Sometimes you come across a musician from your youth who you knew about vaguely, but never followed closely. And now you discover he made just the type of music you loved then (and still do today). That happened recently when I was reintroduced to David Bromberg.
Bromberg grew up in the suburbs of New York city, learning to play guitar and just about any type of stringed instrument. He started doing studio work and appeared on albums by Jerry Jeff Walker, Tom Paxton, Richie Havens, Bob Dylan, and Carly Simon, among others before finally putting out a solo album in 1972.
The album helped define Bromberg’s style, which was so eclectic as to be indefinable. He mixed blues, country, jazz, folk, bluegrass, and anything else that came his way. It starts out with what was probably his best-known tune: “The Holdup” (co-written with George Harrison). Here’s the song with Harrison on guitar*.
The follow up album, Demon in Disguise, was another triumph,** with the equally delightful “Sharon,” about a man’s infatuation with a hoochie coochie dancer.
But Bromberg wasn’t just a funnyman. The album also contained a version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr.Bojangles,” where Bromberg talking about the origins of the song*** that made a poignant song even more so.
In addition to his musicianship, Bromberg had a distinctive voice. Not rough, but not smooth, either, with a tone that’s partway between a growl and a moan.
Bromberg continued to record albums regularly throughout the 70s, then sporadically after that. It’s a sign of his regard among musicians that so many established names shows up on them. And he was also doing studio work and toured with other names like Ringo Starr, the Eagles, and others.
He’s still active, though performing less these days. But he’s really a musician who deserves more credit with the general public.
*Bromberg recorded several different variations on the song over the years.
**He was backed by most of the Grateful Dead.
***He had played on the original version.