There is a lengthy interview with John Cowan available online, published by the folks at The ProgFiles – a site dedicated to reviewing progressive music of all genres.
John talks about his initial entry into the world of alt-grass back in the 1970s when he first joined New Grass Revival…
“I had actually heard them around 1973, in Louisville Kentucky, I was, as usual playing in two bands at the time. One was an R&B show band a la Al Green, and the other was an original band playing Prog-Rock called YOU. When I saw NGR I thought they were great, though I knew absolutely nothing about that kind of music. But they had a drummer, were all plugged-in (electrified) and jamming and playing Leon Russell and Jerry Lee Lewis tunes.
Again, I knew nothing about this style of music, had never played without drums etc. But, I was a really good bassist as I was so into Chris Squire, Jack Cassady, Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones, Noel Redding, Berry Oakley, McCartney etc. I actually was able to incorporate my prog-style playing into the band cause they were already into “stretching” so to speak. Sam & I in particular were only a year apart (I was 22, Sam 23) and he also was a Rock Fan. He loved Jefferson Airplane, Cream, The Allmans, Hendrix. Needless to say we turned each other on to a lot of music. I turned him on to Little Feat, he turned me on to John Hartford, & Norman Blake and on & on.”
…and incorporating politics into his music:
“Artists have a responsibility to the times they live in. Now am I gonna get up on stage and preach to people about religion or my political views? No, but I will do it in song and certainly in a public forum like the internet (and not anonymously!) The world doesn’t change when people clinch their jaws instead of their fists.”