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Mailing Address:

Steve Mann
c/o Bella Roma Music
1442A Walnut St. Suite #197
Berkeley, CA 94709

Phone - Fax:

(510) 841.8088 pacific time
(call beforehand to arrange a fax)




I am a friend of Ross Altman from high school in L.A., and a holder of fond memories of seeing and hearing Steve Mann on stage at the Ash Grove several times in the mid-1960s. I read Ross' wonderful tribute to Steve and am very happy to know that you are there and that CDs of Steve's music are available.

I am currently living in San Francisco, married with 2 children. It has been a long journey from the Ash Grove days. I teach in the Music Department at City College of SF and am active as both a composer and as a guitarist, primarily in the jazz field. But with all of this formal activity I am still something of a folkie at heart, and certainly a romantic. Steve remains a great inspiration to me.

Back in the late 1970s, I had the opportunity to record with Ry Cooder, another Ash Grove favorite, on my first LP (LP!) as a leader, Search for the Floor. The influence of Steve, Ry, and a handful of other incredibly talented young folk and blues - oriented musicians made a big difference to many of us.  It was for some young people the first live exposure to such music and the potential for personal artistic expression that lay within it. 

I know that Steve had a difficult life in some ways, but I hope he can rest in peace knowing he brought tremendous pleasure and musical awareness to a lot of listeners over the decades.

Kind regards,

Lenny Carlson


Thoughts about Steve

Meeting and learning to play guitar from Steve Mann has been an odd musical journey for me. This journey initially began when I first moved out to California two and a half years ago from upstate New York to the Santa Cruz mountains. I've been an avid fan of the country blues and ragtime genre of music for several years, and I have been long endeavoring to learn this complicated style of guitar. I had known of Steve's name for several years, but never knew who he really was. The haunting Hot Tuna instrumental “Mann's Fate” always fascinated me, and I had heard that Jorma Kaukonen had named it after a friend who helped him write it. I always wondered who that friend was.

I heard the song “Holly” from listening to Paul Geremia's albums, and read in the liner notes that the song was written by Steve Mann. The first time I heard that song it stopped me in my tracks. I played the album over and over again, trying to figure out the arrangement by ear. It had the same effect on others as well. While seeing Paul Geremia in concert, I sat next to an older gentleman and struck up a conversation with him during the intermission about blues music. When Paul Geremia came back on stage, he played “Holly,” and the whole audience was transfixed. During the applause, the gentleman turned to me and asked, “Who wrote that?” I told him that the song was written by a musician by the name of Steve Mann. “I've got to hear more of that guy's music!” the man said in awe.

I felt the same way, and a few months later after I moved to Santa Cruz I googled Steve's name on the internet and brought up his webpage. I read Steve's story fascinated, and quickly called Bella Roma music to order the CD “Alive and Pickin” from Janet Smith. After ordering the CD, Janet asked me “when can you come up and meet Steve?” I couldn't believe my ears, and said “How about this weekend?” I drove up to Berkeley that weekend, and was greeted by Janet Smith as I nervously walked up to the door. It's not every day that a guitar student gets the chance to meet their guitar hero face to face and take lessons from them.

When I walked in, Steve was sitting on the couch in his element. He had a button down shirt on with suspenders, and a very refined, genteel manner of speaking. “Play something for me,” he asked. I played “Windy and Warm,” and Steve started jamming along with it. “Doc Watson,” he said, “great guitar player. Really good.” Watching Steve play the guitar is unlike any musician I've ever seen. He has these long, spidery fingers that just slink their way around the fretboard. Even when he's playing a fast piece, his fingers have a slowness about them that makes it seem as though he won't make it to the next note. Just when you think this, Steve grabs the next note just in time and it all blends together seamlessly.

Another thing that amazes me is the way that Steve would never play the same chord the same way twice in a row. It seemed as though Steve would have five or six different fingerings for the same chord, and would use each one depending on where he was coming from, and where he was going on the fretboard next. He would play a lot of inbetween chords, that were half one chord and half another. While many players such as myself rely on chord progressions, Steve is a guitar player who knows right where the sounds he wants are, and grabs them as he sees fit. His ability to improvise has never failed to amaze me.

Steve uses all five fingers on his right hand to pick, and his technique is downright powerful. There is a funkiness and creativity in Steve's playing that is altogether totally unique, and is something completely his own. The amazing thing is that he is always willing to share this gift selflessly with others. Steve is a musical well that everyone who comes in contact with him has drawn from in some way, shape, or manner. I consider myself priveleged to have had the opportunity to live with and study guitar with Steve.

