Originally published in the Milwaukee Area Bluegrass Music Association newsletter, Dec, 2006
About thirty years ago, my wife was working with a guy who had bought an abandoned farm. And he invited us to
come out and shovel the old, no-longer-stinky manure out of the old shed, and put it on our garden.
I hauled along a banjo, and, after the stuff had been bagged and loaded into the car, I found myself a chair, and
commenced to pick.
Their nine-year old son stood, awestruck, at the sound. And he began to pester his mother for a banjo.
I gave him a few lessons, in return for more bags of this excellent fertilizer. And I told him that, if anybody ever told
him his playing sounded like poop, he could tell them how his folks had paid for the lessons.
After about four lessons, it occurred to me that this kid was a born champion, so I passed him along to Harvey, a
far better player and teacher.
This kid, this scrawny leprechaun of a child, took lessons from Harvey for quite some time. It was quite a novelty to
see somebody that young playing with the big kids.
And then, one day, Harvey advised him that the kid was too old to get by on cute, and better really learn his
instrument. The kid took it to heart, and soon could play anything, from the oldest hill ballads, to
The kid was Marty Grinwald, from my old home town.
Those who saw him play are not soon to forget it.
He died very young, thirty-nine. But there were a lot of people jammed into the room for his memorial service.
The cross-section of humanity there (whether young, old, well-dressed or ragged) did a better job of proving the size
of Marty's heart, than any publicity agent's statement ever could have. Marty didn't have a publicity agent. He had a
banjo. And for Marty, a banjo was plenty
.--Mustache Mike Gregory -