Joe Herrmann and the Critton Hollow String Band

Joe Herrmann grew up in Baltimore, Maryland.

He started playing music when he was 12 years old.

And he hasn’t stopped.

Joe is the Joe of Sam and Joe Herrmann and the Critton Hollow String Band.

As a youngster, Joe wanted to play jazz music.

He was accepted to attend one of the nation’s top music schools — the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

“Daddy wasn’t going to pay for college jazz music,” Herrmann said during an appearance on This Week in Morgan County with Russell Mokhiber. “If I had been a classical violinist, he would have payed for that. But I wasn’t anywhere near close to that. And I didn’t want to be close to that.”

During the early 1960s, Herrmann grew up during the folk music craze, listening to thelikes of Peter Paul & Mary, the Kingston Trio and Doc Watson. He was also influenced by John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

“I bought an electric guitar and a big amplifier that I could stand in front of,” Herrmann said.

“A series of coincidences brought me and Sam together and brought us to Critton Hollow in Hampshire County, West Virginia,” Herrmann said.

“Sam and I we went off in our VW bus painted red white blue and yellow to Key West.Took a friend of ours — Robbie Gordon — we soaked up music.”

On the way south, they would call health food restaurants and say — hey, we’ll play music for you — all you have to do is feed us.

They played all the way down to Key West.

Back in West Virginia, they called up the Coolfont Resort in Berkeley Springs.

“There was this guy named Dave Adams and he seemed to be waiting for us,” Herrmann said. “We played every Sunday for three or four hours. They fed us. Gave us all the beer we could drink. We did that for a couple of years. Just the two of us — and we called ourselves the Critton Hollow String Band.”

Then we met another fellow from over in Capon Bridge — Michael Kline. He became our first third member.

“Then Sam’s brother — Arnold — became our guitar player. Then his wife — Patti — became our bass player. That is who recorded our first record Poor Boy — Sam, Arnold, Patti and myself. We recorded it at the Star Theater in January 1979.”

“We had just met Joe Fallon in about 1980. Joe Fallon was the perfect addition to Sam and myself. His good friend was Pete Gordon. We all got together. That became the next quartet that recorded records. Pete, Joe, Sam and myself.”

“Then Pete went on to become a full time high school teacher. And Joe Fallon is still with us.”

Their next gig — in Hampshire County at the Bottling Works November 7 — featuring Sam and Joe with Pete Gordon and Joe Fallon.

Critton Hollow String Band also likes touring in Canada.

“We have played the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the Vancouver Folk Festival,” Herrmann said.

“Also, there is a tradition of house concerts in Canada,” Herrmann said. “It’s a wonderful thing. Somebody opens their house to their friends. You and the 20, 25, 30, 40 people in the house. However many people can fit in the house. You do a concert. It’s beautiful. It’s an intimate audience. There is no need to plug in anything. Everybody is right there. And there is close contact between the musicians and the audience.”

“Mitch Podolak created this concept — Home Routes Canada,” Herrmann said. “He has collected people who are interested to put on concerts. And he also has contacts with musicians all over the world. He has six or eight home routes across Canada. We did one in Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island — they call it the Maritime Tour. People sign up for the concerts. They do six of them a year. They last for about two weeks each. They have it so organized, that you generally don’t have to drive more than an hour — sometimes more. They put you up. They feed you. They charge $20 a head and give us all the money. We give back a percentage to home routes. They buy our CDs — we give back a percentage to home routes. They also get grants. They are supported. We do it every two years or so.”

Asked to play a song to end the interview, Herrmann played a Bob Dylan Tune — Forever Young.

May God bless and keep you always

May your wishes all come true

May you always do for others

And let others do for you

May you build a ladder to the stars

And climb on every rung

May you stay forever young.

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