After that first lesson, I was hooked. I began driving from Santa Cruz to Berkeley to get lessons every weekend, and eventually moved to Berkeley to an apartment I shared with Steve. I helped caretake for Steve, and drove him around. Our daily routine consisted of a guitar lesson, and a game of chess. After Steve had soundly beat me at chess, he would take a nap. We would then go out for some coffee at the French hotel, and Jam some more with friends of Steve in the afternoon. Steve loved this.

I truly think that if Steve could choose anyplace to be, it would be at a house party in the company of friends. Steve would sit silently at the back of the room, just soaking in the atmosphere and the energy of the room. When the guitar was passed his way around the circle, he would rip out some amazingly funky blues piece that would stop everybody cold, and with little fanfare pass the guitar to me and say, “Here, your turn.” Talk about a tough act to follow. After one such party at a friend's home in the Berkeley hills, Steve sadly told me on the drive home, “We used to do this a lot more when I was younger.”

Steve is one of those people that attracts curiosity, due largely to the strange circumstances surrounding his life and music. There are many stories surrounding the Steve Mann persona, some fact, some fiction, most being greatly embellished. The simplest way to put it is that the Steve Mann that I've come to know as a teacher and a friend is a kind, gentle person who has battled mental illness for many years. Day to day life has always been a struggle for Steve, and his musical genius has been the one thing that he can cling to.

On top of that, Steve possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of American roots music. I would make a game out of singing one obscure line from an old blues tune, and Steve would always know what song it was, who sang it, and who covered it. Steve also had a fascinating memory for names, times, and dates. Listening to the old recordings of Steve from the sixties, people are astounded by the creative genius of the early Steve Mann. At only 22 years old, Steve was one of the best players in the country in his genre of music.

By the time I met Steve, his creativity was in pockets. He would play the same progression a lot of the time (Am to G to F to E), and then all of a sudden would burst into something totally different. I would say, “whoa, what was that?” and Steve would simply respond, “Just something I wrote a while back.” Or he would rip out something like “The Whirling Dervish,” which is a Chet Atkins arrangement. Whether or not it was Chet Atkins, Hoyt Axton, Lighting Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, or Reverend Gary Davis, Steve knew it all.

One morning I woke up to the sound of Steve playing guitar in the living room, which was a rare thing because Steve usually played while jamming with others. He seldom played alone for very long. This morning in paticular stands out because Steve was playing a piece that I had never heard before. It was slow and delicate, and there was just a soothing wistfullness about his playing that was very poignant. It reminded me of the reflective solitude of being alone in a white room with no furniture in it, sitting on one lone chair, with a few rays of sun coming in the window. Unfortunately, Steve couldn't play it again later when I asked. His genius was hard to capture. It always pays to have a tape recorder on hand.

Another time we were sitting on the front porch, where Steve was enjoying a cigarette. I was working on a fingerstyle arrangement to the song “Georgia,” and I kept messing up the bridge every time I came to it. Steve just watched my hands appraisingly as I did this about ten or eleven times, and then put his cigarette out on the ground and said “here,” as I handed him the guitar. He proceded to play through the song, with all of the delicacies Ray Charles had in his version. It has been said that Steve's greatest genius is arranging piano on the guitar, with the proper chord voicings and all. After he was done, I said “try that in the key of “C,” and Steve did so with equal agility. He then transposed it into the key of “F” on the fly. “Now you're just being a bully, Steve,” I laughed.

“You know how you get to Carnegie hall?” Steve asked me. This was his favorite joke. "how?" I asked. “Practice.” “How many hours a day did you practice when you were first learning?” I asked him. “At least an hour a day,” he said very matter-of-factly. I knew this was a stretcher. One of Steve's old friends Will Scarlett told me that Steve used to play guitar for 8, 9, even ten hours a day at the expense of all else.

Will described visiting Steve in the sixties at his apartment in the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco in the 1960's. “I walked in the one room apartment,” he said, “and the only furniture in the room was a mattress on the floor, with a portable record player laying next to the mattress. Nearby was a stack of obscure blues albums. A bare bulb hung from the ceiling, and the only thing in fridge in the way of food was a jar of (gravelta?) fish. Steve would listen to the same Robert Johnson lick over and over again, and play along with the song. 'I just don't have the inflection quite right,' he would say.

