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Mike Seeger

Historian

Mike Seeger has devoted his life to singing and playing Music from True Vine the home music made by American southerners before the media age. Music from True Vine grows out of hundreds of years of British traditions that blended in our country with equally ancient African traditions to produce songs and sounds which are unique to the United States. For the peoples of the rural South, their great variety of music, song, and story provided their Shakespeare, their dance music, their news, and the fabric of their daily lives. This music in time became the roots of todays country, bluegrass, and popular music and remains as ever, enduring and refreshing listening.

Fidelity to traditional sounds has set Mike Seeger apart from other performers since he began touring the United States and abroad in 1960. Mikes music conveys all the depth of feeling, the sheer energy, and the infinite variety and texture of true traditional rural music. Like earlier traditional musicians, Mike seeks out his own vision of the music by creating within its traditions, making his music uniquely his own.

As he sings the old songs, he plays in a wide variety of traditional styles, accompanying himself on an array of instruments, including banjo, fiddle, guitar, trump (jaw harp), mouth harp (harmonica), quills, lap dulcimer, mandolin, and autoharp.

The Seegers sang with their children most Saturday nights. Mike learned the old ballad Barbara Allen at age five from the singing of his musicologist/composer parents. Soon he graduated to listening and learning from their collection of early documentary recordings. He began playing instruments in his late teens, learning first from nearby musicians such as his close friend Elizabeth Cotten, and later seeking out other master stylists like guitarist Maybelle Carter, banjoists Dock Boggs, Cousin Emmy, and autoharpist Kilby Snow. Eventually Mikes love for traditional music led him to produce documentaries more than twenty five field recordings and videos and to organize countless tours and concerts featuring traditional musicians and dancers.

As a founding member of the pioneering traditional music group, The New Lost City Ramblers, Mike played an integral role in helping to revive interest in a variety of traditional musics, now played by thousands of young musicians across the country. Since his first recordings with the Ramblers, in the late nineteen fifties, Mike has gone on to record more than forty albums, both solo and with others.

. . . To see him perform is to experience the richness of our traditions.

Mike Seeger has been honored with six Grammy nominations, recently for Southern Banjo Sounds in 1998 and Solo: Oldtime Country Music in 1991. In 1995 Mike received the Rex Foundations Ralph J. Gleason Lifetime Achievement Award, established by the Grateful Dead to recognize those who exemplify the qualities of talent, vision, innovation that Ralph so tirelessly supported. In the words of the award citation, Mike Seeger . .  . remains one of our great musical and cultural resources. To see him perform is to experience the richness of our traditions.

Mike Seeger passed away August 7, 2009, and will be greatly missed.

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