Gene Bretecher passes

Gene BretecherManitoba has lost one of its popular bluegrass performers. Banjo player Gene Bretecher passed away on September 15, drowning in Shuswap Lake after falling from his boat while fishing. He was 74 years old.

Gene had played the banjo since he was a young man, drawing inspiration from seeing Bill Monroe near his home. He took the opportunity to visit with the banjo player, found out that the 4 string banjo he had purchased at a pawn shop was not what he needed, and set off on a life-long passion for the instrument.

Bluegrass Hoedown - Gene BretecherA stint with Winnipeg’s Northern Gentleman in the 1960s introduced him to a wider Canadian audience, as did his own solo album, Bluegrass Hoedown, in the late ’70s. A few years later he received the Instrumentalist of the Year award from the Manitoba Association of Country Artists. His banjo (and guitar) playing was featured in a number of television special for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Gene remained close to the music throughout his life, taking private students at his home.

A recent stroke had forced him to relearn the banjo, but a lifetime of disciplined practice came in handy, and Gene was able to do it.

The bluegrass community in central Canada mourns his loss.

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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.

  • Chris Jones

    Very sad news. Gene was a great guy who will be sorely missed. Our hearts go out to Linda Bretecher and all the family.

  • Ivan Rosenberg

    This is heartbreaking news. Gene was such a kind person, not to mention a fantastic musician. He got a lot of people started on the banjo, and he’ll be missed by many.

  • Megan Lynch Chowning

    Gene was a kind and generous person. I taught with him for many years, as did Chris and Ivan, and as Ivan said he did so much to pass on the love of music to dozens of people. I will treasure the memories I have of playing with Gene, What a loss…