Steve Mandell passes

Steve Mandell, who played one of the most recognizable guitar parts in bluegrass history, died today.

Mandell, who stayed active in the Baltimore-area bluegrass community until his death, had prostate cancer.

If you live away from the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area, you might not be familiar with Steve. But you most certainly know his music. That’s him, countering Eric Weissberg’s banjo on the instantly recognizable Dueling Banjos, from the 1972 movie Deliverance.

But Steve was far from a one-trick pony. He could play and sing hundreds of songs from the bluegrass canon. He was a regular at jams, concerts and music camps in the region, eagerly sharing his vast knowledge with anyone who asked. I last saw Steve a few weeks ago at a Westminster, MD show by Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen. Frank introduced Steve during his set. A few of us gave him a standing ovation while others, perhaps not knowing they were in the midst of a legend, applauded politely.

Steve, who lived in the Baltimore suburbs with his wife of 43 years, Terry Mandell, had been battling prostate cancer for more than 20 years. But you’d never know it to see him. His smile, like his guitar, was a constant companion. And his sense of humor was finely honed. He and Roland White brought down the house at the Common Ground on the Hill music and arts camp a few years ago with a faux argument about who was taller. It could have gone either way.

Steve is also survived by a son, Joshua.

Services will be held at noon Friday at Sol Levinson and Brothers funeral home, 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville MD. Memorial contributions may be sent to the Bluegrass Trust Fund, c/o IBMA, 4206 Gallatin Pike, Nashville, TN, 37216, or to Common Ground On the Hill, 2 College Hill, McDaniel College, Westminster, MD, 21157.

RIP, Steve. Thanks for the music.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.