAVID DEESE: BLUEGRASS BOY TO BRIARHOPPER
(AN UNFINISHED BIOGRAPHY)
BY PAT J. AHRENS
Self Published, No Number.
(Pat Ahrens, 6708 Vanwood Dr., Columbia, SC 29206, www.patahrens.com)
David Deese may not be a household name in many bluegrass households, but he was right there in the thick of it. Winning several prestigious banjo contests early on, he became noticed. Soon he was a Blue Grass Boy. His story of those days in the early 1960s highlights just how hard those times were for bluegrass musicians. He later replaced Don Reno when Reno & Smiley broke up. He also played with the Jones Brothers, Betty Fisher, and The Briarhoppers.
This book will be of interest to all who remember those days and anyone wanting to gain insight to the earlier days. The tenor of those times was much different. Of course, much of this book focuses on a time that was a half-century ago. There are details about his time as a Blue Grass Boy and living in Nashville in a boarding house, what it was like to travel as a band in one car, and of the more rustic aspects of living on the road. Deese kept extensive logs of his time with Smiley and they are replicated here, providing insight into the schedules the bands kept in those days. There are also his recollections of the very first bluegrass festival and his take on how that changed the bluegrass world.
David Deese may not be one of those names you hear when folks start talking about highly influential banjo players, but his sphere of influence was wide. He may not of reinvented any aspect of banjo playing, but he was a go-to guy for some of the legendary performers in the genre. This is an interesting read that is, at times, a bit meandering, but there are enough nuggets of information to make this a worthwhile read.RCB