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Stefan Grossman

+ {The Even Dozen Jug Band}

Born April 16, 1945, Brooklyn, New York, young guitarist Stefan was a protégé of acoustic blues singer REV. GARY DAVIS, studying with the blind guitarist nearly every weekend for several years. Of course, there were other influences, these included black blues acts such as MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT, MANCE LIPSCOMB, SON HOUSE, CHARLEY PATTON and ELIZABETH COTTEN, to mention only a handful.
Still only 18 years of age, GROSSMAN collated the talents of other like-minded souls when he formed the EVEN DOZEN JUG BAND, a loose, one-off ragtime/bluegrass-styled (“jug-grass”) outfit comprising Peter Siegel, Pete Jacobson, Steve Katz (future BLUES PROJECT), John Benson (aka JOHN SEBASTIAN), Joshua Rifkin (future Scott Joplin purveyor), DAVID GRISMAN (a JERRY GARCIA associate), Frank Goodkin, Fred Weisz, Danny Lauffer, Peggy Haine, Bob Gurland and last but not least, Maria d’Amato (soon to be MARIA MULDAUR, wife of GEOFF MULDAUR). Taking their cue from post-1920s mountain music, the tongue-in-cheek ensemble (complete with kazoos, washboards and er, jugs) were slightly suggestive in their repertoire on sole LP the EVEN DOZEN JUG BAND (1964) {*7} – typical examples came were `Come On In’, `All Worn Out’ and `Take Your Fingers Off It’. His work with the bohemian folkies The FUGS followed soon afterwards.
Signed as a solo artist to Elektra Records, GROSSMAN’s inaugural LP was indeed an unorthodox one, the instructional HOW TO PLAY BLUES GUITAR (1967) {*6}. Having relocated to the UK thereafter, his new body of work came through Fontana Records in the shape of two sets, AUNT MOLLY’S MURRAY FARM (1969) {*5} and THE GRAMERCY PARK SHEIK (1969) {*5}; the first of many collaborations (`Crosscurrents’ with Danny Kalb) was also issued that year.
Switching to Nat Joseph’s Transatlantic stable (home to the likes of RALPH McTELL, The HUMBLEBUMS, HARVEY ANDREWS, et al), Stefan was at his most prolific, releasing several worthy sets from YAZOO BASIN BOOGIE (1970) {*8} and THE RAGTIME COWBOY JEW (1970) {*6} to the sublime BOTTLENECK SERENADE (1975) {*7} and MY CREOLE BELLE (1976) {*5}. Predating the cinematic work of modern-day blues stylist RY COODER, there were a number of GROSSMAN instrumental jewels from this period including renditions (among other tributes) of EWAN MacCOLL’s `The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’.
Founding his own Kicking Mule imprint in the mid-70s, GROSSMAN signed other virtuoso finger-pickers, none more highly though of than JOHN RENBOURN (whom he also worked with on a few sets including STEFAN GROSSMAN & JOHN RENBOURN (1978) {*6} and UNDER THE VOLCANO (1980) {*6}), his aforementioned tutor the REV. GARY DAVIS, BERT JANSCH, RALPH McTELL, HAPPY TRAUM, DAVEY GRAHAM and DUCK BAKER.
At home with artists of a more Celtic-folk nature, Stefan was a subsequent part of the Shanachie group of artists, releasing a number of highly sought-after albums, SHINING SHADOWS (1985) {*7}, GUITAR LANDSCAPES (1990) {*5} and LOVE, DEVILS AND THE BLUES (1992) {*5}. With the aforementioned BAKER, Stefan offered up a traditionally-biased set, NORTHERN SKIES, SOUTHERN BLUES (1997) {*6}, featuring two instrumental takes of ELIZABETH COTTEN’s `Freight Train’ and `Shake Sugaree’; he demonstrated the same spirit and dexterity on his similarly-themed solo set, SHAKE THAT THING: FINGERPICKING COUNTRY BLUES GUITAR (1998) {*7}.
Of late, the guitarist has established yet another outlet for his folk-blues musings under the banner of Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop; his most notable release so far has been BERMUDA TRIANGLE EXIT (2007) {*6}, jointly accredited to new-kid-on-the-block Tokio Uchida.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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