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Folk & Beyond honors Alvin Breeden



on Folk & Beyond

Thursday, February 28, 2013

5-6 pm (est)


(Photo by Charles Tompkins)

One of the finest bluegrass banjo players to ever come out of Central Virginia, Alvin Breeden, died earlier this week. Folk & Beyond will do a special program this Thursday, February 28, featuring the music of Alvin Breeden and the Virginia Cutups.  They will speak with some of Alvin's friends and fellow musicians as well, including Charles Frazier and Jeff Vogelgesang,who were members of the Virginia Cutups.  Also calling in from California will be Bill Evans, who recently told us. "
Alvin beat me at every contest I entered against him!".

Alvin Breeden was born and spent his entire life on Buck mountain near Buffalo Gap, outside Earlysville, VA. His father found work after the war in the Baltimore shipyards.

Alvin showed early promise in two pursuits: boxing, for which a Baltimore area trainer tried to recruit him for golden gloves, and music, having been taught the clawhammer style of banjo playing by his mother Vernie Roach Breeden.

Alvin gave up boxing after bloodying his brother's nose in a barnyard sparring session, and focused on music, learning the three-finger bluegrass style of banjo playing, and flat picking and Travis-style (fingerpicked) guitar. Alvin eventually mastered and incorporated into his playing elements of Scruggs, melodic, and Reno style banjo, and was best known as a disciple of the late Don Reno, with whom Alvin performed widely during Don's time living in Lynchburg, Va.

In the late 60's, Alvin befriended and played with several talented musicians enrolled at the time at UVa, including John Starling (Seldom Scene), Ben Eldridge (Seldom Scene), and songwriter Paul Craft, who later wrote a song about Alvin and the Breeden brothers titled "Fastest Grass Alive", which was recorded by the Osborne brothers.

Alvin was performing and recording by his late teens, and he began playing and winning picking contests around Virginia. He put together his own band, the Virginia Cutups, and went on to record 9 albums/cds with his band, between 1977 and 2005. Alvin's recorded output consisted of covers of classic bluegrass songs, and in later years original songs and instrumentals. Alvin also recorded an instrumental tribute to Don Reno.

Over the years Alvin turned down persistent offers to join full time touring bands, including Jimmy Martin and Bill Monroe, and worked as a painting contractor while raising his family.

Alvin Breeden and his Virginia Cutups performed at festivals around Virginia and the mid Atlantic, and ventured as far afield as Grass Valley, California (1997) and Garrison Keillor's a Prairie Home Companion (1997).

Alvin retired from performing in 2006. He is survived by daughters Tammy and Sandra, and his grand children and great grandchildren.

Jeff Vogelgesang
Virginia Cutups

Viewing: Friday, March 1, 4-8 pm at Preddy Funeral Home, Madison, VA
Funeral: Saturday, March 2, 11 am at Preddy Funeral Home, Madison, VA
Questions: (540) 948-3600

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