I first became aware of Rex McGee somewhere in the early 1990s at the first Merlefest that I ever attended. At the time the festival was pretty small but it was packed to the gills with music and workshops. These things are commonplace now but at the time they it was still kind of unusual to be able to go to a workshop and see top level musicians give demonstrations, answer questions, and generally just be available to anyone who wanted to come rub elbows with them. One of these workshops I remember distinctly was one in which Bela Fleck and a few others were talking about banjos. Bela was talking about playing Celtic music on the 5 string and gave a little musical demonstration- I loved it. But then he started talking about how the best person to demonstrate celtic banjo was actually sitting in the audience. He called on a young player- Rex McGee- to come up and show us a bit about phrasing and technique. I was very intrigued by that and impressed that Bela Fleck was deferring to a much younger player. I never forgot that.
In later years, I would occasionally comb Youtube for videos of banjo players or certain songs. Being a fan of Celtic music, I would often seek out 5 string players playing Celtic tunes and often saw Rex McGee as the player. I am also a fan of more avant garde music and again, Rex McGee would pop up in my searches. The guy intrigued me even more.
Like most banjo players, I have subscribed to Banjo Newsletter for many years and always love the main interviews in that magazine. Two times over the years Rex has been the main interview. Both are fascinating and memorable. In the latest interview, Ryan Cavanaugh called him an enigma. I somehow felt that appropriate form the little bit that I knew about him. Mysterious and puzzling…. yes, that seemed accurate and Rex seemed almost an underground musical legend in my mind. I really wanted to include him in my Banjo Masters interview series. On a whim, I looked him up and set it up and folks, here it is- Rex McGee- Banjo Playing Enigma.
In part 1, Rex talks about his musical family, the Pilot Pick-N-Parlor, various music festivals including the one he hosts at his home, and much more. Rex provides many musical examples and demonstrations while he talks.
In part 2, Rex talks about his various musician friends, why he tunes his banjo in 4ths, his band Kripplekrunk, his 24 Creations for Solo Banjo recordings, and more. There are many musical examples and demonstrations in this as well.