Muleskinner - A Potpourri Of Bluegrass Jam (1973)

Muleskinner were a short-lived American bluegrass supergroup.

The origins of Muleskinner can be traced back to fiddler Richard Greene, who in the 60s had played for Bill Monroe as a member of his band the Bluegrass Boys. When in 1973 Monroe asked Greene to form a band to join him on a television show, Muleskinner was formed. Greene brought in guitarist Peter Rowan, who he had recently been playing with in rock band Seatrain, and banjo player Bill Keith, who he had played with in Jim Kweskin's Jug Band back in the 60s. Rowan brought with him mandolin player David Grisman (the two had played together in rock band Earth Opera), and the group was completed with bassist Stuart Schulman and guitarist Clarence White (who for the past five years had been lead guitarist for The Byrds). The plan was for Muleskinner (the youngsters) to open the show, and Monroe's band (the oldies) to close it. But Monroe's bus broke down, so Muleskinner had to do the whole show by themselves, leading to them getting signed to Warner Brothers on a one record deal. By the time they recorded their album, Schulman had been replaced by John Kahn, and they had gained a drummer in John Guerin.
A Potpourri Of Bluegrass Jam came out later in 1973. It contained both traditional bluegrass and folk songs alongside originals and covers, including Jimmie Rodgers’ “Muleskinner Blues”, which opened the album. Peter Rowan’s vocals were the most prominent throughout, with backing from White, Grisman and Greene. Clarence White played both acoustic and electric guitar – this and the inclusion of drums on many of the songs meant it was not traditional bluegrass, and could perhaps be called ‘progressive bluegrass’ or even country-rock.
The album was a success for the band, but unfortunately it turned out to be short-lived. In July 1973 Clarence White was hit by a drunk driver and killed. Muleskinner disbanded shortly afterwards. Rowan, Kahn and Grisman went on to form a second supergroup, Old And In The Way, later that same year.


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