ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

David Johnston is a banjo player for the Yonder Mountain String Band. We invited him to participate in You Must Hear This, in which musicians talk about a piece of music they love. And he chose a band that started his career in music.

DAVID JOHNSTON: In June of 1993, I was listening to a radio show and it was the first time I heard the sound that I loved. I was in college and my girlfriend had left for the summer, so I spent my afternoons laying around and drinking coffee. My radio was tuned to a bluegrass station. Every once in a while they'd spin something that sounded like it came from a bygone era. It turned out to be The Foggy Mountain Boys.

(Soundbite of music)

JOHNSTON: I went to the record store, and I'll admit, that I picked the one that had the most songs on it for the best price.

All these years later, here's what I do with this amazing music: I get home and in the evening when the crickets are going and the lightning bugs flashing, I shut my bedroom door and listen. "Pike County Breakdown" comes on and from the first four notes I feel a golden rhythmic imprint pressed across my head, and I have this huge smile. This is the stuff.

(Soundbite of song, "Pike County Breakdown")

JOHNSTON: "Doing My Time" comes next. I was doing my time, too, exploring my rowdy ways and vicariously thrilling to the words of: they call me by a number but not a name.

(Soundbite of song, "Doing My Time")

THE FOGGY MOUNTAIN BOYS (Music Group): (Singing) On this old rock pile with a ball and chain, they call me by a number, not a name.

JOHNSTON: But it was more than just those two songs. My life had elements of all these things that The Foggy Mountain Boys were describing with their words and music, my girlfriend had baby-blue eyes. I swore I'd never love another. I was preoccupied with Blue Ridge vistas and my cabin home where everything could come out right.

A couple of years later, I traded in my guitar for a $40 credit on a Kay Banjo and got a job washing dishes at the Cracker Barrel to pay off the rest. Because of The Foggy Mountain Boys, I became obsessed with learning how to create that same kind of sound. And their music still informs what I do today. You must hear Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and The Foggy Mountain Boys.

(Soundbite of music, "Gotta Do My Time")

THE FOGGY MOUNTAIN BOYS: (Singing) Gotta do my time with an aching heart and a worried mind.

SIEGEL: David Johnston is a banjo player for the Yonder Mountain String Band, whose new album is called "The Show." His pick for You Must Hear This is "The Complete Mercury Sessions," Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and The Foggy Mountain Boys. To check out more You Must Hear This picks, go to the new npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

THE FOGGY MOUNTAIN BOYS: (Singing) Gotta do my time with an aching heart and a worried mind. It won't be long, just a few more days.

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