Steve was a perfectionist early on.” Indeed, his deeply ingrained style reflected this. Watching Steve and Will perform together was a special treat as well. Two musicians who have jammed together for forty plus years have a special groove. Will's harmonica and Steve's guitar would blend and interweave together as smoothly as water flowing down a stream, on songs such as "There Ain't No More Cane on the Brazos." Will told me that Steve was his friend and mentor from the time he was 18 years old.

The opportunity to study with a master and be his “driver” in exchange for music lessons is a rare and romantic idea indeed. Imagine asking someone like B.B. King for guitar lessons, and saying that you just want to hang out with him. He'd probably say “kid, get lost.” Steve's musical generosity was endless, as well as his patience teaching me. I will always treasure the memories of playing with him, and like he has with many other people, Steve Mann has given me more musically than I can ever repay. At the core of things, Steve is just an old blues man who loves to play, and his music rubbing off on other people and enriching their lives is merely a byproduct of his craft.


"I grew up in North Hollywood, California, just a few blocks from where Steve grew up.   I knew his family, and I knew Steve as a teenager.   Steve was three years older than me, and when I met him I was in junior high school.   I remember playing guitar with Steve.   I had been classically trained and had just picked up orchestral jazz guitar in my early teens; but Steve was light years ahead of me and everyone else I'd ever heard.   Even as a teenager, Steve was exploring the Country Blues idiom and could play it like no one else who had ever lived.   He challenged me and a generation of young guitarists from L.A. to be more than we were--Ry Cooder, Taj Majal, John Fahey, and dozens of others.   Steve Mann changed the way the guitar is played and, for that, we owe him an everlasting debt of gratitude."

Barry Melton a/k/a Barry "The Fish" Melton
PO Box 72505
Davis   CA 95617
Homepage:  Barry "The Fish" Melton's site



I''ve known Steve Mann since the '60s, and have always stood in awe of his incredible guitar chops! When I heard he was now living in the Area, I seized the opportunity to book him for the 2004 Boonville Folk-Blues Festival. I certainly wasn't disappointed! All the magic is still there!

"Ragtime" Rick Blaufeld, Boonville Folk-Blues Festival promoter

Mendocino Music                   
P.O. Box 335
Navarro, CA 95463



I met Steve in June of  1966 at the Coffee Gallery on Grant Ave. in North Beach, San Francisco, which, in spite of its name, served beer  (and featured acoustic music), and at which Steve and I were both performing, though not together. By '67 Steve had bounced around quite a bit and had finally landed at Don Burnham's place in Berkeley, where we recorded the tape that has some tracks now used on his new CD, Steve Mann: Alive and Pickin.'
Just across the way there lived, in a gingerbread house, a certain Dr. Kramer, psychiatrist, blues know-it-all, self-appointed savior and a thoroughgoing jerk.  Steve and Kramer had a frank exchange of views, and somehow Kramer got hurt.  The Authorities dragged Steve off to the Bin, where a Sanity Hearing was conducted some weeks later (I'm not kidding).  

Vic Smith and Anna Rizzo were a Couple back then, as were Dynamite Annie Johnston and myself (kinda), and we all went to the hearing to show our support.  Oh, yes, and also because it was just about the most bizarre double-date that anybody could think of, and we were all quite imaginative back in those days.   

After lots of pointing with pride and viewing with alarm by the assembled panel of Doctors who were also Judges, Steve rose to his massive feet and delivered a spirited defense of himself in Schizo Word-Jazz which lasted a good 7 minutes and which was so utterly bewildering that it made perfect sense.  The Arbiters of Sanity were so shaken that they postponed their decision to a later date.  I'm told that there were subsequent hearings at which similar things happened, tho I missed them.

 Finally Jorma Kaukonen testified that if the Good Doctors would only release Steve into the custody of the Jefferson Airplane, they (the Airplane) would look after him (Steve), and make sure that he didn't get into any trouble with drugs.  Really.  The Doctors went for it, as they just couldn't conceive of being lied to by someone who had sold so many records.  

email Erik Frandsen



I received an E-mail from Steve Mann saying that he had recorded a new
CDand would send me a copy. This is great news-- I look forward to
receiving it.

I didn't know that there was a song called "Medley for David", and I'm
really flattered. Decades ago Erik Frandsen played me a tape by Steve
Mann. It was wonderful. Over the years I've been able to talk to Steve over
the phone a few times. I'm really very happy to find out that he has
apparently recovered his health and reclaimed his life. I'm sure that you are
aware that Steve is extraordinarily talented, and if I can provide any help
to him, I will.



