Dave Giegerich passes

We are saddened to report that Dave Giegerich, noted resonator guitarist and instructor, passed away on December 29 from complications following a bone marrow transplant this spring. The transplant was in response to a diagnosis of aplastic anemia, which was discovered earlier this year after successful therapy to treat his neck cancer.

Dave’s career in music spans more than 30 years, and he first came to prominence when he moved to Fredericksburg, VA in the late 1970s from Michigan. He was quickly embraced by the bluegrass scene in DC and northern Virginia, which was the vital center of the east coast bluegrass world at the time. After their marriage, he and his wife Pam moved to Maryland where he continued to turn heads with his playing.

I can personally recall being wowed by his energetic picking in the ’70s and early 80s. Dave was among the very first resophones to embrace the then-radical melodic style that Jerry Douglas had pioneered, and his work with such fellow virtuosi as Jimmy Arnold and Bobby Hicks was memorable for those who heard it.

Here’s a recent video with his version of Steel Guitar Rag.

Giegerich served primarily in the sideman role, both on acoustic resonator guitar and electric steel. He worked for a time with Bill Harrell, and had been a member of Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa in recent years. He also had his own group, The Hula Monsters, who played a unique mix of swing, Hawaiian, country and blues music.

Mark Newton knew Dave from the time they both lived in Virginia…

“I guess I first met Dave in ’78 (ish) when he moved to Fredericksburg, and we connected right away. Not sure why he came, but it seems that he had family here working at the paper (Free Lance Star). We all got together to pick regularly at his place as we were all just finding our way musically and as individuals.

He was to have been an original member of The Virginia Squires, and rehearsed with us many times, though we eventually decided to go with a 4 piece format.

Learning of his death took me right back to those days…. I feel like I have lost a brother.”

The dobro community has been understandably distraught by the news of Giegerich’s death. Mike Auldridge knew him well.

“Dave was simply the best, in every way. We met when he became a student of mine over 20 years ago. We became great friends, teaching classes together several times. I was impressed by his enormous talent from the first moment I met him, and equally impressed by his kindness and gentle spirit over the course of our long friendship. The tragedy of his passing at such a young age saddens me more than words can express… I will forever miss him.”

Phil Leadbetter remembers him more for his music…

“I never really knew Dave very well, but I remember the very first time I ever heard him play, and it totally blew my socks off. So many players these days that sound like other players, but Dave had his own style. Very fresh, very inventive, very tasteful. An awesome voice on the resonator guitar has been lost with the passing of Dave Giegerich”

Betty Wheeler, entertainment attorney and co-producer of the annual ResoSummit in Nashville – and friend to every reso guitarist who ever slid a bar – remembers Dave’s dedication.

“He was a highly-regarded teacher, including at ResoSummit in 2008 and 2009, where he won strong reviews for effective teaching, and his mastery of Hawaiian, swing, and blues styles as well as bluegrass music. After each evening’s Station Inn performances, he could be found participating in the students’ after-hours jams deep into the night.

For me, one of the all-time highlights of ResoSummit was hearing him play a duo with Randy Kohrs at the opening session the first year he was on faculty. I’ll never forget the incredible creativity and highly personal voice that he brought to the dobro, and the joy that infused his music.”

Randy Kohrs also took a moment to mourn Dave’s passing…

“I was sad to hear that the world lost a treasure to the resonator guitar community yesterday. Although I didn’t know Dave as well as I would have liked to, I am a huge admirer of his music. I was absolutely thrilled and honored when we were paired together to perform a duet during ResoSummit last year. Dave’s playing was the talk of the whole weekend among all the reso-enthusiasts.

On a more personal level, he was a champ of a guy and I truly enjoyed the time that I was able to spend around him.  My sincere condolences go out to his wife, Pam, and their family.”

Rob Ickes agrees with these earlier appraisals…

“Dave was an integral part of Resosummit. He was very passionate about the Dobro and always took extra time to share his talents with the students. There were many times when after a long day of teaching, he would stay up late into the night jamming with the students and sharing his knowledge and love for the instrument.

He knew a lot of different styles, from Hawaiian to blues and bluegrass, plus he was a great communicator and was always one of our most requested instructors.

Dave had emailed over the summer that he wouldn’t be able to make it to teach at ResoSummit 2010, and I told him we would be holding a spot for him next year. I knew that he had beaten cancer a few years ago, and was hoping that he could beat this as well.

But he was always so positive.  He told me, ‘I’m in quarantine, but at least I have plenty of time to practice!’ He just loved to play so much.

Dave will be sorely missed, but we are grateful for the opportunity of working with such a special musician.”

Gary Ferguson knew Giegerich from the DC circuit, doing shows together and playing together at jams. Dave alos provided resonator guitar for the album Gary did with Sally Love, Our Old Home, released in 2002.

“Dave was one of those guys that was always fun to work with. Very talented… very funny… always a big smile with a corny joke now and then. He is one of those guys that I have never heard anyone say anything bad about. Everyone that I ever heard talk about him always had something good to say. He will be sorely missed by the music community. He was much more than a bluegrass player. He loved swing and Hawaiian music as well as other genres.”

Many others on reso message boards have shared that Dave was not just a first rate musician, but a kind-hearted and amiable person as well. His sense of humor and sweetness of disposition have been mentioned repeatedly.

Dave also did shows with Mac Wiseman some years ago, and most certainly performed Mac’s classic number, ‘Tis Sweet To Be Remembered, on more than one occasion. Seeing how fondly Giegerich is recalled by his musical peers shows just how much truth is told in that song.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.