Having a Coffee with ……………. George McCeney

This is the second in a fun new series in which we ask bluegrass music personalities, some famous, some not so well known, about some of their interests as well as about the music that they love. Today we join George McCeney, songwriter, co-founder of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, and a very active member of IBMA.

George McCeney - Christopher Anderson/The Gazette What would you like to drink?

Green tea.

Any sugar?

I take it straight up. My dad counselled me when I was young that you can’t taste tea if you embellish it with additives.

Do you want anything to eat as well?

Corn bread

What is your favorite food?

Blue crab.

What’s the nicest meal that you have ever had?

Thanksgiving with my family.

What drink would you have with that?

Wine from Patz & Hall.

Let’s talk bluegrass…..

Where/when did you first hear bluegrass music?

Mac Wiseman singing live over WBMD-AM in Baltimore, Maryland in 1952.

Which of your own songs do you have a particular liking for?

Face From Another Place which was written and recorded in the early 1970’s originally by Emerson and Waldren and to be re-released this year by Bill Emerson and Sweet Dixie.

Why does it give you most satisfaction?

The first born is always special.

Would you call yourself a songwriter?

Not really, but I suppose that I fall somewhere between Larry Cordle and those who never write. I did showcase of a couple of my tunes at a songwriters showcase at the World of Bluegrass a few years ago.

What about a song written by someone else?

Martha and Mary by Becky Buller and Nancy Cardwell recorded by Nu-Blu

Which particular album do you like best and why?

Mountain Music Bluegrass Style. It expresses all there is to know about bluegrass.

You play a guitar ….

A 1960 Martin D28 that I bought at the factory that year to replace a 1954 D18 that some vandals destroyed back stage in the spring of that year. I also have a 1962 Martin 12-string.

Is it your favorite?

The D28 is my soul buddy.

I also play a custom-made autoharp of rosewood, Norway spruce, and D28 binding built for me by Tom Morgan in 1968.

What’s your favorite bluegrass memory?

There are many, but I suppose building a bathroom for Doc Watson in 1962.

I’m intrigued; tell me more.

Soon after Ralph Rinzler discovered Doc while looking for Clarence Ashley, he asked a friend and I to go to Doc’s and build Doc a bathroom. The well was in and the room roughed out, and we took a couple of weeks to finish the job in 1962. The quid pro quo was that Doc would play for us for two days.
Now, who do you guess got the best part of that bargain?

[For more about this story see Kent Gustavson’s book on Doc Watson, Blind, But Now I See.]

Are you a sports fan? Who do you follow?

Ravens & The O’s. The Ravens were the 2013 Super Bowl winners. O’s were in the 2012 AL East playoffs.

What hobbies do you have?

Restoring old BMWs.

What is the last movie film that you watched?


What is your favorite film?

Fargo; it’s Shakespearian

When was that released?

1996; by the Coen Brothers.

And what do you like about it?

As I said before, it’s Shakespearean in its construct where the mundane forces of evil and death encounter the gentle forces of life and the good with intervals of humor to give us relief during the struggle.

Do you get much time to watch TV?

Yes, I’m retired.

What’s your favorite show?

Frontline on PBS.

Do you have a pet?

Only the pileated woodpecker in our yard.

Do you encourage its visits?

I would if I knew how to speak woodpecker. But I hear there are special feeders.

What, if anything, do you enjoy about its visits?

If you have ever seen a pileated woodpecker, you would know why.

What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in bluegrass music?

Teaching ethics.

Was teaching ethics your ‘day job’?

Sort of. I was a high school social studies teacher for twenty-five years. That was my job title. What I did was to teach ethics.

Where did you teach and for how long?

Twenty-five years for the Board of Education of Baltimore County, Maryland.


George McCeneyGeorge McCeney co-founded what was possibly the first college bluegrass band in the country in 1958 at Yale University. He was a co-founder of Bluegrass Unlimited in 1966 and he continues to write and review records for the magazine.

McCeney is a 2004 Leadership Bluegrass graduate and he is the current chairman of the Leadership Bluegrass Alumni Planning Committee. He has served as a trustee of the IBMM for two consecutive three-year terms, retiring in 2010.

McCeney lives in a very tiny community called Glencoe, Maryland, in the farm country north of the city of Baltimore.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.