Among the bluegrass faithful, our kind of music is known by a term most folks don’t use in polite company. Plenty of fans will tell you that “Bluegrass music is ---kickin’ music.” We figured the term described our music pretty well, so we decided to put a “social gloss” on the traditional description and call ourselves The Shedkickers!
Next……The Shedkickers themselves
Like many skilled bluegrass musicians, Joe Haney never formally trained to play music. According to Haney, he was just following the family tradition when he picked up the guitar and banjo sometime around his 13th birthday. Both of his parents played folk music, and three of his brothers played a variety of instruments.
Haney learned by listening to records (yes, records….) and by following instructions in the songbooks. As a child, Haney would put an album on the turntable and slow the speed down so he could figure out what to do on his guitar to replicate the sound. To this day, Haney does not sight read music.
“I have a more intuitive reaction to the music,” Haney says, and he believes this capacity allows him to be more creative. “If there isn’t a lot of prepared music, there’s lots of room to improvise. It forces you to come up with a vocabulary of licks and riffs that are all your own.”
Haney started playing professionally at age 16 in Minnesota with his brother Tom. Later moves to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and eight years in New York didn’t curb his bluegrass passion. In each location, Haney sought out other bluegrass musicians and continued to play and learn. Living in different parts of the country gave Haney an appreciation of how large the bluegrass network is in the U.S. Although he’s always played on his own and practices alone most days, Haney says he’s never had a problem finding others ready to make music with him.
Mark Whitener comes from a long line of farmers and fiddlers hailing from Missouri. The product of a strong musical family, he says there was so much music in his home, he basically learned to play by ear. Whitener’s grandfather was a self-taught fiddler, his uncle a harmonica player, and his father plays piano and organ. Following in his grandfather’s tradition, Whitener is a self-taught musician, beginning his musical career in fourth grade playing the clarinet.
As the third chair in his middle school band, Whitener learned the basics of reading music, but more importantly learned the skill of harmonizing. It’s his specialty and a strong part of The Shedkicker’s unique sound.
High school offered Whitener the opportunity to pursue the music he loved most: bluegrass. In the early 70’s, in his native St. Louis, he organized a band that achieved notable popularity at the time. Throughout college and law school at the University of Chicago, Whitener continued to play bluegrass. His band stayed together for seven years and played many gigs all over Chicago.
In the early 80’s, Whitener worked with Joe Haney at a summer job, and it was there the two discovered they each had musical backgrounds and loved playing bluegrass. They started jamming together, forming the nucleus of what would later become The Shedkickers.
Seeds is the newest addition to The Shedkickers, finding his way to the group as did every other member: through friends in the bluegrass network. Seeds recently moved to the D.C. area from Texas where he was born and raised.
Beginning his musical career as a guitar player in his high school band, Seeds went on to play Texas Country and Rock & Roll while attending the University of Texas, Arlington.
When he moved to D.C. for work, Seeds’ stepfather put him in touch with The Shedkickers who were looking for a bass player at the time. The band invited Seeds over for a jam session. Once Seeds started playing, the band knew they’d found their bass player.
Guitar, Mountain Tenor
1932 - 2014
Singing with his three sisters as a child is how Hoffmann describes his introduction to music. The Hoffmann children sang together to amuse themselves, trying out different sounds and learning new songs from the radio. The four became so good they were often invited to sing at parties in their Denver community.
In 8th grade, Hoffmann began a more structured and focused musical life. He and a friend taught each other to play the guitar, starting with the four chords someone already knew. Soon they were playing for their roommates and friends and in no time, that small following grew into a regular audience. Hoffmann spent his summers out West where he played his first solo gig at a saloon in Colorado. A hit, Hoffmann continued to play there, singing “mountain songs,” and enjoying the opportunity to entertain and to make some money.
During his college years, Hoffmann continued to play, spending his summers in Idaho logging by day and singing bluegrass at night with a friend. In 1954, the two friends went into military service together. But that didn’t stop the music: they won the all Army Talent Contest in the “Hillbilly Division,” an honor that came with a slot on the Ed Sullivan show. Although the two were unable to appear on the show, Hoffmann still cherishes his memories of the event.
Not until the mid 80s did Hoffmann join a multi-member band. While working in Washington, D.C., one of Hoffmann’s associates told him about the other bluegrass players. Hoffmann was introduced to Haney and Whitener and quickly became a member of the group. The Shedkickers were born. They worked hard to blend their individual sounds, a key feature of bluegrass music according to Hoffmann. The mixture of the instruments and the energy of the music are the elements that most appeal to Hoffmann, who describes bluegrass as “coming right at you.” He says, “It’s impact music. Bluegrass exhorts listeners to ‘get over what ails you and look on the up side of life.’”