By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 13, 2002 at 5:23 AM

Bluegrass is everywhere these days, thanks in large part to the success of the Joel and Ethan Coen's film, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," and its roots soundtrack. But let's not diminish the decades of hard work by countless bluegrass musicians everywhere, including Milwaukee.

Brew Town's bluegrass musicians began to get together more than a dozen years, meeting regularly for jams at the home of Jim Waller. About five years ago the musicians organized the Milwaukee Area Bluegrass Music Association.

The jam keeps growing and has moved to a few locations since then. Nowadays, it's held from 2-5 p.m. on the second Sunday of the month at Borders Books & Music, 8705 N. Port Washington Rd.

Now, MABMA has released its first CD. "Bluegrass Blueprint" features 17 tracks by 10 Milwaukee bluegrass groups, including Piper Road Spring Band, Mil-Town Ramblers, Smoked Chubs and Pike Creek.

We asked MABMA President Linda Sandersen, also a singer and guitarist, about the association, the CD and bluegrass in Milwaukee.

OMC: Are Milwaukee's bluegrass musicians experiencing the same sort of renewed interest in the music that seems to be happening around the country, thanks, at least in part, to the Coen brothers' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

LS: Yes, we're seeing many positive things since "O Brother" came out. Audiences are huge! It's fantastic! We're also, though, seeing new bands jumping on the bandwagon with just the title "bluegrass" and not really being able to deliver. That's too bad.

OMC: Is "Bluegrass Blueprint" the first CD the association has put together?

LS: "Bluegrass Blueprint" is the organization's first attempt at a group CD. Dale Palecek set it up. He had done the same thing when he lived in Minneapolis and was a member of MBOTMA (Minnesota Bluegrass & Old Time Music Association). He thought it would go over well here, too.

OMC: How did you decide which bands to feature?

LS: Dale set up a committee to listen to demo tapes and CDs from interested bands. The committee did the screening that decided which bands would be featured.


OMC: What's the significance of the title?

LS: The Blueprint idea is that we're an organization in the works.

OMC: Will the association do another disc?

LS: If this one sells well, we'll more than likely do another.

OMC: Are there plans to promote the disc with a release party or anything like that?

LS: There will be a CD release festival on Sat., Nov. 16, from 4-10 p.m. at Memories in Port Washington. Memories is located off I-43 at Exit 100. Take a left turn at "LL" at the Allen Edmonds Shoes and travel about three miles to Memories. It's at the corner of Lake. The admission price of $15 for six bands includes a copy of the CD. Food and drinks are available at Memories that day.

OMC: Where can people purchase "Bluegrass Blueprint"?

LS: So far, the Bluegrass association and the featured bands are the only places where the CD can be purchased.

For more information on the Milwaukee Area Bluegrass Music Association, visit or check out the monthly jam.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.