Some time in early 2004 I ran into my neighbor Janet Smith in our North Berkeley neighborhood. After a round of “how’s it going” “not much” etc. Janet asked me if I remembered Steve Mann and if I’d like to get together with him for some jamming. I responded yes and yes. I mean, what blues based fingerstyle guitar player from our generation doesn’t remember and respect Steve’s playing and who wouldn’t want the chance to jam with him?! [I had crossed paths with him a couple of times in the early 1970s but it was always in passing].

So, over the last year or so I’ve been going over to Janet’s every two
or three weeks and jamming with and stealing licks from Steve.
Sometimes Janet has sat in on guitar or piano, and when we’re
really lucky the brilliant Will Scarlett has shown up with his harmonica. A couple of times we’ve hunted up Marc Silber and gone across the street to Live Oak Park for some group playing.

It’s been a great pleasure that promises to be ongoing. Bravo to Janet
for her efforts on Steve’s behalf and how great she’s put together this
CD. It’s a must have for fans of solo guitar and country blues.

Dale Miller
Acoustic Guitarist
Dale Miller's web site


I first heard of Steve Mann back in the 70’s when a friend of mine and I were discovering Blue Goose, Yazoo and Kicking Mule records and learning how to play the guitar. Wow! Some years later I was sitting with Roy Book Binder in his RV and he popped in a cassette and I rediscovered Steve’s music. Wow!! Again. And then by luck through a website maintained by Stefan Wirz, I came in contact with Steve, dropped him a line, and we became fast friends.

Music can speak the truth. In the journey that music takes me on, I’ve met a lot of great people and have been fortunate to meet and become friends with my mentors John Jackson, Roy Book Binder, Paul Geremia and now Steve Mann. In their music I hear the Truth and they influence me greatly. If I can speak it half as true as they do, I’ll be satisfied. Thanks, Steve.


I met Steve in Berkeley in the 70's, after his breakdown. We both had
the same girlfriend (hey, 70's, y'know?). It was hard to have conversation with him then. But he could still play, even though he had not been practicing. I watched him perform, for the first time in years, with Will Scarlett at the old Freight and Salvage. He did great versions of Prison Cell Blues and Gambler's Blues before getting excited and stomping off the stage, leaving the crowd both shocked and awed. He often would say something, angrily, about the old friends who he felt had not supported him. I could not figure out how he played
with long nails on the fingers of his fretting hand; the first time I saw him pick up a guitar I offered him my nail clipper. He ignored me.

Steve is back in Berkeley now, and he is a kinder, gentler Steve. He has let go of his anger and let his sweetness shine through. You can have a conversation with him. Will Scarlett bought him a guitar, and I set it up to play the way Steve likes (light strings, low action; like an electric). Did it as a freebie, for old times sake, and the pleasure of hearing a past master play again. He keeps thanking me for it. I still can't figure out how he plays with long fingernails on his fretting hand, though.


I met Steve in 1966/67 in San Francisco when I lived on Twin Peaks. He stayed with me for a few months and I met many fabulous musicians through him...Frank Zappa, Dr. John, come to mind. I knew Jac Holzman of Nonesuch records from New York and he came out to check out the music scene, trying to get Janis Joplin to sign with him. He took Steve and me to Berkeley to Stephen's house (last name?) where Taj Mahal and the two Steve’s played behind Janis. She gave me goose bumps and made me cry with her soulful renditions, but she wouldn't sign without her "family", Big Brother and the Holding Company, who Jac felt were not accomplished enough was two more years before they got an album out. It was the most memorable day in my life.

Years later in the 90's when I returned from 8 years in the South of France I searched the old record shops for Steve's albums...he was listed in the music book, but no luck. It was rumored he had died.

Later when I returned to Orcas Island I met a musician who had met Steve at the Ash Grove and feels Steve was a huge inspiration to him; he was 17, now in his 50s and the best guitar player around. An artist friend of mine from Santa Cruz happened to stumble upon Steve in Berkeley and remembered him from my parties in the 60s, called me with the great news and that's how I tracked you all down! Thank goodness!

Last year when we met again was another memorable day in front of the French Hotel listening to Steve play for 6 hours! Thank you Janet, for saving the music and making it possible for the rest of the world to hear the best damn blues ever!

Dear Steve; Congratulations on the new release I am TJ Colatrella
also know by some as TJ Cole.

Now going back to the early seventies maybe 1970 or 71 in The Kettle of Fish in NYC I met Eric Frandsen and then studied and learned finger picking guitar from Eric who taught me many of your tunes and also forced me, well taught me, scared me actually, to learn to listen to music and what I was hearing.

