John Fahey

John Fahey - acoustic guitar (1939 - 2001)

Acoustic guitarist John Fahey was impossible to classify. His eclectic music included traditional-sounding folk pieces, Indian ragas, blues, and unpredictable modern works, not fitting securely into any specific category but somehow always sounding personal.

John Fahey was born on February 28, 1939 in Takoma Park, Maryland. His father played popular songs on the piano and Irish harp, and his mother was also a pianist. John spent his youth raising wood turtles and fishing in the Susquehawa River and upper Chesapeake Bay. On Sundays the family went to the New River Ranch in nearby Rising Sun, MD where they heard the top country and hillbilly groups of the day, like Bill Monroe and The Stanley Brothers. On a fishing trip in 1952 John met a black singer and guitarist named Frank Hovington, whose fingerpicking style so intrigued John that he bought his first guitar soon thereafter, a Sears Roebuck model that cost him $17.00, and started teaching himself to play.

In 1959 while at college, he recorded an album, using as his name Blind Joe Death, and pressing only 95 copies. After getting a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from American University, Fahey moved to Berkeley, California in 1963, where he established his own label, Takoma Records, and began his long recording career. The following year he moved to Los Angeles, got an M.A. in Folklore and Mythology from UCLA, and was instrumental in the rediscovery of blues artists Skip James and Bukka White. He expanded the Takoma label to include fellow guitarists Leo Kottke and Peter Lang, among many others, and New Age pioneer George Winston was another whose early career was nourished by the quirky innovator.

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