Dan Crary, Bluegrass Guitarist
Credit: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/mando_gal/sets/72157600174160156/

Who Is Dan Crary?

If you're the type of person that likes attending music festivals, and especially folk music festivals; then probably you have no lack of knowledge of who Mr. Dan Crary is.  If you're like me, and haven't really been to a whole lot of folk music festivals, but have managed to attend the Walnut Valley Festival, in Winfield, Kansas; (I've been three times) then you almost certainly have seen Dan Crary perform, heard him speak a bit, and even spoke to him a few times.

Dan Crary is a really big man.  He stands well over six feet tall, and were I told he stood seven feet tall, I'd not be surprised, as he's just that much taller than most everyone else, and besides that, he's not exactly thin either.  He's got a voice, of course, and his voice is huge itself; when Dan Crary speaks, you can hear him far away, and he doesn't really need a microphone; he's very loud already.  Dan Crary, you see, is a professor of communications, and I believe this is at the University of Southern California.  Only thing one might find annoying is, Dan seems so used to speaking to students, that maybe he regards nearly everyone at festivals as his students as well.

 So Dan has a career outside of guitar playing.  He's also done a lot of guitar playing, recording, and performing.  He's been instrumental in bringing steel string acoustic guitars played with a pick into the folk and bluegrass realm. Whenever and wherever a fine musician is found, there is typically more than one.  Strong musicians attract others of their kind, and in Dan's case, there have been many; but very notable on the list is the great fiddler Byron Berline , and banjo player John Hickman.

Music is forever a form of communication, and so it is fitting as such to have another job as a professor of communications.  Dan also has his own website, as most professionals do these days[1].  He's also made a big name for himself in teaching guitar, and in producing instructional materials for it.

What is special or unique about Dan's music is he was making Bluegrass music with Berline and Hickman featuring the dreadnought guitar as a soloists' instrument when the idea of such a thing was brand new.  It was such a new idea, that his first album was simply titled, Bluegrass Guitar. Over the years the idea not only caught on, but flourished.  While it is plain enough to anyone that Doc Watson had already been making albums while playing leads or solos on a steel string guitar with a pick, the music of Doc Watson really just featured some Bluegrass.  Watson had never been a dedicated Bluegrass guy.

An Outstanding Medley Performed By Dan Crary

Dan Crary, An Acoustic Guitar Pioneer

When it comes to the teaching of Bluegrass guitar, Dan Crary was easily one of the first to make a real name for himself there; as he was with the playing of Bluegrass music on guitar.  Throughout the 1980's Dan had a monthly instructional column in Frets magazine.  Nowadays the lead or example Dan had set are seen throughout the Bluegrass and folk music world.  We've got men like Steve Kaufman who've dedicated their working adulthood to teaching flatpicking, and we've got Dan to thank for setting the example.

What else has Dan Crary done besides being one of the first to use a steel string acoustic guitar and a pick to play leads in a Bluegrass band, and being one of the first to also have a career both teaching and playing the instrument?  Well, Dan Crary has also managed to become an international ambassador of the music.  He's made good friends with people in far away places, and found that his music is not just liked in such far away places, but melded into the music of those places.  Dan is a good friend of Beppe Gambetta[2], a man who's taken Dan's lead, and used the flatpicking of the steel string guitar to fuse together a plethora of European styles of music.

I own several Dan Crary albums myself, but I'm a longtime acoustic guitar nut.  Of all the Dan Crary albums I do own, the one linked below, Jammed If I Do, is my favorite.  Why is it my favorite?  Well, the album showcases a wide variety of styles by Dan, and also features several duets where Dan plays with other top guitarists of the acoustic steel string flatpicker variety, artists such as Tony Rice, Norman Blake, Beppe Gambetta, and Doc Watson.  In fact, little secret between you and I, dear reader, is the Dan Crary and Norman Blake duet to the tune Uncle Herman's Hornpipe, well, that is my very favorite flatpicked tune of all time.

When it is all said and done, me typing about musicians such as Dan Crary seems sort of pedantic, or self serving.  We're talking about a musician here, and so what could be more explanatory than a display of the music?  I like the music, and I hope you will too. Thanks for reading.

Doc Watson and Friends, Featuring Dan Crary, Tony Rice, And More