FIVE FIRSTS: Tony Furtado

NAME: Tony Furtado
INSTRUMENT: Slide Guitar, Banjo, Cello-Banjo, singer-songwriter

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … Eagles Live. I was 11 years old and heard something on the radio I really dug! I described it to my friends as a “song with a lot of harmony, I think that’s what it’s called.” My friend said, “Oh, that’s ‘Seven Bridges Road’ by The Eagles!” So I went out and bought the album!

2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … Doug Kershaw, the Ragin Cajun at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, California, a few blocks from where I grew up. I had just started playing banjo at 12 years old. I was BLOWN away by this crazy nut on the fiddle, sawin’ away and burning through bows that he kept supplied in an umbrella holder on stage! I remember vividly riding home in the back of my dad’s truck after the show thinking to myself, “I wanna do THAT!” Not necessarily play the fiddle like a tazmanian devil, but be on stage, playing music for people…playing music for a living!

3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … 5-string banjo! When I was in 6th grade we had to do a report on a musical instrument so I decided to make a banjo out of a pie tin, streched paper over the top with glue and varnish, fishing string, and rubber bands for frets. I found out it came from Africa and had a really rich history of different kinds of music. I also didn’t know anyone else who played one, so that was the instrument for me! I dug in, practiced every day for hours, won the national banjo contest when I was 19, got a recording contract at 20 with Rounder Records and started on my way!

4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … Hmmm, I don’t remember. I’m sure it was some Earl Scruggs banjo tune! The first time I sang lead in public wasn’t till years later when I started playing slide guitar – that would have been an old-time song called “Raleigh and Spencer.”

5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … First REAL band I was in was called Heartland, a rootsy, bluegrass and folk group from the SF Bay area. Great folks! I was the kid in the group, learned lots about playing live and singing.

California-based string wizard Tony Furtado steps into the spotlight at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs at 7pm on Thursday (March 15) in support of his latest album, “The Cider House Sessions.” Tickets are $20 in advance; $22 at the door.

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