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.”
You can read the full interview online at ProgFiles.com, or on John’s web site. The language is unguarded and freewheeling… FYI.