Born May 11, 1938, in Tallahasie, Florida, Bruce Langhorne became a session musician in New York City, playing electric
guitar for Vanguard, Elektra, and Columbia. He met Richard during sessions for Carolyn Hester's first Columbia
album, and the two became friends. Bruce played electric guitar on all three of Richard & Mimi's albums and
also played the Giant Turkish Tambourine, which added an exotic flavor to songs like "Dopico"
and "Allen's Interlude." Langhorne's influence on Richard and Mimi's style was
substantial. Mimi told Guitar Player magazine,
"We were both highly influenced by the guitar of Bruce Langhorne. His whole concept of
rhythm added a vitality that we wouldn't have had otherwise." Langhorne also joined the
Fariñas at the Newport Folk Festival (playing acoustic guitar, due to the rain).
He is probably most famous for his work on Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home and
his association with "Mr. Tambourine Man," which was inspired by him. One of the
great session men of the sixties, Langhorne has led an impressive career, adding his
distinctive, tasteful guitar work to the recordings of Dylan, Baez, Odetta, Tom Rush,
and seemingly every other major artist of the Urban Folk Revival.
In more recent years he has worked on movie soundtracks, and also makes his own
hot sauce, Brother Bru-Bru's African Hot Sauce. In 2011 he finally released a solo album,
Tambourine Man. Bruce Langhorne died on April 14, 2017. A tribute album,
The Hired Hands, was released earlier that year.
(I created this page before Bruce Langhorne had his own website: www.brucelanghorne.com)
Some other good links:
All Music Guide
A short summary of his career, by Richie Unterberger.
Richie Unterberger Interview, Part One
Richie Unterberger Interview, Part Two
In-depth interview with Bruce. Richard and Mimi are discussed in the second half of Part Two.
An illustrated discography of his prolific session work.
PETER FONDA SHOWS HIS "HIRED HAND"
by Tim Merrill (2003-11-02)
How did you hook up with Langhorne? I know he used to be a session guitarist for Bob Dylan, and played on “Bringing It All Back Home” and “Blonde on Blonde.”
Fonda: He was producing an album for me, “Got to Get You Into My Life,” through Hugh Masekela’s label. At the time I told him about “Easy Rider,” and he told me he thought I ought make that film. Then I came back to work with him again, up comes “The Hired Hand” and I knew who was going to score it. If he were to walk in right now and you didn’t see Bruce, you would feel his presence. He just emanates love and kindness, in addition to being a virtuoso on like 50 string instruments. I took him over to Hawaii once, he heard the slack-key guitar and went full-on Hawaiian! But he lives in Venice now, and he also makes a great hot sauce - Brother Bru-Bru’s Hot Sauce.
Bloom: There are so many things about this movie that are perfect, and Bruce’s score is one of them. You can’t imagine any other score with this film.
And it was his first film score, right?
Fonda: Yeah. Universal told me, “You can’t just hire your friends, man.” But the word “virtuoso,” applied to musical instruments, means something. Like if I want a full string section, he’ll go play fourteen different violins and violas and cellos. So I have one man I have to pay who can do all this work for me! Then they were okay with him. And by the way, on Bruce’s picking hand, his thumb, his index and middle fingers are all stumps. They were blown off in a rocket accident in his backyard when he was a kid. But he had already been playing, so he had the surgeon sort of shave them down a little so he could still finger pick. And that National steel guitar that he favors, and we favored very much in the film because it has such a beautiful tone - how did he get there? He used old electric guitar strings, and this muted picking. So there’s a reason his playing sounds like no one else...
The following interview appeared Hit Parader July 1966, and was reprinted in an abridged version in Rock Folk Song Folio no. 3, Fall, 1966 under the title "Rock & Roll is an Art." Unfortunately, there is no mention of Richard or Mimi, but it's an interesting article nonetheless.
"I Hear a Synthesis."
An interview with Bruce Langhorne, by Jim Delehant.
