My name is Robert Browder, I love old time music, so I made this website. The guitar is my first instrument. My family had an old Stella guitar that had been hanging on the wall of our house ever since I could remember. No one played it. One summer my grandfather came to stay with us for a few weeks for the purpose of building a chimney and fireplace onto the house. He was a good guitar player as well as a fine brick mason. The old Stella got a little bit of exercise while he was around. I hadn’t dreamed that I could possibly play the guitar at that point in time. The impression he made was strong.
I first picked up the guitar at the age of 12. I immediately put it down again. It was too big for me, the strings were hard to push down against the frets, I didn’t know how to tune the thing, I had not a clue of where to start, and I had no teacher nearby. I picked it up again at the age of 14. Lucky for me we got some new neighbors about that time and one of them was a fella about my age. He also had an old guitar. His was an old classical guitar, strung with light gauge electric strings, it had an “Eat More Possum” sticker on the front. That guitar was really easy to note and gave me hope that not all guitars were as difficult to work with as mine. We found that another neighbor’s dad played guitar and didn’t mind helping us get in tune once in a while. My neighbor and I bounced ideas off each other and eventually we both learned to play a few things.
The inspiration of my older relatives inspired me to explore the local music of my South Western Virginia roots. I listened to lots of popular bluegrass and I played along with some of the other young pickers around Galax at the time. One evening while driving in the car I was tuned in to a local radio station playing a hot old time tune and I was struck by the rhythm of that music. Although I had been around it my whole life, I had never really heard it like that before. I was drawn to old time music more and more after that and I began to make small efforts to listen to more of it and learn more about it.
The first jams I went to were in the conference room of the Carroll County public library on Wednesday nights. They had one microphone set in the center of a small stage. All of the pickers gathered together on the stage and everyone was offered the chance to lead a song at the microphone. It was a great place to soak up the sound of older musicians in the community. The following summer I had the opportunity to play along with the band at a few square dances. The following fall I moved to Blacksburg and began to take part in the Tuesday night jams. There were a lot of good fiddlers around Blacksburg at the time and they often came out for the Tuesday jams. It was there that I really got my guitar playing together. A lot of learning took place and I count myself fortunate to have been able to be a part of that scene for a while.
One outcome of the Tuesday night jams at Blacksburg was the opportunity to begin performing with local bands. We had all manner of gigs both small and large. We played for dances, weddings, farmers markets, fiddler’s conventions, and the occasional political rally or protest event.
Part and parcel of jamming with friends is the constant discussion of the music and education of one another. Where would I be without my fellow pickers? When I have a guitar in my hands I am constantly asking or answering questions about the instrument, the nature of a particular tune, or speculating on some facet of the music. I’ve been privileged to play and learn from some of the (in my opinion) very best. It has been my great fortune to be able to share my musical knowledge both in jamming and through lessons. I doubt if I will ever exhaust the vast opportunities to learn, grow, and share old time music with the guitar.