The avant-garde banjo stylings of Tony Trischka inspired a whole generation of progressive bluegrass musicians; he was not only considered among the very best pickers, he was also one of the instrument's top teachers, and created numerous instructional books, teaching video tapes, and cassettes.
A native of Syracuse, New York, Trischka's interest in banjo was sparked by the Kingston Trio's "Charlie and the MTA" in 1963. Two years later, he joined the Down City Ramblers, where he remained through 1971. That year, Trischka made his recording debut on 15 Bluegrass Instrumentals with the band Country Cooking; at the same time, he was also a member of Country Granola. In 1973, he began a two-year stint with Breakfast Special. Between 1974 and 1975, he recorded two solo albums, Bluegrass Light and Heartlands. After one more solo album in 1976, Banjoland, he went on to become musical leader for the Broadway show The Robber Bridegroom. Trischka toured with the show in 1978, the year he also played with the Monroe Doctrine.
Beginning in 1978, he also played with artists such as Peter Rowan, Richard Greene, and Stacy Phillips. In the early '80s, he began recording with his new group Skyline, who recorded their first album in 1983. Subsequent albums included Robot Plane Flies Over Arkansas (solo, 1983), Stranded in the Moonlight (with Skyline, 1984), and Hill Country (solo, 1985). In 1984, he performed in his first feature film, Foxfire. Three years later, he worked on the soundtrack for Driving Miss Daisy. Trischka produced the Belgian group Gold Rush's No More Angels in 1988. The following year, Skyline recorded their final album, Fire of Grace. He also recorded the theme song for Books on the Air, a popular National Public Radio show, and continued his affiliation with the network by appearing on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, From Our Front Porch, and other radio shows.
Trischka's solo recordings during the 1990's include 1993's World Turning, 1995's Glory Shone Around: A Christmas Collection, and 1999's Bend. New Deal followed in 2003. The new studio album was a bluesy adaptation of bluegrass standards that featured, among other things, a vocal cameo by Loudon Wainwright. Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular, featuring an appearance by comedian Steve Martin, came out four years later, followed by Territory in 2008.
Trischka turned his talents toward touring and playing on others records for most of the next five years, culminating in his production of Martin's Grammy-nominated Rare Bird Alert in 2011, and serving as the musical director for the PBS documentary Give Me the Banjo. In the summer of 2012, he served as bandleader as well as performer in the bluegrass-informed Shakespeare in the Park production of As You Like It in New York City's Central Park.
Trischka returned to recording under his own name in 2013, and re-emerged with Great Big World in early 2014. ~ Sandra Brennan & Thom Jurek