Tony Furtado

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Tony Furtado
Tony Furtado 1.jpg
Fox Theater, Boulder, Colorado
February 8, 2008
Image by tammi_g
Background information
Born (1967-10-18) October 18, 1967 (age 48)
Origin United States
Pleasanton, California
Instruments banjo , slide guitar and electric guitar
Labels Funzalo Records
Associated acts Tony Furtado Band
Website Official site
Notable instruments
banjo , slide guitar and electric guitar

Tony Furtado (born October 18, 1967) is an American banjo player, slide guitar player and singer/songwriter of Portuguese and Italian heritage who was born in Oakland, California. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.


Tony Furtado became a banjo player in sixth grade after doing a report on the instrument, making a rough banjo out of household items and studying the history of it. At a young age he won a pair of National Bluegrass Banjo Championships.

As a young banjo player, Furtado found himself playing the genre of music most represented by the instrument - bluegrass. But all along, he was listening to everything from Celtic music, Jazz, American Folk as well as artists like Tom Petty and Jackson Browne. At the same time, he was delving into his parents' collection of classic rock records (The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, etc...). At the ripe age of 19, Furtado had already earned himself a reputation as a young banjo prodigy. Yet Furtado decided that one genre wasn't enough for him; creatively, he had something more to express: "I don't think I could ever be happy staying in any one place musically," he said.[citation needed]

Furtado then picked up the slide guitar and soon established that his dexterity transitioned with ease. Using fingers and a bottleneck, he absorbed everything he could from albums by Ry Cooder, Fred McDowell, David Lindley and Blind Willie Johnson. He was soon writing music with the slide guitar and featured it on his 1996 Rounder Records release, "Roll My Blues Away". After a move to Colorado, where he based his band, "Tony Furtado Band" as well as "Tony Furtado and The American Gypsies", Furtado started his "road-dog" life, playing as many as 250 days on the road. The music was mostly instrumental based, high energy folk-rock, but it wasn't long before Furtado began writing songs. Though his previously released banjo albums featured the vocals of talents such as Allison Krauss, Tim O'Brien and Kelly Joe Phelps, this driven artist chose to add singer to his songwriter and instrumental titles.

Looking back, he says:

"I think I was kind of doomed to be a multi-genre player from the start."[1]

Fox Theater, Boulder, Colorado
February 8, 2008
Image by tammi_g

Furtado's 1987 win at the National Banjo Competition (a feat he would repeat in 1991) led to a touring sideman stint with bluegrass musician (fiddle) Laurie Lewis (Laurie Lewis and Grant Street) and the launch of his professional career. But, bluegrass was only one style of music that interested Mr. Furtado. He has spent his decades in the music business fusing bluegrass, country, rock, blues, jazz, and folk (both American and European) on his expanding instrument arsenal of banjo, guitar, slide guitar and voice.[2]

Recordings and performance[edit]

He currently resides in Portland, Oregon, and tours the U.S. extensively.

Style and sound[edit]

Mr. Furtado mixes Americana, folk, indie-rock, blues, and jazz styles.[3]

"As a banjo virtuoso, Furtado is well-known for his envelope-pushing, progressive bluegrass stylings. His picking is rapid-fire quick, sharp and clear, and puts him in the school of Béla Fleck and David Grisman."[4]

— Katie Klingsporn, Telluride Daily Planet

"He mixes bluegrass roots with a mainstream pop streak, easily holding the spotlight, thanks to his restrained virtuosity on acoustic and slide guitar and a warmly engaging voice reminiscent of T Bone Burnett, sans preachiness.

PASTE Magazine


Distinction and awards[edit]


  1. ^ "Furtado brings eclectic bag of tricks to Opera House" by Katie Klingsporn, March 8, 2007 Telluride Daily Planet.
  2. ^ "Tony Furtado Interview" by Tom Watson, January 18, 2007 Modern Guitars.
  3. ^ "Tony Furtado goes for a lucky 'Thirteen'" by Jason MacNeil January 2007 Country Standard Time.
  4. ^ "Furtado brings eclectic bag of tricks to Opera House" by Katie Klingsporn, March 8, 2007 Telluride Daily Planet.

External links[edit]