LarryFest is on hiatus at this time. The last one was held in 2005.
LarryFest honors someone in the Bay Area for his or her volunteer efforts in promoting bluegrass. The fest was first held in August of 2001 when Suzanne Suwanda and friends held a party for Larry Carlin, and for want of a better name it was dubbed "LarryFest."
LarryFest is hosted by Robert Cornelius and Suzanne Suwanda at The Great Room in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The date this year is August 20th. There is plenty of jam space indoors and out, plenty of parking on the premises, and overnight camping (free) can be reserved. Children (supervised, please!) are welcome. The hosts will have a main course to serve for however many folks RSVP. They'll also provide paper plates and dinnerware, and coolers of ice. Folks should bring instruments, beverages and a dish to share: those arriving in the early afternoon bring snacks/appetizers; those arriving later in the afternoon bring salad or side dish or garlic bread; those arriving after dinner bring a dessert. Dinner will be at 5 pm, with a short program to follow.
The 2005 honorees are Eric and Barbara Burman.
Eric Burman was born in San Francisco in 1951, and raised in the Santa Clara Valley, in San Jose near Los Gatos and Saratoga. He went to most of the community colleges in the Valley after getting out of the Navy, where he learned his trade - emergency medicine. He was a medical corpsman in the Navy and a medic for the Marines. He later got his RN at Monterey Peninsula College and has been working in emergency/cardiac/surgical care for 30 years.
He now lives on a mountain top ranch in Bonny Dune after having lived in Santa Cruz for the previous 15 years. In Santa Cruz he found his other love besides music - fossil hunting. He looks for 5 million year old whalebone skulls and shark teeth from the same time period. He lived across the street from the ocean for ten years, so he searched everyday. And eventually he found a new genus and species of walrus from 5 million years ago. He turned it over to a museum and got the glory after they worked on the skull he had found. It was a great thrill to him to know of all of the books that had to be rewritten as a new spot on the walrus family tree was created. It took ten more years before anyone found another walrus like the one Eric discovered.
He didn't start listening to bluegrass until the Strawberry Music Festival moved to Camp Mather. He played guitar and mostly sang, but he'd had never been around that many musicians that knew bluegrass. It took several years before he had any idea, and if it wasn't for Jackie Miller's bluegrass band class, put on by the Santa Cruz Bluegrass Society, he might still have no idea how to play bluegrass or start a bluegrass festival. He goes to about six festivals each year and runs most of them. Eric also enjoys just going to a festival and lying around too, like he does at Strawberry.
The Brookdale Festival, which Eric produces, take place twice a year, and this December will be its sixth year (it also takes place in March). Last year Eric put on two benefit concerts for people in need - Greg Davis, who passed away last October, and the "Surf Dawg" Steven Davies, a popular KPIG morning surf and weather reporter, who died this year of cancer. Eric has put on other benefit concerts at Brookdale as well, including one for Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, and one to raise money for the Good Old Fashioned Festival. He was a founder of the fest, and he passed it on to the Santa Cruz Bluegrass Society (now the Northern California Bluegrass Society) in 1994. He is involved with putting on a benefit bluegrass concert this October 15th in Felton to help save the library. And he recently produced a bluegrass festival at Roaring Camp in Felton in June.
The bluegrass band New Grass Revival was his first inspiration, then Peter Rowan, Hot Rize, and Ralph Stanley. He belongs to NCBS and CBA, and is married to a wonderful lady and musician, "Banjo" Barb Burman, who also plays bass in The Lunatic Fringe.
Eric has learned that "friendship and family are the most important things on this earth. Music can raise the level of consciousness to a level above personal differences." And that's why he loves bluegrass so much. "When we all come together to make music we go to a special place above our problems and concerns; it's a place of freedom and acceptance," he says.
Barbara grew up in Pennsylvania and first became interested in the banjo by listening to Bill Keith and The Jim Kweskin Jug Band. At the tender age of 12, she would don a black turtleneck, put on black eyeliner and white lipstick and sneak in to one of three local bluegrass bars, where she might hear Mac Martin and The Dixie Travelers playing at Welch's. A little older, she would combine a trip to DC to protest the war with a visit to the Birchmere to hear Seldom Scene.
She played Dixieland-style banjo in college (Duquesne University) including a stint with a rock group called the Rhythm Kings, complete with horns. "I was the chick singer and had a gold lame dress - which is why they hired me!" she said. She liked to go to "homecomings" (the precursor to festivals) in West Virginia that were held in high school gyms and on the football fields. She also went to Bean Blossom in the early 70's and met Bill Monroe when she tried to steal his horse. (Ask Barb for the story!)
