Peter Rowan

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Peter Rowan
Rowan (left) performing with Tony Rice on November 7, 2008.
Rowan (left) performing with Tony Rice on November 7, 2008.
Background information
Born (1942-07-04) July 4, 1942 (age 80)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter
Instrument(s)Guitar, vocals, mandolin, saxophone
Years active1963–present
LabelsRounder, Flying Fish, Sugar Hill, Compass, Omnivore

Peter Rowan (born July 4, 1942) is an American bluegrass musician and composer. Rowan plays guitar and mandolin, yodels and sings.


Rowan (right) with Flaco Jiménez on stage at Farnham, U.K., 1985
Rowan and the Free Mexican Airforce at DelFest 2009
Rowan on the Americana Stage at MerleFest in 2017.

Rowan was born in Wayland,[1][2] Massachusetts to a musical family. From an early age, he had an interest in music and learned to play the guitar from his uncle. He formed the rockabilly band the Cupids[3] 1956.[4][5]

Influenced by the blues musician Eric Von Schmidt, Rowan traded his electric guitar for an acoustic and began to play the blues. He was also influenced by the folk sound of Joan Baez. In college, he discovered bluegrass after hearing The Country Gentlemen and The Stanley Brothers. He soon discovered the music of Bill Monroe, and with some help from banjo player Bill Keith, he was invited to Nashville to audition for Monroe.[4] Accompanied by Keith, Rowan went to Nashville and was hired in 1963 or 1964[6] as songwriter, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist of Monroe's Bluegrass Boys.[7] His recording debut as a "bluegrass boy" took place on October 14, 1966 and he recorded a total of fourteen songs with Monroe, including the classic "Walls of Time" co-written with Monroe, before his tenure ended in the spring of 1967.[8]

Rowan teamed up with David Grisman in 1967 forming the band Earth Opera which frequently opened for The Doors. In 1969, Rowan joined Seatrain.[9] In 1973, Rowan, together with Richard Greene, Grisman, Bill Keith, and Clarence White, formed the bluegrass band Muleskinner. The band released one album.[10]

The same year (1973), Rowan and Grisman formed Old & In the Way with Greene, Jerry Garcia, and John Kahn.[11] He wrote the song "Panama Red" that year. Greene was later replaced by Vassar Clements.[12] Old & In the Way disbanded in 1974; shortly thereafter, Rowan joined The Rowans, a reconstituted version of his brothers' band (The Rowan Brothers, who had recorded and toured since 1970) for three years. For a time, he was touring with Greene in Japan and playing clubs with fiddler Tex Logan. He also formed the Green Grass Gringos,[10] as well as The Wild Stallions with Roger Mason and Jon Sholle.

Rowan has been part of Mother Bay State Entertainers and played mandolin on their record of 1963, The String Band Project. He has recorded and performed with his brothers, Lorin and Chris, at various times, starting in 1972. He has composed songs performed by New Riders of the Purple Sage, including "Panama Red", "Midnight Moonlight" and "Lonesome L.A. Cowboy".

Rowan also features on In No Sense? Nonsense!, an album by UK band Art of Noise. His is the voice (yodel) on "One Earth", the last song of the album. It was recorded 1987, and it was released by China Records and Chrysalis Records Ltd. that same year.[citation needed]

Rowan collaborated with his daughter, Amanda Rowan, to write the song "On the Wings of Horses", which was recorded on Rowan's 1990 album Dustbowl Children and later recorded by Emmylou Harris on the 1992 Disney album Country Music for Kids. Rowan released Quartet (2007), the second collaboration with guitarist and bluegrass musician Tony Rice. Rowan contributed to the 2011 bluegrass tribute album to the British progressive rock band the Moody Blues, entitled Moody Bluegrass TWO...Much Love, singing lead vocal on Mike Pinder's song "Dawn Is a Feeling".[13]

His more recent releases are The Old School (2013) on Compass Records, Peter Rowan's Twang n Groove Vol. 1 on There Records, Dharma Blues (2015) on Omnivore Recordings, My Aloha! (2017) also on Omnivore Recordings, and Carter Stanley's Eyes (2018) on Rebel Records.[14]

In 1997 Rowan received a Grammy Award for his contributions to the bluegrass compilation True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe. The album won for Best Bluegrass Album that year. He has also received six Grammy nominations throughout his career.[15]

