Banjo player Max Wareham played extensively with the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band and he digs into the early history of Bluegrass music with his debut book, Rudy Lyle: The Unsung Hero of the Five-String Banjo, which focuses on a nearly-forgotten master of the craft.
I began this project as a way to root my own playing more firmly in the tradition, but quickly came to realize that despite Rudy’s tremendous influence on the development of bluegrass music, he’s been nearly forgotten.
What began as an instructional book became a biography about musical impact that includes largely never-before-published transcriptions and analyses of every session Lyle recorded with Bill Monroe, the “father of Bluegrass.” Lyle’s historical significance is explored in the final interviews given by late banjo legends Sonny Osborne and Bill Emerson, as well as interviews with several other prominent banjo players and members of Lyle’s family. The book is currently on pre-order ahead of its August 23rd, 2022 release.
An interesting side-story to the creation of the book is that Wareham attempted to track down the banjo that Lyle played. Following hints dropped by interviewees, he located letters to the editor of a Bluegrass magazine from people claiming to own the banjo. This saga, which ultimately led Wareham to the banjo itself, is included in the book, along with full-color photographs.
About the author:
Max Wareham studied with banjo masters Tony Trischka and Bill Keith, was introduced as a significant voice on the instrument with the release of Peter Rowan’s latest album, Calling You From My Mountain, on which he plays banjo and sings harmony. Prior to joining the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, Wareham taught music extensively, played bass with the psych-pop outfit Sun Parade, and wrote songs and produced several albums under various aliases. Much of his work in bluegrass and education is focused on early bluegrass banjo styles and how they can offer alternative paths to expression within the bluegrass idiom.