"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.
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