Continuing our adventure into the world of sounds and stuff, we contacted a very imaginative guy named Bruce Langhorne, who is responsible for a whole lot of great guitar playing. Word comes from the Al Grossman office that "Bruce is a real virtuoso."
Principally, Bruce tours with Odetta, backing her in concert and on her RCA Victor recordings. "That's my main work. Second is recording sessions, about one or two a week, and I also do concerts with other people and some arranging."
One of the most exciting experiences in Bruce's career was recording with Bob Dylan on his first electrified session Bringing It All Back Home which produced the hit single, "Subterranean Homesick Blues." Bruce admits, "It's one of my favorites. I also like the way I played on "Like a Rolling Stone" and an earlier Dylan recording of "Corinna, Corinna."
He has added groovy sounds to many Peter, Paul and Mary recordings and he picked "That's What You Get For Loving Me" in particular as a favorite... "But it's hard to analyze your own work on a communal effort." Another recording he called our attention to is Casey Anderson's album The Bag I'm In on Atlantic.... "Where I got a chance to play some nice solos."
Bruce, like the Beatles, is one of those creative people who will find it easy to fit in wherever and whenever any kind of music is being made as you will see in the following interview.
Why do you think rock folk music is popular or do you disagree with the term rock folk?
No, it is a good term. I think the words to folk songs and modern compositions in the folk vein and topical subjects in combination with modern electronic rhythmic sounds--I think it is a very strong thing, a natural synthesis. It is a new kind of music. I think it is popular because it is good.
When do you think it started? I don't mean the hootenanny type folk music. I mean as it is being played today.
It is hard to say where electric folk sounds began. I do not know.
Do you think it would be the Beatles and Bob Dylan?
No, it goes back further than that. I think the Chicago rhythm and blues bands are the influence. The blues is probably the first form of folk music to get amplified. It was played for dancing more or less.
Are you from Chicago?
No, I am a New Yorker. With the Chicago sound, you have the Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, the Jimmy Reed kind of thing.
Would you even lump somebody like the Byrds into this?
Well, they are a very far out extension of it. I think there are several convergent streams that produce this type of music. I try not to lump anybody. I try to treat each group as an individual group if I possibly can. It is just like genetics. There are a lot of heredity factors that are producing offspring. At this moment they are all tied in. They all have antecedents, but they are all different at the same time.
When did you first get into folk music?
I guess it was around the time everybody else was buying guitars, about ten or eleven years ago. I got turned on to folk music when I was a camp counselor in upstate New York. It was sort of a progressive camp. That was about 9 years ago. I became a professional about 8 years ago. At that time I was playing Gospel folk. I really liked Brother John Sellers.
Do you play a 12 string?
No, I play a 6 string.
Why do you think Dylan got into the rock thing?
I really don't know what influenced him. I sat in on his first session when he went electrified. I think he just wanted to try something new. He wanted a broader setting for his music. His single guitar just didn't have the power of an electric band. He wanted a more powerful vehicle.
Do you think the folk thing is going to bring us into a major interest in the blues?
I think the blues are already popular. I think Paul Butterfield is very popular. The Animals and the Rolling Stones have done a great deal to popularize the more traditional electrified blues. The blues will be a major influence. I think country and western music is a major influence too. In fact, lyrics of many of the modern folk songs remind me of country and western lyrics, in that they are direct. The sound is appearing more. Actually, the Nashville sound is related to the blues sound and the scale is the same mode as the blues mode. It starts in a different place on the scale, and it is the same combination of notes.
Who are some of the other people you've worked with besides Bob Dylan and Odetta?
Joan Baez, Carolyn Hester, Fred Neil, Peter, Paul & Mary, Valentine Pringle, Jim & Jean, I think they were called the Lovers, Tom Rush, and Peter LaFarge.
Do you think in the future all music will come together and there will no longer be any minority music?
Well, that is a very strained fission.
Could it be possible that rhythm and blues and country and western will disappear as single influences and melt into one?
