Cushman was born August 23, 1959,
in Clarksville, Tennessee. He is the son
of Irene and Finis Cushman, Jr.
Around age 4, Charlie became
interested in the music he saw on local television. Saturday afternoons were his
favorite times, due to the vast variety of Country music programs being
broadcast on WSM-TV. These included The Ernest Tubb Show, The Wilburn Brothers
Show, The Porter Wagoner Show, The Grand Ole Opry, and foremost, The Flatt and
The banjo picking of Earl Scruggs
caught Charlie's ear, amidst all the electric guitars, fiddles and vocals of
these incredible talents. Charlie had to have a banjo!
After months of persistent talk
and dreams of having a banjo, his grandfather bought a used one with a repaired
neck at the local music store. "My grandfather bought the banjo behind my
grandmothers back, as money was tight, and Grandma didn't care for music in the
first place," says Charlie.
The search for a teacher began,
and soon Charlie was taking lessons every Saturday. His teacher played electric
lead guitar for Webb Pierce, and occasionally for some other Nashville based
acts, and knew only a couple of three finger style tunes on the banjo. He
agreed to give the lessons, and after a few months, Charlie was showing him
things he had learned at home, from his Earl Scruggs records. His "formal"
lessons were over.
During the next 2 years, Charlie
played the banjo in talent contests, at luncheons, and parties around his
hometown. Most of his time was spent at the record player, learning sounds and
tones from his favorite records, and applying them to the neck of the banjo.
"When you have to find notes without visual clues, you develop an "ear"
to distinguish where they are on the banjo neck," Charlie says.
was vital to learning the tunes, developing left hand patterns, and forming
Age 10 found Charlie playing over
station WPHC in Waverly, Tennessee each Saturday night on the "Tennessee Valley
Jamboree". This was a Country music radio/stage show, featuring some fine local
talent from the middle and west Tennessee area. His dad would compete each week
at the local drag strip, and his mom and dad would alternate driving him to the
shows he played, as most parents of musical children so often do. " I owe so
much to them," Charlie says.
His first paying job was at
Shakeys’ Pizza Parlor on Riverside Drive in Clarksville.
"I played the banjo
with a flat pick along side an excellent Ragtime piano player. We had the words
to all the old "saloon" songs projected upon the wall, so the patrons could sing
along. My banjo had a DeArmond pick-up on the head, held on by rubber bands. Can
you imagine that sound?!!"
In support of his interest in
music, Charlie's parents started taking him to Bluegrass festivals. This is when
he first began to understand what Bluegrass was all about. "I still
love to participate in parking lot picking sessions and hear people play with so
much enthusiasm". He also saw most of his musical heroes in person, and
later became friends with many of them.
In early 1974, 14-year-old Charlie
began playing the banjo six days each week on the Carl Tipton Show. The show was
on WLAC-TV in Nashville, and was broadcast for over 25 years. The show featured
Bluegrass and Country music in a down home format.
The show featured a wide variety
of guest artists from Bill Monroe to Tennessee Ernie Ford, and many local
talents. It was during this 5-year period of employment that Charlie learned
guitar and upright bass. He was often called on, to back up the guest
performers, and gained tremendous musical experience, along with making some
life long friends. "Carl was a fine disc jockey, and a successful
businessman. His family treated me as they would one of their own children, and
I will remain forever grateful to them."
From 1979 till 1986, Charlie
worked as a musician and business owner, in Nashville. He played the banjo with
James Monroe and the Midnight Ramblers, Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain
Boys, Mel Tillis and the Statesiders, and also became a part of the Nashville
session scene. Opryland, USA, then employed him, as a multi-instrumentalist from
1986 to mid 1990.
On September 20, 1990, his long
time friend and fellow banjo picker, Mike Snider, hired Charlie. Charlie went
to work with Mike as his bass player, and later switched to guitar after some
personnel changes in the band. Mike became a member of the Grand
Ole Opry in June of 1990. Charlie was employed by Mike Snider playing road dates
and the Grand Ole Opry until September 1, 2004.
Charlie enjoys playing music with a variety of artists and
friends. He is an in-demand session player on banjo and guitar and is available
as a free-lance artist. He also enjoys
working on Mastertone style banjos, and appreciating antiques. When he's not
involved in music, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends. Charlie
Cushman is a people and music enthusiast.
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