DEL CITY — Whenever Brad Bennett hears bluegrass, he finds himself swept up in the sweet, calming sounds of the music.
Bennett began playing the banjo in the 1970s when he was in his 20s. Eventually he traded that in for a wife and kids. He took up fishing and other pursuits, but after more than 30 years, he's hooked all over again.
“The sound is so unique,” Bennett said. “I like the lyrics of the songs. They're usually about some true event. Bluegrass just takes you to a place that you can see a little log cabin in the pines or a river in your mind's eye.”
Bennett is a member of the Greater Oklahoma Bluegrass Society, members of which have been getting together to pick and grin since 1978. There is a monthly concert and jam session at the Oklahoma Country Western Museum and Hall of Fame in Del City and other activities scattered throughout the state.
Society President Nathan Sanders said bluegrass remains popular in Oklahoma. The society has about 400 members in central Oklahoma and other parts of the state.
“There's a big interest in it overall,” Sanders said. “Most bluegrassers stick with it for a lifetime. People grow up with it, and it becomes a part of who they are. And other than that, it's a lot of fun.”
Sanders started playing guitar when he was 10 or 11. He has played in a string band for about 20 years, learning to play mandolin, bass and banjo.
“You'll find that a lot of bluegrass musicians play a lot of different instruments,” he said. “It's fun to try different instruments to see if you can pick them up. There's a curiosity there to see what it's like and if you can master it.”
Timeless sound old
The sound never gets old for Sanders and others like him. The society's monthly get-together sometimes features workshops on how to play different instruments. The simplicity of the sound keeps people coming back.
“It's just a pure sound, there's no processing, no effects,” Sanders said. “Just a guy with a guitar. That's what has always impressed me about it, that raw sound.”
Bennett joined the society in part to learn how to play. He's taking lessons and is working his way up to jam at one of the monthly events. He admits that's been hard.
“I'm probably a little reserved about being in front of people,” he said. “That's something I'm working on. I'd like to play in one of the jam rooms, and I'm going to work on that over the next 30 days or so. My lessons are taught by Annie Carpenter, who played at the Grand Ole Opry. She's been a big help. It's just amazing that we have all this talent and ability and desire for this music right here in Oklahoma City.”
And it's not just the older generation that enjoys the genre.
“We definitely have more of an older generation, but there are some kids who get into it, college students and that age group,” he said. “It's a kind of music that has plenty to offer for any age.”
To learn more
For more information on the Greater Oklahoma Bluegrass Society, go to www.gobms.org.