got caught up in the old time music scene during the early 80's after moving to Ithaca, New York.
By 1980, Joe
had switch from guitar to banjo as his
In 1982, equipped with a Ph.D. and a copy of a Whyte Lady banjo purchased with graduation present money, Joe
headed off for post-doctoral work in Hamburg, Germany.
During this time, Joe
worked on techniques such as drop-thumbing, but most of all on capturing the joyful sound of the music from Ithaca dances and jams.
In Germany, he
mainly played with friends, but made his
first public appearance on banjo at the Blockhütte, a country bar in St. Pauli, Hamburg just off the Reeperbahn.
In 1986, Joe
moved to Urbana, Illinois and settled into the old time music and dance scene in the Midwest.
Two years later at a Swing into Spring dance weekend in Indiana, Joe plus a bunch Urbana-Champaign dancers took a band workshop together and the Saline Ditch Stringband was born.
Within a year, they had a tighter sound, a much better name ("The Cradlerockers" after the tune, "Rock the Cradle Joe
" - everyone in the band was a parent except for Joe), and were playing regularly for dances.
Two midwestern banjo players whose playing influenced Joe
were Steve Rosen of the Volo Bogtrotters and Dave Landreth of the Allen Street Stringband.
Four years later, after co-hosting a weekly radio show and settling how any children they might someday have would be raised, Neia
decided to date.
The rest happened rather quickly.
hooked up with Ray Quigley to form the core of Squirrelheads
in Gravy shortly after moving to Texas in 1991. (Originally the Raynormalization Stringband, the band was renamed with help from former Squirrelhead, Gary Washmon, a fiddler in Denton, TX).
tend to prefer a driving southern-style rather than the more melodic New England style.
says that he
only sings when the band is amplified so loudly that no one on the dance floor can hear him.
When Joe isn't playing banjo he is a physics professor at UT Dallas doing elementary particle physics with the ATLAS experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and with the BaBar expirement at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
After twenty years in Texas, Neia
has taken an academic job in Virginia.
She is currently an Assistant Professor of Special Education at George Mason University.
When Neia tells Joe he's
doesn't know whether to worry.
When the number of fiddles in the Squirrelheads
thought the banjo section was getting short shrift, and he
made a pitch for another banjo.
Joe's bandmates had a different kind of banjo pitch in mind.
They told Joe he
played so well that there was no need for another banjo.
is mollified for the moment.
Copyright © 2005-2010 Joseph M. Izen