Born and raised in Philadelphia, I was ten years old when I received a Remco Crystal Radio set for my birthday. After putting it all together and attaching a wire to the radiator in my bedroom which acted as the antenna, I turned the dial and listened to the crackle and hiss until some strange sounds came through on the headphones…which were made of paper and cardboard, on a metal frame. The station I picked up was from Wheeling West Virginia, and it turned out to be The WWVA World’s Original Jamboree, a radio show that began way back in 1926. Although it’s hard to recall exactly what I was hearing, it was likely bluegrass bands like The Stanley Brothers and Jim and Jesse, modern country from David Houston and maybe Esco Hankins, who sounded a lot like Roy Acuff.
Although swept up like everyone else in the early to mid-sixties by the Beatles and all of the other British Invasion bands, the soul music from Muscle Shoals to Detroit and developing a lifelong love for the Beach Boys…my aunt introduced me to Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music and gave me my first guitar lesson. My father’s cousin Arnold at the time was president of MGM Records, and had been the producer of not only dozens of albums ranging from Connie Francis to Ennio Morricone film soundtracks, but he also headed up the session for Screaming Jay Hawkin’s “I Put A Spell On You”.
Skipping over a decade or so, most of which is remembered only in little bits and pieces, in 1972 I stumbled into a thirty-seven year career working at a number of independent and major record labels and distributors, in a sales and marketing capacity. In 1980 I moved to Los Angeles, and for a few years I ran a vinyl collectors shop in Santa Monica with a celebrity clientele of regulars that included Brian Wilson, George Carlin, oodles of actors and musicians, film studio folk, the future governor and a guy named OJ, who owned the Honey Baked Ham franchise at the end of the block. I soon found my way at an indie distributor representing everything from bluegrass to jazz, blues to early rap. At the end of the eighties I was with Capitol-EMI, and because I liked twang and wore boots, a lot of time was spent in Nashville. I call it the Garth Years, for better or worse.
For the next twenty years I got a chance to meet and work with some of the biggest recording artists of the era, and also witnessed the rise and fall of an entire industry. While the music endured, delivery methods and distribution systems all fell apart. One by one I saw the closing of at first dozens, followed by hundreds, and eventually thousands of record stores from coast to coast. As the guy in charge who handed out the pink slips to a staff that was no longer needed, my day finally came. My last job was a year spent at a small bluegrass label, with most of my time getting their music digitized and on something called iTunes.
My time away from the business side of music coincided with a personal journey to get back to the sounds I remembered as a kid…both the country and bluegrass, and the folk music. While record stores faded, a San Francisco and Berkeley chain decided to open an outpost in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. Amoeba Records became my new garden of delights and instead of selling, I began to listen. And I started to make music again…guitars, dulcimer, dobro, bass…and a pedal steel I’m still staring at.
Along with the end of an industry comes the collateral damage. One of my favorite music magazines, No Depression, started to see ad revenues drop and this thing called the internet cutting into their turf. Instead of riding it into the ground, the May-June 2008 issue with Buddy Miller on the cover became the final issue.
One door closes, another opens.
Since 2009 I have been a featured writer on the No Depression roots music website. Over 300 articles, reviews and artist profiles have been published on the front page and sent out in their widely distributed newsletter. Currently I contribute a column called Easy Ed’s Broadside, which allows me to do what I like best: talk about the music that touches me, and ramble on hither and yon about whatever else is on my mind. All of my articles are available on No Depression (click here) , and eventually most will be available here as well. Thanks for showing up at our front door, and I hope you enjoy my word-smithing workshop.
Easy Ed resides in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York. When not tending to the apple orchard, he can often can be found traveling throughout the region in search of the best live roots music…from the survivors of the Great American Folk Scare, to the neo-traditionalists who hail from the plains and flatlands of Brooklyn. He is also proud to serve in the local Junior Ranger program.