About Glenn Weiser
by Margie Rosencranz

"A picker's picker. When you put great technical expertise together with artistic expression, you've got a great musician. And Glenn Weiser is a great musician."  - Chris Shaw  

Onstage with guitar, baritone vocals, rack-mounted harmonica and occasionally banjo, Weiser shamelessly and wonderfully mixes genres and eras - Blues & Celtic tunes, Country Blues of the 20's and 30's - then throws in a Scott Joplin rag, Tin Pan Alley show tune, or a blues or folk classic made famous by the Grateful Dead. It's the lilt of a Celtic air followed by the wail of a blues tune; and woven throughout are bits of not-so-trivia that spice his shows, taking you back to the music of blues legend Blind Lemon Jefferson, further back to Turlough O'Carolan (Ireland's legendary blind harper of the 18th Century); touching on a little-known story starring none other than Johann Sebastian Bach, then shining a spotlight on the very colorful Lightnin' Hopkins.

A veritable encyclopedia on Celtic music & blues (he's Sing Out magazine's harmonica expert and also writes for Acoustic Guitar), Wieser has accumulated a vast repertoire through his travels from 1950's New Jersey: fingerstyle classics of the '20's & '30's made famous not only by Jefferson, but Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, and others.

As a youth studying classical guitar ("the rich cultural tradition of the New Jersey suburbs," he deadpans), Weiser gradually converted from Baroque and Spanish music to steel-string fingerpicking after hearing "Separation Blues" at a 1967 peace rally. He knew the transition was complete after witnessing the rip-snorting, low-down soulful blues of John Fahey and Mississippi John Hurt.

He was part of the Music Generation that spawned the Beatles, and Weiser experienced the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and Richie Havens at Woodstock ("It was raining paisley," he remembers). After he marched in the 1969 War Moratorium in Washington, the largest anti-war demonstration of the '60's, Weiser's grinning image appeared in Life magazine and won its independent photographer an award.

Weiser has appeared on the same bill with Tony Trischka, John Herald, Junior Wells, and Koko Taylor, and has jammed informally with Pete Seeger, John Hammond, Danny Kalb, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (Muddy Waters' drummer), Archie Edwards and many others. His harmonica playing graces Anne Hills' and Cindy Mangen's recent Flying Fish release "Never Grow Up,"  a classic collection of traditional folk favorites.   He also teaches guitar, mandolin, banjo, harmonica and fiddle, and has performed with The St. Regis String Band,  Mojo Hand Blues Band, and as a duo with Celtic musician Greg Schaaf.

In addition, he's authored several books, including "Fiddle Tunes for Harmonica,"  "The Minstrel Boy-85 Traditional Fiddle Tunes and Airs for Solo Guitar," " Blues and Rock Harmonica," and "Celtic Harp Music of Carolan and Others for Solo Guitar." His book on Carolan  won the following praise from Guitar Player in a June '96 review: "Traditional Irish Harp music sounds ravishing on acoustic guitar. ...you can thank Glenn Weiser for collecting 45 of the finest harp melodies...and arranging them for fingerstyle players...Weiser's results should please both classical players and folk purists alike, and introduce this rich tradition to a new audience of guitarists."

The Associated Press covered him for transcribing dozens of the harmonica solos of Little Walter Jacobs, seen by many as the world's greatest blues harmonica player--as Weiser will remind you, Jacobs played with Muddy Waters during its Chicago beginnings in the early '50's.

But whether he's at Caffe Lena, The Eighth Step, Fiddle & Dance Weekend at Hubbard Hall, Old Songs or a host of other regional acoustic music venues, he seamlessly mixes anecdotes on origins of tunes (and the musicians who made them famous) with soulful ballads, wailing blues harmonica, and maybe a bright and beautiful jig.

Samples of Glenn's not-so-trivia

Two of the greatest Texas bluesmen froze to death during the same winter: Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Lemon in December of 1929 and Johnson in February of 1930 - the two greatest blues guitarists in Texas, who were often seen playing simultaneously on different street corners on the same towns. ("Imagine the feast of music!")

When "Eileen Aroon" was played on the harp for George Frederick Handel in Dublin in 1742, he exclaimed that he would rather have been the composer of that one tune than all of his operas and oratorios.

"MacPherson's Lament" was composed by condemned robber-fiddler James MacPherson on the night before his hanging. The town fathers pushed the clock ahead 15 minutes, to beat a pardon coming by hourseback courier from the King of Scotland, who liked MacPherson's fiddle playing.

E-Mail: celticguitar1@nycap.rr.com
Snail Mail: P.O. Box 2551
Albany, NY, 12220 USA

Email: banjoandguitar100@yahoo.com

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