My unabridged biography was originally an article titled, A Successful American Assimilation Story, published in the monthly newsletter of the Northern Illinois Bluegrass Association (NIBA). Here is the text. I hope that you enjoy laughing at me as much as I enjoy laughing at myself!
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I am a first-generation immigrant from Cuba, but having left there at the tender age of eleven days old, I grew up here [in the USA], and am thus culturally a second-generation immigrant. I am an adopted nephew of my Uncle Sam, and I love my adopted country and its folk culture. So how did an immigrant like me who grew up in a Spanish-speaking home and came of age during the disco craze go from being a denizen of the Hispanic subculture to being a cultural maven and connoisseur of old-time and bluegrass music?
Simple: my disillusionment with the West’s popular culture provoked a passionate pursuit for cultural excellence, which I found in classical and folk music. I basically grew up and learned to discern between the mediocre and the worthwhile, between the trite and the valuable, between the base and the virtuous, between the electric bass and the bass fiddle (hey, to be a bassist y’all don’t have to fret none!). The vision for my life’s direction coalesced for me when I came to understand what I call the “principles of good music.” (I will write an upcoming article/blog on those principles – I promise!)
The results of my musical and cultural metamorphosis were immediate and far-reaching. I literally traded my conga drums for an upright bass. I got rid of two electric guitars and an electric bass, and I learned to finger pick on steel- and nylon-stringed guitars. All this prepared me to embrace old-time and bluegrass music.
My introduction to bluegrass occurred when I was living in Connecticut. My coworker Warren shoved a Christmas-music CD under my nose in January, 1998, saying, Give this a listen Mike, and see what you think of it. It was a homemade recording done on a Teac four-channel, reel-to-reel tape deck, and burned onto a CD by the humble but dignified Tim Daniels of Leavenworth, Kansas (the town, not the penitentiary!). Tim was Warren’s schoolmate and buddy when they were growing up and going to school in Iowa, and he works as a civilian software engineer at Fort Leavenworth. Tim is a musician from the womb, whose parents were both musicians. He is a fiddler and multi-instrumentalist, and yearly he makes a Christmas music CD as his gift to dozens of people, including his buddy Warren. His CDs are for sale at www.songspinnerrecords.com.
When I listened to the Daniels Christmas 1997 CD I told my coworker, Warren, this is exactly the kind of music that I like! It was a confluence of classical and folk, and it was homemade to boot! Through Warren I obtained my own copy of the CD, and I traveled to Kansas on a business trip in October 1999, meeting and befriending Tim. He had upgraded to an eight-track, reel-to-reel tape deck, and since that time he has gone digital. I laid a few tracks for his Christmas 1999 CD.
Tim was the one who exposed me to bluegrass. I was slow to warm up to it, but in Tim’s hands a fiddle sounds so good that it could not escape my notice. My bluegrass epiphany occurred when it finally clicked for me that, hey, this is really good stuff, and it sounds like it’s a lot of fun to play.
A friend of Tim’s, Pastor Mike Davidson, another multi-instrumentalist who has since moved to Iowa, used to visit Tim to jam with him. He even brought his brother Fred, a bassist, with him one once while I was visiting Tim. That was the first time I heard people jam.
In the interim I had become a church musician and choir member. When<
on “My unabridged biography”
Thursday, September 27, 2007 @7:57:08 PM
Thanks for sharing this.
It's a wonderful story and we and OT music are lucky to have you...
Thursday, September 27, 2007 @9:09:21 PM
What a writer! What a musician! Thanks, Mike, I've enjoyed every bit of your writing I've ever had the chance to read.
Thursday, January 3, 2008 @2:27:20 PM
Great stuff. I appreciate your distinctions 'fiddle', 'faddle', and 'foddle.' :)
Russell Sampson Says:
Sunday, January 6, 2008 @1:35:30 AM
A very good read! I heard someone say in times past that most everyone read comfortably on the 8th grade level, but thats alright. I,ve gather all them big werds in a sack and I,ll beatem agin a stump out back, that way open up their meenins!!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 @11:52:29 AM
Mike, I've just read your writing and I thank you. Your writting eloquent, beautifully written.
Again I say thank you.
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