Mike Seeger Cleared Paths, Showed Us The Way Folk music's Mike Seeger was an adventurer who wanted nothing more than to share his discoveries. He found overlooked musical treasures, polished them off a little and wondered at them. He sought out undiscovered or disappeared musicians in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina — including Dock Boggs. Seeger died Friday at 75.

Mike Seeger Cleared Paths, Showed Us The Way

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GUY RAZ, host:

Musician Mike Seeger has died. A half brother of Pete Seeger, Mike was a major figure in American music in his own right. He was a talented banjo and guitar player who co-founded the New Lost City Ramblers in the late 1950s. The group inspired musicians, famous and obscure, to look for the rural roots of American music. Mike Seeger died late Friday night at his home in Lexington, Virginia. He was 75 years old.

NPR's Paul Brown knew Seeger and he played music with him, and he offers this remembrance.

PAUL BROWN: Mike Seeger was an adventurer who wanted nothing more than to share his discoveries. He cut new paths and cleared old ones that had grown over. He found overlooked musical treasures, polished them off a little and wondered at them. Then he beckoned and called to the rest of us, hey, come down here with me. You've got to hear this.

And so it was that Mike sought out hundreds of forgotten and undiscovered musicians all over the rural South. One of the most riveting was banjo player and singer Dock Boggs of Norton, Virginia.

(Soundbite of song, "Sugar Baby")

Mr. Dock Boggs (Musician): (Singing) I got no sugar baby now. I got no honey baby now. All I can do is to seek peace with you…

BROWN: In the 1960s, Mike took a newly enthusiastic Dock Boggs out to play for the first time in decades. He brought dozens of other older, traditional musicians to the stage alongside him and with his group, the New Lost City Ramblers. And Mike constantly pushed and affirmed young people, too. He wanted us to play, to learn and to document what we'd heard.

I met Mike around 1980 at the home of the great fiddler and banjoist Tommy Jarrell in North Carolina. We talked a little, started playing and quickly fell in together. It was as though I'd found a longtime musical friend I didn't know I had.

On an album we later made, Mike suggested we drop the fiddle from the original treatment of an old tune called "Wandering Boy" in favor of two banjos. As so often happened with him, the results sounded at once fresh, old and wonderful.

(Soundbite of song, "Wandering Boy")

BROWN: Just as he did with me, Mike was always including other people in his performances and records. One was a guy he'd met in the early 1960s and who showed up on a 1994 Mike Seeger CD, Bob Dylan.

(Soundbite of song, "Ballad Of Hollis Brown")

Mr. BOB Dylan (Singer/Musician): (Singing) Hollis Brown, he lived on the outside of town. Hollis Brown, he lives on the outside of town, with his wife and five children…

BROWN: As if the music itself wasn't enough, Mike Seeger made documentaries and launched a music festival near his home.

The moment I met him, he started changing my life. He did the same with thousands of others — they tell me all the time these days. Mike Seeger's star has flickered out now, but we can hear the music, we can make out the paths he cleared. The best tribute we can pay is to try to follow his example.

Paul Brown, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "Fare You Well, Green Fields")

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