In 1975 she moved to Palo Alto, found a banjo teacher named Aaron at Los Altos Music and bought her first bluegrass banjo. Aaron invited her to the first CBA festival in Grass Valley, the only bluegrass festival in California at the time. Aaron had a once a year banjo camp at his house where all the banjo players in the area would congregate (Jerry Garcia used to come as well).
Barb traveled in the late 70's playing her banjo in bars and national parks (including Yellowstone); one summer she toured Alaska playing bars and campsites. She still has many friends who know her only as "Banjo Barb" and never knew her last name.
Back in California she took a workshop with Bill Keith, where she met and became friends with Cousin Al, who kept her advised of events, including the formation of the Santa Cruz Bluegrass Society, which she joined immediately. At one point she met the Abbott Family, and started playing bass as a means to help review their playing-by-ear method.
She met Eric at the first GOF when "he threw me and my giant dog HamBone (a 120 lb. search and rescue dog) out of the festival and told me to 'never darken his doorway again.' " Somehow the conflict was resolved and later she took Eric to MerleFest and to Pete Wernick's banjo camp (she already knew Wernick and that's what led to Wernick's camps in the Santa Cruz area). Still later, she and Eric were married at the Brookdale Lodge in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
That started another festival, because "the staff kept saying our wedding was the best party ever, would we do it again?" Barb laughs. It started with a one-day event and now is a three-day party, twice a year.
In her spare time, Barb enjoys her three horses: two Paso Finos and an Arab.
2004 Bruno and Darby Brandli
As a couple (since 1967 "The summer of Love") Bruno and Darby Brandli have always worked at developing community. Both political (Berkeley in the 60's and 70's) and neighborhood (founders of the Brooklyn Neighborhood Preservation Association in the Brooklyn Township of Oakland). They raised two kids and were active in their school community for years, and since the late 80's began to develop a bluegrass community. This community evolved into "Camp Spam," whose motto could be "The music first, the community second," and they always had the children of the camp as the core. Of course, many of these "children" are now playing in bands today.
Bruno and Darby now find themselves at a musical center of the bluegrass community. They are involved in arranging events, putting up bands, and running a hostel for homeless bluegrass musicians. Darby is the East Bay Activities Vice President for the California Bluegrass Association and was instrumental in developing McGrath's Pub in Alameda as a jam and performance site. Bruno and Darby support the next generation of bluegrassers by promoting and hosting events and bands. Twice a week they open their home for music lessons, they hosted a fiddle workshop weekend, they provide rehearsal space, lend instruments to traveling bands, host bands (this last summer Michelle Nixon and Drive, The Greencards and Fragment from out of state and out of country), throw great parties, provide tickets and camping gear for young people to attend festivals, and basically create the space for bluegrass music to thrive in the Bay Area. The payoff is a wide circle of multigenerational friends and never a dull moment.
2003 Mike Hall
"The Bluegrass Ambassador of The South Bay," is originally from Murfreesboro, TN, and he has been living in the area for 20 years. He earned his law degree from Vanderbilt in 1980, has his own law office, and he is a partner in The Music Motel (Kleartone Records). He will, coincidentally, turn 51 on October 25. Mike has been a member of the NCBS board of directors since 1990, has served as its president three times, and he has been instrumental in the production of the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival. He is most proud that "The NCBS is the nation's most active and effective regional bluegrass organization." Mike is an active member of eight music organizations, and he lives in Redwood City with his partner Debbie Weiner.
2002 Barb Hansen
Barb Hansen hails from Park Ridge, IL, where she attended Northwestern, obtaining a degree in Comparative Literature and Theory. She is 33 years old, and she moved to SF in 1995. She now works as an office manager for an anti-poverty non-profit in Los Angeles, where she moved this past spring. For the first four years of its existence Barb was the executive director of the all-volunteer SF Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival Committee, and her hard work, dedication, and organizational skills were crucial in making the festival a success. She lives with her significant other, Walter Spencer. She says, "I had such a wonderful time getting to know and play music with so many talented people in the Bay Area. My family is in Chicago, but I know I will always have a great bunch of friends up there to go back and visit."
2001 Larry Carlin
Larry is a performer, producer, and writer of bluegrass in the San Francisco Bay Area. Originally from King of Prussia, PA, he has been living in the Bay Area for 25 years, and he sings and plays standup bass. He performs in four bands, writes a monthly column titled "The Bluegrass Muse" for Bluegrass By The Bay, writes a biweekly e newsletter called "Carltone's Corner," and he produces a monthly show called Bluegrass Gold at Sweetwater in Mill Valley. He is an active member of the International Bluegrass Music Association. He also plays with the duo Keystone Crossing as well as the bands Keystone Station and Wild Blue. He lives in the little hollow of Sausalito.
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This page updated 8/03/05