I have been a fan of yours ever since and Eric was one of the few people who I have ever met who could break down and teach even me many of your genius licks, such as on Make of me a pallet on your floor, or 44 Blues your great rendition of that tune with those really great additional lyrics you added to it.

Your version of Brother can you spare a dime, inspired Dr. John's I believe and I spoke to Dr. John who lives nearby here of you just by chance a few months back. I was complimenting the job he and John Campbell did of it as well and when he heard your name Dr. John went on for sometime with just how much he admires and respects you and your great playing and originality so rare these days. Dr. John also had some great old stories I 'm sure your glad I won't relate here now.

I exhausted myself learning from Eric Frandsen for a great long time and his generous lessons and tutelage among others and still play to this day those tunes of yours and the styling I learned from him but also thanks to Eric as well from you Steve and also much of David Bromberg's style and for years Ry Cooder's as well. Roy Bookbinder also taught me some great stuff, and Roy wanted to learn the things of yours, Eric taught me!

I consider myself to this day a very lucky guy I ever got to hear
and learn your music and approach to the guitar at still a young age,
and it's stayed with me all my life and guaranteed my continued
anonymity as an artist..... which is all part of my grand plan for
success, you see?

TJ Colatrella Woostock NY
Date: Fri, 19 Aug 2005 16:25:41 -0400
From: "duneaquaviva" <>


Hi Janet,
My early recollections of Steve are as follows:

I first met Steve Mann in the San Fernando Valley where I frequently encountered him at the various hootenannies and coffeehouses that I attended around that area from 1963 'til around 1967. Steve seemed to have a secret spy network that informed him of any folk music-oriented gathering anywhere in the L.A. and Orange County areas and would turn up at almost any event that I attended, to my amazement and pleasure. As he walked in, horn-rimmed glasses sliding down his nose so he had to peer over them, coat hanging over his shoulders like an Italian director's and a guitar case in hand, he would greet me with a, "Hi, Bruce Engelhardt!" and extend his hand for a shake while surveying the scene before him. Immediately, all the other musicians in the roomwould stop playing and would extend their guitars toward him, hopingthat he'd honor them by picking their guitar to play first.

Sometimes he would pick a guitar from those offered him and sometimes he would open his own case and pull out the brown, natural finish Martin he owned at the time. Announcing a tune, and the particular arrangement of a song, he would begin to play and sing. As he played, he would lean forward, widening his eyes and tilting his head toward someone in his audience who he wanted to impress with the sweetness, soulfulness or difficulty of a particular phrase or instrumental riff. At that point, sometimes he would also extend his guitar toward that person to emphasize a note or phrase.

Steve was a virtual encyclopedia of knowledge about all the great traditional acoustic blues musicians of Texas, the Mississippi Delta and the Southeast Piedmont regions and could accurately play in any of their styles as well as the arrangements of their songs by more current guitarists in the folk scene. He was connected to other
folk-blues finger picking guitarists through a network that included both the East and West Coasts and Chicago as well and could refer you to any of them, should you be traveling in any of their directions.

His wit and way of speaking reminded me a lot of Lenny Bruce; a mixture of Yiddish inflection with a be-bop hipness. He always (and still does) had stories to tell about his adventures or performances with one or another of the notable musicians who were part of his vast network. Wherever he went Steve was spoken of with respect and admiration, and friendship with him guaranteed his friends immediate entreé into any folk musicians' circle almost anywhere across the country.

I remember Steve and Taj Mahal jamming together in the front room of the Ashgrove coffeehouse-nightclub which was then occupied by McCabe's guitar shop. Taj worked tin the kitchen but would come out and open the shows with his guitar and harmonica, There were also informal jams in the front room of the Troubador, with Dick Rosmini, Dave Crosby, who sang some very decent blues in those days. We also used to hang out at a Sunset Strip after hours coffeehouse called The Fifth Estate where Steve would jam with the Chambers Brothers, Hoyt Axton and other notables when their regular club performances were over.

Steve was also a successful chess player and would play chess for money at the Fifth Estate. Later, we'd meet up at an after hours coffeehouse called the Thirsty Ear on Cole St. in Hollywood, across from Technicolor. You had to buy a key to get in to the "Ear" which was actually just a house where coffee and snacks were informally sold and musicians would show up to jam. Steve was often joined there by the Chambers Bros. or Jimmy (later Roger) McGuinn who would later form the Byrds.

