One of the enduring sadnesses of the bluegrass world is the frequency with which we come before you to request assistance for a member of our community. Straitened means seems to be the norm for many of our musical heroes, outside of the few that achieve particular notoriety or success. This is especially true for sidemen and accompanists who have worked primarily in music, and the burdens magnify when age or infirmity restrict their ability to work.
We should all hesitate to reproach these folks for failing to set aside sufficient funds to provide for unexpected circumstances. It’s true that they have made choices that led to their situation. And yes, it’s often a life of great joy for the artists, but one of sacrifice as well. Without these people choosing a life in the arts, however, our concert and festival stages would be bare much of the time.
Now, a group of friends of John Hickman, a stellar banjo player who was prominent in the 1970s and ’80s with Byron Berline and Dan Crary, could use a bit of help. He is suffering from both cancer and heart problems, and at 72 years of age, is left unable to work as either a picker, instructor, or luthier, his chosen fields of endeavor.
But his friends aren’t raising funds for his medical expenses. The home that John and his wife Susan own in Guthrie, OK is in dire need of repairs, including a new roof. They have arranged for the necessary materials to be donated to John and Susan, and are now trying to raise the $2600 required for professional installation.
Those who recall John fondly from his early work with Pee Wee Lambert, The Dixie Gentlemen, and Earl Taylor in the ’60s, or after he moved to California with Berline, Crary, and Hickman, or California, you may want to make a small donation to the cause at GoFundMe.
If everyone who enjoyed John’s classic 1978 album, Don’t Mean Maybe, sent along $10, they would meet their goal in no time.
John moved to Oklahoma some years ago to work alongside Byron Berline in his fiddle business, Double Stop Fiddle Shop. There he had taught banjo lessons and worked on instruments until his health began to fail.
He was a remarkable and inventive banjo player in his day, but perhaps the least demonstrative musician I’d ever seen on stage. He didn’t have much to say, and rarely moved a muscle or cracked a smile. But what a picker!
Here’s a taste of John’s playing from Don’t Mean Maybe on Turkey Knob, where he melds influences from Don Reno, Doug Dillard, and Eddie Adcock into his own unique style.
If you can spare a few dollars for John’s roof, he will surely appreciate the help. Visit GoFundMe online to make a donation.