Steve Dilling

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The birthplace of this bluegrass banjo dynamo is not a sign of some kind of bloodline connecting that genre and salsa. Steve Dilling's father was stationed at the Puerto Rican Ramey Air Force Base at…
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Artist Biography by

The birthplace of this bluegrass banjo dynamo is not a sign of some kind of bloodline connecting that genre and salsa. Steve Dilling's father was stationed at the Puerto Rican Ramey Air Force Base at the time of his birth. One month later, he was back in a land where bluegrass is almost a spoken second language, North Carolina. A sheer decade later, Dilling decided he wanted to be a banjo player, a majestically irresponsible decision arrived at after listening to Earl Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." That recording is something of an anthem of enlistment among the banjo army recruited since the '60s, so the Dilling story has its familiar elements.

It took another two years to get his own banjo, and as a teenager he fell in with two other bluegrass enthusiasts, Greg Luck and Wayne Benson. While other teenage boys speculated about their chances with cheerleaders, these three wandered the hinterland of local bluegrass events, always looking for another jam session. Dilling's professional career took off in the mid-'80s, when he first joined the Bass Mountain Boys and then moved on to the Lonesome River Band near the start of the following decade. The IIIrd Tyme Out ensemble nabbed him in 1993, putting him right in the middle of a group busily mowing the newgrass style, his old pal Benson by his side. In the late '90s he branched out to become involved in a booking and promotion enterprise based out of Raleigh.