Dan Crary Biography

29 September 1939, Kansas City, Kansas, USA. Crary developed a keen interest in music as a child, after his classical music-loving mother took him to see the famous violinist Fritz Kreisler. At the age of 10, he took piano lessons for a time, but soon changed to guitar. In 1957, after graduating from high school, he attended Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute to study theology. In 1960, he relocated to Lawrence, Kansas, and while studying at the University of Kansas, he played guitar and sang in a trio called the Carltons. He married in 1962 and in 1965, he relocated to San Francisco to continue his theological studies at the Golden Gate Seminary, playing locally both with groups and solo to make a living.

In 1967, with a degree, he moved to Louisville, working on WINN, while he continued his studies for a doctorate of philosophy at the Southern Seminary. In Louisville, greatly interested in bluegrass music, he became friendly with various musicians, and in 1968, he became a member of Bluegrass Alliance. The group initially comprised Crary, Wayne Stewart (guitar/vocals), Buddy Spurlock (banjo), Lonnie Peerce (fiddle) and Ebo Walker (bass). They played a residency in a local bar, the Red Dog, for 18 months and achieved some acclaim playing at major bluegrass festivals. Although the group did not last long, they are remembered in bluegrass for their rather non-traditional approach to the music. In 1970, worried that he might not make a satisfactory living in music, Crary decided to pursue his university studies for a PhD in speech communication and left the group, being replaced by Tony Rice. Family commitments and studies limited his playing in the early 70s, but in 1974, while appearing at a Canadian festival, he became friendly with noted west coast fiddler Byron Berline. After taking a teaching post in Fullerton, California, to support the family (which by that time included two daughters), Crary and Berline formed Sundance, which included John Hickman (banjo), Jack Skinner (bass) and Allen Wald (guitar). Apart from playing together, Crary, Berline and Hickman also formed a long-lasting business partnership, BCH Productions.

In 1976, Crary made his first tour of Japan, where he had become a great favourite following the release there a few years earlier of his debut, Bluegrass Guitar. He made the first of many highly successful tours to the UK in 1978 and 1979. Over the years, Crary managed to combine playing with BCH, his solo career and his lecturing, and also completed his PhD. Later in his career, he began to introduce the 12-string guitar into his concert appearances. His popularity continued to grow throughout the 80s and into the 90s. His instrumental genius was once summed up by noted British bluegrass authority John Atkins: ‘The guy just cannot be a human being, since humans just don’t play that well. He should be kept away from other musicians, as sometimes a hearing can completely shatter illusions and not serve to inspire’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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