Peter Rowan is a Grammy award - winning singer/songwriter who was once a member of bluegrass legend Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys. Peter is primarily a guitar player, but he can also tear it up on the mandolin and other various instruments. Throughout his prolific career, he has written many songs including, "Panama Red" which is a cult classic that was made famous by the country rock band, New Riders of the Purple Sage. He has an impressive resume of musicians and bands that he has collaborated with throughout the years such as: Sea Train, Muleskinner, Jerry Garcia, Tony Rice, Bill Keith, David Grisman and many others. Pete has even crossed genres when he and his brothers formed a successful harder-edged rock outfit at one time. Look out for Peter on his current nationwide tour - I know I will.
R.V.B. - What kind of music did you hear around the house as a kid andwhat was the spark that made you want to play the guitar?
P.R. - MY UNCLE JIMMY CAME BACK FROM NEW CALEDONIA AFTER WORLD WAR TWO, SINGING HAWAIIAN SONGS AND STRUMMING A MARTIN UKELELE HE HAD WON IN A CARD GAME. HE WAS IN THE NAVY AND COULD SING AND PLAY. HE WAS MY HERO AND HE TAUGHT ME CHORDS TO "FIVE FOOT TWO", "AINT SHE SWEET", "BYE BYE BLACKBIRD".... SO I LEARNED THOSE SONGS FIRST....
R.V.B. - What kind of songs did you tackle when you first started playing the guitar? What was your first guitar?
P.R. - MY DAD GAVE ME AN ARTHUR GODFREY WHITE PLASTIC UKELELE WHEN I WAS ELEVEN. THAT WAS IT, UNTIL I SAW A PICTURE OF ELVIS IN LIFE MAGAZINE WITH HIS GUITAR SLUNG ON HIS BACK. THAT WAS IT... MY FIRST GUITAR WAS A KAY. I WORE IT OUT.
R.V.B. - How did you get the name, "The Cupids" for your first band and what did it consist of instrumentation-wise? Where was your first gig and how did it go?
P.R. - WE SANG THREE PART HARMONIES; WE HAD 3 ELECTRIC GUITARS, A DAN-ELECTRO, AN EPIPHONE F-HOLE, AND I PLAYED A FENDER TELECASTER., AND WE HAD PIANO AND DRUMS. OUR FIRST SHOW WAS FOR AN ALL-CATHOLIC GIRLS SPRING PARTY. ...ABOUT 40 GIRLS, SOME NUNS, IT WAS A MAY FIRST PARTY...WE WERE THE ONLY GUYS THERE. IT WAS FUN, THEY LOVED US, ROUND DANCES, A MAYPOLE, ROCK AND ROLL!
R.V.B. - In your High School years what kind of music were you listening to? Were there any bands that came through town that made a great impression on you?
LISTENING TO CHUCK BERRY AND LITTLE RICHARD, FATS DOMINO, BUDDY HOLLY. I WENT TO A SHOW WHEN I WAS 14 AND SAW CHUCK AND A LOT OF DO-WOP GROUPS, THE CADILLACS, THE G-CLEFS....ALL SO YOUNG....SO GREAT! SOMEONE TURNED ME ON TO LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS AND IT WENT FROM THERE TO LEADBELLY TO BLUEGRASS, BILL MONROE.
R.V.B. - How did you get such a big break to join with Bill Monroe and did you have to relocate to do this? Was you family all for this?
P.R. - BILL KEITH HAD BEEN A "BLUEGRASS BOY" AND HE HIRED ME TO PLAY SOME DATES WITH BILL MONROE IN NEW ENGLAND...BILL SUGGESTED I COME TO NASHVILLE, "I CAN HELP YOU!"; I HAD BEEN PLAYING WITH JOE VAL IN BOSTON AREA; EVERYONE SAID I SHOULD GO FOR IT....AND I DID.
R.V.B. - What did you like the most about playing with Bill Monroe?
R.V.B. - After the Bill Monroe era, you played a variety of genres. Was this by choice to learn these or was it just the circumstances of meeting different people?
P.R. - WE WERE ALL YOUNG AND WE WANTED TO TRY EVERYTHING, MOSTLY MAKE UP NEW APPROACHES, REALLY WE WERE JUST TRYING TO PLAY WELL, LUCKY WE HAD A GIG.
R.V.B - The band "Earth Opera" with David Grisman opened for "The Doors" a few times. Did the two styles mix well? Where did you play these shows?
P.R. - WE PLAYED ALL OVER THE NORTHEAST...WE DID OK....NOISY CROWDS, BUT WE HELD OUR OWN
R.V.B. - In the late 60's through the mid 70's, it seems that this was an exciting time for you. You were playing with some great musicians with bands such as Seatrain and Muleskinner. Did you enjoy playing live and touring a with these outfits? Were there any memorable shows that stick out?
P.R. - MULESKINNER BECAME A GROUP BECAUSE BILL MONROE MISSED THE SHOW, IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BLUEGRASS, FATHER AND SONS; ONLY THE SONS MADE IT. BILL'S BUS BROKE DOWN IN STOCKTON. HE CALLED ME AND WE WERE ALREADY IN THE TV STUDIOS IN L.A. THE SHOW MUST GO ON, SO MULESKINNER WAS BORN!
R.V.B. - You wrote a lot of classic songs during this prolific period of performing and writing. Did recreational activities come into play when you wrote the classic, "Panama Red"?
P.R. - I WROTE PANAMA RED ON THE STREETS OF CAMBRIDGE MASS ON THE WOODSTOCK WEEKEND....VERY RECREATIONAL. THESE WERE THE TIMES... NUFF SAID
R.V.B. - How was your experience playing with Jerry Garcia?
P.R. - SOMEONE JUST TOLD ME THAT I HAD LEFT BILL MONROE TO JOIN GARCIA... ACTUALLY IT WAS 5 YEARS BETWEEN ... AND GARCIA WAS A BIG YES TO MUSICAL IDEAS. BIG FUN!
P.R. - I LEARNED TO YODEL AS A KID, LISTENING TO COWBOY RECORDS