Jackson Browne on Meeting David Lindley for the First Time

“I [first] saw David play with Kaleidescope at the Ash Grove. I didn’t know him. The first thing I ever heard about him was at the Topango Banjo Fiddle Contest; the year that they made him a judge was the first year that I went there. And I went there because the Nitty Gritty Dirt band. I had been in this band—I was in my last year of high school—it was a jug band, and we played all kinds of ragtime music… I lived in Orange County.  And [the band] said, ‘We’ll go to the banjo contests.’

“I had just basically left that group but all by mutual arrangement. They had decided to get John McEuen in their band, and his brother became their manager. And John was a burning banjo player, he was an amazing instrumentalist. That was really the direction they wanted to go in. So we went to the Topanga Banjo Contest. We saw Lindley in the parking lot, and I had never heard of him. It was like something out of the Wild Bunch, someone saying, ‘Look, it’s him, it’s Lindley.’

“They had made him a judge that year because he won about five times in a row. As it just happened, McEuen and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band won that year. Also then, right around that same time, the Kaleidoscope made their first album, and that’s what really got my attention because this was an incredible band. And the songs were amazing, too, the Chris Darrow songs—many of which were co-written by Joanie, his sister, who later became David’s wife. That whole sensibility: Solomon [Feldthouse] playing Middle Eastern instruments, and David playing harp-guitar and electric instruments, but also really steeped in folk music.”

[As told to Ben Harper. More of Harper’s interview with Jackson Browne can be found in the Fretboard Journal Fall 2008 issue, where the artist writes about and interviews David Lindley.]