Having a Coffee with ……………. Kathy Kallick

This is the fourth 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 Kathy Kallick, a leading light in the traditional brand of west coast bluegrass since co-founding the internationally-acclaimed band, Good Ol’ Persons, in 1975.

What would you like to drink?

Well, I’d prefer a cup if Taylor’s Of Harrogate Earl Grey tea. With milk, please.

Do you want anything to eat as well?

I love tea and buttered toast.

What is your favorite food?

Um, tea and toast!

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

When my husband and I were courting, he made me a beautiful dinner. I told him that I didn’t usually eat red meat and he said, “Good thing I made the other white meat!” We call that dish “pork chops dell’amore.”

What drink would you have with that?

A nice Pinot Grigio.

Let’s talk bluegrass….. Where/when did you first hear bluegrass music?

I heard bluegrass a bit growing up at the University Of Chicago Folk Festival. I always say I slept through a lot of great bluegrass! But I first got hooked on bluegrass when I heard a band called Phantoms of the Opry at Paul’s Saloon in San Francisco. I love the singing of Pat Enright!

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

The first bluegrass song I made up is one called A Broken Tie. I sing it pretty much every time I play.

What about a song written by someone else?

Oooh, I love a lot of songs. I always love Bill Monroe’s, songs he’s written or made his own. Like Dark As the Night, Highway Of Sorrow, Close By, Body and Soul, … And his gospel songs!

Which particular album do you like best and why?

I love Bill Monroe’s A Voice From On High. It’s one of the first albums I got, and I could listen to it every day. I love the songs, the singing and arrangements, and the way it makes me feel.

You play a …….

A Martin D-18. Or my other Martin D-18.

What’s your favorite instrument?

I have two Martin D-18s, one mid-fifties that I play quite often, and travel with, and another, a 1943 D-18. The two guitars are very different, and both wonderful. As I know, and love, the previous owners, these instruments feel like family members.

Kathy Kallick BandWhat’s your favorite bluegrass memory?

I have a lot of happy memories of time spent with Bill Monroe. The first time the Good Ol’ Persons played Bean Blossom, Bill heard me sing A Broken Tie, and said, “That’s a fine bluegrass song. I want you to sing it every time.” And then he stood out in the audience when we played and you bet I sang that song!

More recently, I had the privilege of accompanying Mac Martin in some concerts. This gave me a chance to get to know him, and he’s a warm and generous man and musician. I think of singing with Mac as a “Master’s Course” in bluegrass singing, especially phrasing. I try and recall his lightning-quick phrasing whenever I can, and apply it to whatever bluegrass song I’m singing in the moment. Getting to know Mac and his wife Jean has been a precious side effect of playing bluegrass!

Are you a sports fan? Who do you follow?

The Oakland A’s.  Gotta root for the home team!

What hobbies do you have?

Yeah, I play guitar and sing.

What is the last film that you watched?

We recently watched Searching For Sugarman. It’s a compelling, true story, with a happy ending. All about a songwriter!

What is your favorite film?

Kathy KallickIt’s hard for me to name a favorite movie. Maybe for everybody? I like a variety, but no horror, not wild about war films, and the moronic 13 year old humor of the day leaves me cold.

I love a film called Billy Liar. I saw it when I was a kid, with my family, and then saw it a few more times. For some reason this little film played frequently in the Chicago area in my formative years. I believe it was the “breakout” film for Julie Christie and Tom Courtenay. I have an emotional reaction to this film, I can see it in my mind anytime, and I can hear the soundtrack. It really resonates.

What’s your favorite TV show?

I love the series Treme, and can’t wait for the next season.

Treme is a series, I believe Home Box Office, that tells multiple stories of folks in New Orleans beginning shortly after Hurricane Katrina. A fabulous ensemble cast, fascinating historical detail, funny, sad, heart-breaking, heart-warming, pretty much has it all. And the music! Whew! We’re hooked. We gobble up the episodes, and then watch them again with commentary. It’s great.

Do you have a pet?

We have a cockapoo named Lester. He’s a very manly little guy who owns my heart.

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

I started out studying painting at San Francisco Art Institute, but got very distracted by all that bluegrass. It’s hard to imagine how that would have made more sense as a career path; I did a lot of waitressing and working retail along the way. In the past decade, I’ve begun to teach more frequently, and find I quite like that too. Playing in a bluegrass band was the thing I was doing until I figured out what I was gonna do with my life. Along the way I had two daughters, and spent a lot of time driving on field trips and decorating birthday cakes. Here it is decades later, and I’m still playing in a bluegrass band …


A composer with over 100 recorded songs, Kallick has participated in the recording of 17 albums, the latest of which is Time, released in 2012.

During her over 35 years     …… she has won a Grammy and two IBMA Awards for her part on True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe;

  • had five title tracks and albums — Call Me A Taxi, Walkin’ In My Shoes, Warmer Kind Of Blue, Between the Hollow and the High-Rise, and Time — each spent a year in the upper echelon of the national bluegrass charts
  • performed and recorded with the Frank Wakefield Band;
  • written and recorded award-winning music for children and families …
  • appeared on three high-profile Rounder collections of bluegrass songs by women, as well as noteworthy compilations of songs about baseball, trains, spiritual matters, families, broken hearts, Christmas, and mothers …
  • toured throughout North America, Europe, and Japan …
  • received a Lifetime Membership from the California Bluegrass Association

She lives in Oakland, CA.

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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.