Nationally acclaimed bluegrass multi-instrumentalist Chris Walz combines a joy of performing with a reverence for America’s musical story. Chris perfected his Scruggs-style banjo playing and guitar flatpicking at a young age as he diligently studied all his musical heroes from Pete Seeger to Mississippi John Hurt to Woody Guthrie to Dave Van Ronk. Whether it is his lightning speed on the banjo’s fretboard, his hard hitting grooves on the guitar or his tender melodic touch on the mandolin, Chris delivers a fulfilling performance. To top it off, Chris is an extraordinary singer, using his rich voice to buoy up a traditional ballad, a unique original composition, or a rousing ‘tear down the house’ bluegrass medley. His many years touring with bluegrass, Grammy nominated Special Consensus, honed his group and solo prowess. A natural born storyteller, Chris has a masterful presence as he weaves his songs and remembrances, one to the next, into a night of music that is not easily forgotten. Chris is a gifted and much sought after teacher at the historic Old Town School of Folk Music and spreads his knowledge and love of music in each community he plays in with well-polished workshops. A rare combination of past and present, Chris is playing music for the future.
The way I say it:
I got interested in playing guitar when I was about 17 years old. There used to be a late night folk music radio show called "Good Time Folk, Jug Bands and Blues". One night they devoted the entire hour to Mississippi John Hurt, and when I heard his powerful, smooth fingerpicking, I was hooked. From Mississippi John Hurt I started listening to some of the other Country Blues finger style guitar players from the 20s and 30s. I listened to a lot of different kinds of fingerpicking guitar, but the old-time blues players were my favorites.
Around that same time, started listening to Norman Blake, and started to trying to figure out how the flat pick was supposed to work. I was listening to a lot of Bluegrass, Blues, Old-Time, and Folk. It was Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, the Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs, Dave Van Ronk, you name it. If it wasn't plugged in, I'd give it a listen. I tried to learn as much of it as I could, and I'm still trying.
I spent a few years as an actor, and in 1990 I got the chance to play Woody Guthrie in a national tour of the show called "Woody Guthrie's American Song". I stayed with that show for a number of years, and though I played other roles in and around Chicago it seemed what I was doing mostly was going on the road playing Woody Guthrie.
In 1996 I started working at the Old Town School Of Folk Music, and have been there ever since. I teach guitar, five string banjo, and some mandolin. Not a bad way to make a living, teaching folks how to pick.
In the summer of 1997, I got a call from Greg Cahill who needed a fill-in guitar player in his band The Special Consensus. I filled in for the rest of the year, and right around Christmas, Greg offered me the opportunity to go on the road full-time with the band, which I did. I had a great time with The Special Consensus. I was on two of their records, "Our Little Town" and "The 25th Anniversary", and wrote three songs that got recorded on those projects. Being a full-time bluegrass guitar player and singer in an international touring band was quite a thrill. With all the touring, I was still able to hold on to about one class of teaching a week at The Old Town School.
When I got off the road in the spring of 2001, I went back to The Old Town School and began teaching more or less full-time. Since then, in addition to teaching, I've done solo work, studio work, played at Buddy Guy's Legends and the House Of Blues, played the Maple St., Chapel, the Two-Way Street coffeehouse, the much missed Bill's Blues and a lot of other places. I work with Keith Baumann in an old time brother duet setting called Long Journey Home. We also have a bluegrass band called Hard Times. I've been a part of Weavermania along with Michael Smith Barbara Barrow and Mark Dvorak. Mark Dvorak and I have been playing together off and on since we first met at The Old Town School Of Folk Music, even before I was hired on as a teacher. We hope to do much more of that. Recently, I've been working with Eric Lambert, a really fine flatpicker from Indiana. As for the future, I'm looking forward to all musical possibilities.