One night, Steve Mann came in with a 45 rpm record he wanted to play. "Mad" George provided a turntable to put it on and started it up. It turned out to be Tommy Tucker's signature tune "Hi Heeled Sneakers" and, from that moment, it seemed to inspire numerous L.A. acoustic blues guitarists to put electric pick-ups on their instruments and form blues bands. Before that, amplified music, even blues, was verboten in the folk world. Soon L.A. would break out with Taj Mahal and The Rising Sons (with Ry Cooder) and Canned Heat.

During the mid to later '60s, Steve began to have opportunities to do studio work accompanying Sonny and Cher on their first album and Doctor John (Mac Rebennack). I was at the Hollywood Goldstar studios when Steve worked behind Sonny and Cher, along with a number of L.A.'s top jazz musicians including the late and legendary guitarist Barney Kessel. Steve had flown down from the Bay Area especially for that gig
and Barbara Chapnick, the late Jimmy Rubin and I picked him up at the airport and returned him there afterward; stopping for a late supper at a coffeeshop on the way back to the airport. Though I wasn't privileged to be at the studio for Steve's session with Dr. John, I'm still impressed with his memorable Blind Willie Johnson-styled slide guitar riffs that wove in and out of the song "Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya" on Doctor
John "The Night Tripper".

Right after the great Loma Prieta Earthquake of October 17, 1989, some friends and I drove up to Berkeley to see Steve and Will Scarlett perform at the Freight and Salvage. I briefly visited with him back stage during a break and again was greeted cordially and affectionately.

Then, I didn't see him again until maybe 2003 or '04 when he reappeared in Berkeley, after living for several years in L.A. I thank Will Scarlett for bringing him North and helping him to restore his connection with music, performing, chess and his friends, and also Janet Smith for issuing the CD “Steve Mann: Alive and Pickin,’” which captures so much of his dazzling singing and guitar playing in digital format. All of their efforts have helped us all to close another circle in our widely extended lives.
Let the circle be unbroken!..."

Boogie" Bruce Engelhardt


Dear Steve and Janet:

I was reflecting on Steve's music and why it is so attractive. It's not just his playing, it's his musical style. Steve's music is a synthesis of traditional blues, ragtime, jazz and soul, with some very clear influences.

Listen to Percy Mayfield's 1950 hit, "Please Send Me Someone to Love". It sounds like Steve should be playing it because of the chord changes and the "feel" of the tune. Mayfield wrote songs for Ray Charles, another of Steve's influences.

Mose Allison was also a clear influence, bringing a great jazz influence to Steve's playing. He does a great version of Allison’s own “If you Live” on “Steve Mann; Alive and Pickin.”

I think Dick Rosmini was a big influence as a teacher and guide, showing Steve what was out there, but I think Steve far surpassed Dick in his assimilation of musical content of the various artists he listened to. Steve seems to have been able to take underlying principles in a person’s style, and combine them with a great instinct for using inner musical lines that sewed together his chord changes. This is not just flashy technique,or fast playing, but the kind of structure that really falls into the field of composition as well as arranging.

Steve's playing is just SO MUSICAL. When you hear it, you want to hear more. It's melodic; it's "right". It's structurally interesting, pleasing, exciting, appropriate...
And, when Steve sings a song, he brings out the melody in a very special way.
Listen to his rendition of "44 Blues". Now, I know a lot of people have done this song, but Steve has completely altered it and it is BETTER. His blend of blues, ragtime, jazz and soul is a very unique music that is attractive because it is not just musical, but is also so well crafted in terms of structure.

I thought about all this recently this because I began recording CDs and was trying to find my "sound"--something unique to offer. I realized what a huge influence Steve has been on me over the last 30 or so years and I discovered that Steve's special blend of styles was something different I had latched on to as a young musician. While my playing is different from Steve's, I worked hard at developing the '"musicality" of my style and realized that Steve's arrangements were quite an accomplishment, not just because of his virtuosity of speed and delicate phrasing, but from a strictly compositional viewpoint. That's why his arrangements are wonderful--they please the ear in a way composers strive for.

My favorite of Steve's recordings:

44 Blues
Highway 61
She Caught the Katy
Buddy Brown's Blues

P.S. I have an early 30's recording of Skip James (under a pseudonym I can't recall) of "Black Gal" which seems like it was the root influence for Steve's version of "She Caught the Katy"--true or coincidental? (Incidentally, James re-recorded "Black Gal" under the title "My Gal" on his 60's Vanguard TODAY! album, with new, politically corrected lyrics).


Tom Horsky

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