Rowan received the Bluegrass Star Award, presented by the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation of Dallas, Texas, on October 20, 2012. The award is bestowed upon bluegrass artists who do an exemplary job of advancing traditional bluegrass music and bringing it to new audiences while preserving its character and heritage.[16]

Rowan is a Buddhist.[17]

Various Acts[edit]

Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band

Rowan's career in bluegrass started in 1964 as part of Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe thought that Rowan sounded like himself. “When the two harmonized together, they were said to reach ‘heavenly heights.’"[18] Rowan co-wrote with Monroe to produced ‘Walls Of Time,’ which has since become a bluegrass standard. Peter Rowan's Bluegrass Band consists of exceptional players; Blaine Sprouse on fiddle, Christopher Henry on mandolin, Paul Knight on bass, Patrick Sauber on banjo, Jamie Oldaker on drums. The band plays Rowan's original tunes along with Bill Monroe and Carter Family classics. Rowan's Bluegrass Band is beloved amongst the bluegrass community.

Peter Rowan's Big Twang Theory

Rowan leads Big Twang Theory with musicians Mike Witcher on dobro, Paul Knight on bass, Nina Gerber on electric guitar, and Rowan's son Michael Carter Rowan on guitar and vocals. Drummers Larry Attamanuik and Ken Owen and banjo player Jeff Mosier also appear with Rowan's Big Twang Theory when their schedule's permit. "I have always wanted a band that was rooted in bluegrass, but could add the twang of Hank Williams, Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly. They all absorbed Bill Monroe's bluegrass into honky-tonk and rockabilly. I grew up dancing to that music.”[18] – Peter Rowan.

Peter Rowan's Twang an' Groove

Twang an’ Groove is a blend of rhythm and blues, reggae, and bluegrass music. The band features Rowan on electric guitar and vocals, Blaine Sprouse on fiddle, Mike Morgan on bass, and virtuoso drummer, Jamie Oldaker. [18]

Peter Rowan & Crucial Reggae

This outfit is Rowan's nod to reggae music. Rowan's diversity in musical ability ventures beyond his bluegrass roots with Crucial Reggae to bring some of Rowan's most soulful original music to light. He is accompanied by reggae greats Tony Chin and Fully Fullwood, on guitar and bass respectively. Crucial Reggae is sometimes accompanied by other musicians to form an either five or six-piece band. They become a nine-piece band when they are joined by the Burning Spear horn section.

The Free Mexican Airforce

The Free Mexican Airforce features Rowan and some of his most beloved songs: "Come Back to Old Santa Fe", "Ride the Wild Mustang", "Midnight Moonlight", and "Free Mexican Airforce". This four-piece often features Cindy Cashdollar on pedal steel guitar along with players on bass and drums.[19]



  1. ^ "Peter Rowan". Peter Rowan. 2017.
  2. ^ Symkus, Ed (November 12, 2014). "Sounds Around Town: The return of Peter Rowan". Wayland Wicked Local.
  3. ^ in
  4. ^ a b Goldsmith 2004, p. 263.
  5. ^ Von Schmidt, Rooney 1994, p. 64.
  6. ^ Rowan, Peter. "Peter Rowan Biography".
  7. ^ Goldsmith 2004, p. 263–264.
  8. ^ Rosenberg, Wolfe 1991, p. 27–28.
  9. ^ Goldsmith 2004, p. 264.
  10. ^ a b Goldsmith 2004, p. 265.
  11. ^ Jackson 2000, p. 240.
  12. ^ Jackson 2000, p. 241.
  13. ^ "Moody Bluegrass TWO...Much Love". Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  14. ^ "Peter Rowan: Discography". AllMusic. n.d. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
  15. ^ "Artist: Peter Rowan". Recording Academy. n.d. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
  16. ^ "Bluegrass Heritage Foundation official website". 2010. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  17. ^ "Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band: The Fresh Air Interview". Retrieved January 28, 2013.
  18. ^ a b c "Peter Rowan Discography". Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  19. ^ "Peter Rowan Discography". Retrieved June 11, 2018.


  • Goldsmith, Thomas (2004), The Bluegrass Reader, University of Illinois Press
  • Jackson, Blair (), Garcia: An American Life, Penguin
  • Rosenberg, Neil V. – Wolfe, Charles (1991), Booklet: Bill Monroe, Bluegrass 1959–1969, Bear Family BCD 15529
  • Von Schmidt, Eric – Rooney, Jim (1994), Baby, Let Me Follow You Down, University of Massachusetts Press

External links[edit]