Tony Trischka performs at the American Banjo Museum (9/8/17) – photo by Americana Media Group
Though he plays many types of banjo music, Trischka said that at heart it all comes back to bluegrass and Earl Scruggs, refering to himself as a “folksy” version of Scruggs. For more than 45 years, he has led the world on a perfect and complete experience when it comes to the banjo in the roots music world.
Inspired by the Kingston Trio’s Charlie and the MTA in 1963, Tony set out to make a name for himself and follow his heart. “I knew this was it, I could make a living playing banjo.” In 1971, Trischka made his recording debut of 15 bluegrass instrumentals with Country Cooking. For his next project, release date to be determined, he envisions an all lyric-based, original album, This Favorite of Land. The songs were written inspired by the Civil War, and includes arrangements with a string quartet, and one with a 5 piece brass band, as well as more traditional styles of five string banjo.
While Tony has won plenty of praise by stepping out of the box and mixing different genres in his picking style, he remembers one time that it didn’t. With a chuckle, Tony, remembers at the age of 16, entering a picking contest at Finville Bluegrass Festival. Judges for this event were Ralph Stanley, Bill Emerson, and Lamar Grier.
Choosing Nine Pound Hammer as his entry, Trischka added some middle eastern notes mixed with Earl Scruggs style. “At 16, I was already doing some weird stuff. I’m not sure why I did it, but can you imagine Ralph Stanley’s reaction.”
Needless to say, stepping out of the traditional style didn’t pay off that day in 1965. Tony only entered one other picking contest, in the early ’70s, where The Bluegrass Alliance were the judges. Once again, Trischka attempted his own style and played a progressive tune, but this time he won. Tony says, “It depends on who the judges are and what music they are into themselves.”
Trischka’s bucket list is getting completed one gig at a time, so to speak. He has played festivals, toured with some of the best, has been nominated for two Grammys, has won an Americana Award, and has now been inducted into the Banjo Hall of Fame. While there is “nothing bigger and better,” Tony still desires three things when it comes to his music career.
- Winning a Grammy
- Playing Carnegie Hall
- Playing the Grand Ole Opry
With Tony’s drive and talents, something tells me that he will fulfill these dreams.