Wayne Benson

        While I’m on a mandolin player kick, let me tell you about Wayne Benson.  I’ll get back to my book next week.

        Most bluegrass folks know of Wayne.  He has been the mandolin mainstay for Russell Moore and iii Tyme Out for years.  Both Wayne and the group have more more awards than I can list.  If you are not familiar with the bluegrass genre iii Tyme Out is a good place to start.

        Not long ago, I saw on the Mandolin Cafe that Wayne had scheduled a few lessons.  I signed up for one.  He lives in upstate S.C. so it was a bit of a drive for me, but it was worth it.  Before you get confused and think these guys are ‘just bluegrassers,’ let me clue you in.  Wayne Benson is not only a master bluegrass mandolinist, but is deeply immersed in many styles of music.  As he says, “If you follow this road long enough, it’ll take you all the way to Bach- it is all music.”  

        (I told that to one of my buddies who said, “Did he write carry me bach to old Virginia?”)

        I signed up for my lesson in hopes I might get a few ideas that would bleed into my playing.  I thought my work in the key of ‘B’ had become stale.  Man, did he inject some life back into this old Doc’s style.

        The first thing we worked on was improvisation out of the “B” blues scale, then he moved into chord scales and arpeggios in ‘B’ and then the key of ‘G.’  I’ve always been a busy Doc and never studied my instrument like I should have, but in one lesson he unlocked the middle part of the fret board wide open.  What music theory I knew began to crystallize as we explored the concepts.   I was so impressed by the lesson that I urged him to write it up and promote it on the Net.  I found it fundamental to an understanding of the mandolin, or for that matter music in general.

       I think it was Charlie Parker who said this-  if I am wrong I hope someone from the Cafe will correct me-  “First you learn your instrument, then you learn your genre, then you just play music.

        Wayne has done just that.  Like all the best ones he makes it look easy.  In reality, he unlocked the keys via years of sweat and solitude.  He is willing to share his secrets for a very reasonable fee- I recommend him highly.

        And if you want to hear some fine traditional bluegrass, go see iii Tyme Out.  Modern bluegrass is a very sophisticated art form and often poorly understood by pop culture.  But as Wayne says, “We’re bluegrass and we aren’t going away.”  Tell ’em Dr. Bibey sent you and buy all their CDs, too.  Of all the bands of the second generation I find them to be a classic you do not need to miss on your journey.

         Chet Atkins used to say the man who thinks he knows it all from the bridge to the nut of the guitar is a fool.  That is true, but as far as the mandolin Wayne is getting close.  Check him out- ask some arpeggio questions- I assure you the cat knows his business.

        You can reach him via the band’s website or his myspace page as below:



Dr. B

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