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Sue Draheim

Sue Draheim

"Sue Draheim was born in Oakland, CA. She began to study violin at age 9, inspired by an old RCA Red Label 78 RPM of Fritz Kreisler playing “Liebeslied”, and by the violinist on the “Lawrence Welk Show”. She studied Classical music throughout school, but ran away many times to Berkeley (a staggering several miles distant), where her interest in traditional folk music began.

In the late '60s Sue got together with Jim Bamford and Mac Benford and formed “Dr. Humbead's New Tranquillity String Band And Medicine Show,” a seminal revival trio of American Mountain String Band music. A Highlight of “Dr. Humbead's” career was to appear alongside well-known bands such as Howlin' Wolf, Quicksilver Messenger Service and eccentric guitar magician John Fahey at the '11th Annual Berkeley Folk Festival'.

At that time there was a large community of musicians living in Berkeley, and Sue's house, known as “The Colby Street House,” was the center of much music making and the exploration of mind altering elements characteristic of the era.

Mike Seeger, brother of well-known folk hero Pete Seeger, came to California from the East Coast and was blown away by all the traditional music being played almost 24 hours a day at The Colby Street House. He recorded an album for Folkways called “Berkeley Farms” on which many of these musicians, including Sue, appeared. Local gigs and a lot of “busking” got them all through those days of “free music for free money.”

One summer Sue traveled to the East Coast and entered and won first prize at the Pulaski, Virginia “Old Time Fiddlers Convention,” much to the amazement of all the good old boys in attendance. While there, she also played on an album recorded by Janet Kerr of Leader Records in London entitled “Blue Ridge Mountain Field Trip.”

In 1970, Sue was featured in a cover article titled “Sue, The Street Fiddler” in the S.F. Chronicle's magazine supplement. Around this time she met Joe Cooley, the great Irish button accordion player from Peterswell, South County Galway, who was living in San Francisco. Together with other musicians (all disciples of Joe) they formed the “Gruneog Ceilidh Band,” and performed Saturday nights at Harrington's Bar in SF. This was a great turning point in Sue's focus: Irish music became definitely “it”...the best.

Feeling adventurous, later in 1970, she decided to travel to the UK to meet and play with musicians over there. Shortly after arriving she was introduced to John Renbourn who was recording at Livingston Studio, working with Bill Leader. He was delighted to meet an American fiddler and asked her to play on some tracks for this album later entitled “Faro Annie”. Melody Maker thought it would be interesting to do a story on “the blonde fiddler from California.” So Andrew Means wrote an article entitled “If You Knew Susie.” This brought her to the attention of Ashley Hutchings who was forming a new group at the time.

She then became the fiddler for the first incarnation of the Albion Band. The lineup was Simon Nicol, Dave Mattacks (both ex-Fairport) along with Ashley Hutchings and Royston Wood (ex-Young Tradition) and Steve Ashley. Many field recordings were made of this group, but alas, no studio tapes. Several cuts do appear on various volumes of Ashley Hutchings' “The Guv” cds, and it is rumored that smatterings of this material will be released otherwise as well.

After the break-up of this lineup Sue started working with John Renbourn, the amazing British guitar wizard. They formed “The John Renbourn Group” along with Jacqui McShee, Tony Roberts and Keshav Sathe, and recorded “A Maid In Bedlam.” The group toured for five years in France, Germany, Denmark and Holland. Sue also played on Richard Thompson's first album “Henry the Human Fly” and on John Martyn's early album “Solid Air.”

In 1977 Sue returned to US and joined the all woman band “Any Old Time Stringband.” She recorded two albums with this group, “Any Old Time Stringband” on Arhoolie Records and “Any Old Time” on Bay Records. Both have recently been re-released on a single CD produced by Arhoolie Records.

After that Sue returned for a time to playing classical music, and freelanced in several Bay Area /Northern California regional orchestras and “The Lamplighters,” a Gilbert and Sullivan troupe. She also toured with Western Opera Theatre for a number of seasons. She has continued to perform classical and baroque music occasionally in various groups on the freelance circuit.

In 1999 she joined the Celtic folk band “Golden Bough” and reconnected with her greatest musical love-the music and tunes of the British Isles. After two years, Sue left Golden Bough, ready to pursue more musical adventures.

Early in 2001, Sue received a call from Lief to sit in on some Caliban performances, and the chemistry was fantastic! As a result, Sue also joined Tempest, and had a great time touring and recording with the band through 2003. At the end of the year, Sue decided to go on to other projects, and waved goodbye to Tempest. But she continues to play with Lief in Caliban when she can.

Sue lives in Oakland, California, and enjoys working in her beautiful garden, assisted by two charming baby kitties, Oscar and Ella, and her wonderful husband, the talented cellist, Paul Hale.

Sue's website is at http://www.suedraheim.com

Sue the Street Fiddler Sue's Equipment:

Custom Electric Violin made by John Jordan of Concord, CA. A very light instrument made of Royal Pollonia wood with a Flamed Maple veneer under a transparent green finish. Set up currently with an Ashford pickup.
Acoustic Violin used in Caliban: a "no-name" German-made instrument --circa 1812. L.R. Baggs bridge and pickup

Lowendahl, made sometime in the 19th century (I have several other bows I occasionally use as well)

Pirastro Gold E string ADG strings D'Addario Helicore Medium gauge

Zeta AP -12 Amp 85 watt 2 channel
L.R. Baggs Pre-amp
Sennheiser 'Evolution' wireless system

Morley volume pedal
Boss 7 band equalizer
Ibanez Turbo Tube Screamer (a fun toy)


FARO ANNIE John Renbourn, Transatlantic MS2082 LP
HENRY THE HUMAN FLY Richard Thompson, Carthage CGLP405 LP
SOLID AIR John Martyn, Polygram 842554 CD (orig LP)
A MAID IN BEDLAM John Renbourn Group, Transatlantic 343 LP Shanachie 79004 CD
THE FAERIE SHAMAN Gwydion Nemeton, NEM102 LP
THE DELTA SISTERS Rooster, 111 LP Ubik UB24 CD
RORY McNAMARA Still Got That Look In His Eye, Kicking Mule KM323 LP
USE A NAPKIN Kathy Kallick, Sugarhill Records 3833 CD
LADIES CHOICE Any Old Time, Bay 217 LP
STORIES THE CROW TOLD ME John Cohen, Acoustic Disc 34 CD
THE YOUNG FOGIES Rounder, Select 319 CD
STROLL ON REVISITED Steve Ashley, Market Square 104 CD
THE GUV'NOR VOL.I Castle Music, America 519 CD
THE GUV'NOR VOL.2 Castle Music, America 546 CD
ACOUSTIC DISC:100% Handmade Music, Vol.5 Acoustic Disc 40 CD
SWEET LITTLE MYSTERIES: The Island Anthology John Martyn, Polygram Records 522245 CD
Thompson, Polygram Records 542456 CD
WATCHING THE DARK Richard Thompson, Hannibal 5303 CD
JOHN BARLEYCORN John Renbourn, Edsel Records EDCD472 CD
SO CLEAR John Renbourn, Recall SMD152 CD
I BID YOU GOOD NIGHT Any Old Time Stringband, Arhoolie 433 CD
LOST SESSIONS John Renbourn, Edsel Records UK 490 CD
WINTERS DANCE Golden Bough, EUCD 1046 CD
Shapeshifter Tempest, Magna Carta CD

Sue's Links:

John Jordan Electric Violins: http://www.jordanmusic.com
Ashworth Electronics: http://www.ashelec.demon.co.uk/mainmenu.htm
Zeta Music: http://www.zetamusic.com

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