Over on my personal social-media page the last few days, I’ve made several posts about guitarists that most folks have never heard of — Leo Kottke, Adrian Legg, Tony Rice and Richard Thompson. Tomorrow I’ll drop the fifth and final picker.
(Spoiler alert — it’s Phil Keaggy.)
None of those guys is completely unknown, of course. Every one of them would appear on any credible list of the all-time-great acoustic guitarists. They’re simply not popular in a mainstream sense.
Today I’m remembering another brilliant player. He definitely qualifies as unknown, a guy whose talent was massive but his reach only regional.
I was emceeing the Americade motorcycle rally in Lake George, New York when I met Chandler Maranville “Chan” Goodnow. At the time he was playing with Stony Creek Band, which appeared throughout the week at various venues, and often it was my role to introduce the band before they kicked off their shows.
I remember running into Chan in the Roaring Brook Ranch lounge one afternoon while we both had some downtime. It was 2pm and he was three beers in. He signaled the bartender to bring me a beer of my own, pulled out a bar stool and asked me to sit down. We proceeded to drink and peel labels for an hour, really the first time we’d had a chance to talk. We hit it off immediately.
Chan was one of the most gifted mandolinists I’ve ever seen or heard, self-taught in the style of David Grisman, and he played a damned mean banjo. Standing next to him while the band cranked out the Vassar Clements classic “Lonesome Fiddle Blues” (sans fiddle) and the original “When the Fit Hits the Chan” remain among my fondest musical memories.
We were the same age, Chan and I, and we shared a wonderful friendship rekindled each June during the rally. Stony Creek, at his urging, began inviting me onstage to sing bass harmony. For ten years he gave me shit for “stealing” the only lines he could sing.
Chan Goodnow, one of the gentlest souls I’ve ever met, died unexpectedly in 2001 after performing at a bluegrass festival in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. He was just 44 years old. The news hit me hard.
The world is richer for his presence, poorer for his passing.
This morning I listened to Stony Creek Band‘s version of “Lonesome Fiddle Blues,” marveling once again at Chan’s eight-string wizardry. I’ve included it here so you can remember Chan, too.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.