That always happens in music. Jim Hall, the jazz guitarist, once said that everything is useful in music. He doesn't constantly use any particular type of music because there is always some point at which you can make a synthesis. I think there will always be individuals and groups going in their own particular directions. I don't think there is ever going to be one music of humanity. At least nothing like that will happen in our lifetime, but as communication increases, we are going to find more and more hybrids popping up.
A lot of these young people are even talking about Indian music.
Yes, it is a very good thing to talk about. I am very interested in Indian music and Arabic music and African music.
Why do you suppose the young musicians now have become so musically sophisticated? They seem to know a lot about all kinds of music, whereas 10 years ago their ideas were only expressed in simple, repetitious, 4-chord songs.
By now it is a voice, there is an opportunity too, there is a ready made market for these musicians to express themselves. There is an opportunity for them to be heard and I think many of them genuinely appreciate the music. I know I do. It is great music. The market right now is very free. There is a wider variety of sounds in the top forty that has never been there before. There is jazz and folk things getting into the top forty in the past year or so. There is still some hard-driving old fashioned blues. There are some country and western oriented things, and I think ears are more open to musical settings than ever before. There is an awful lot of music now that people can expose themselves to, that can be popular--like Indian music. There is a whole wealth of music that could create fads like African music and Arabic music. The Beatles are pioneers in the art of synthesis. They synthesized most of their songs with Bob Gibson type chord patterns.
Why did you single out Bob Gibson?
Because I think he is the first person to treat his songs in that particular choral style. Much of the older folk music is restricted in the number of chords used. There are eight primary chords in the scale. Most of the older folk music was restricted to the use of 3 or 4 with the exception of Dixieland which used unaltered chords. They didn't use jazz chords, but they used jazz patterns, and I think Bob Gibson was the first person who started doing this. At least he is the first one I have ever heard. We are still on the Beatles, right? They use a city rhythm and blues-electric type sound and tone colors and then they occasionally do things like "Yesterday" which is a synthesis of Bach Choral with folk-rock words, and I think it has got an electric guitar in it too. It is a very interesting synthesis.
Do you think the direction rock and roll is heading in now could eventually make it an art?
I think it is already an art. I don't think that because something is popular, it is any less arty, although there is still a lot of crap coming out. There are writers in the field who are taking lots of time in constructing sincere pieces of music. That is my definition of music as art.
Do you think Rock and Roll will continue to head in this "synthesis" direction?
I think the words will continue to be believable. That will become much more of a trend. There are going to be more syntheses. It is sort of a time and place thing. You get the right artist and the right synthesis and the market is ready. As a matter of fact, right now the market is ready for practically any believable synthesis. Someone could come out now with a straight classical piece with believable words, and it would go very well. I think some straight country and western is going to appear, and there is going to be more jazz on the market. That is, Ramsey Lewis's type of jazz. Pure jazz has become so far out, I think it is far out as electronic music at this point. It has got to start looking back. Of course, there will be people who will carry on with the new thing, but the main stream of jazz is going to look back a little bit more to pop music and blues for inspiration.
Do you think the fact that jazz is going too far out was the reason college kids turned to folk music?
Yes, I think that might have had something to do with it. Also, I think it is the words. It is nice to be able to listen to a story in a song. Jazz got so far out that college kids found themselves unable to participate in it as performers. There used to be lots of college Dixieland bands, but modern jazz got too involved to grasp unless they were in it for music. Unless they are going to devote much more time to it. On the other hand, folk music is very easy. You can make a nice sound on a guitar accompanying yourself to singing a song in about a week.
Are you a songwriter?
No. I am composer. I compose music. I don't have a gift for writing words.
What would you like to do with music in the future?
I am trying to find my own synthesis. I started off playing blues, then folk. At this point, I am playing a little bit of everything. I was playing classical guitar for a while too. I have played a little bit of everything, even Eastern music.
Are you self-taught?
Yes, I also played different kinds of percussion. I play some bossa nova, jazz, and classical. I am going to put out a record soon I think. I am negotiating now with record companies. I don't think I will do any singing. I find it difficult to sing and play at the same time. I used to sing, but I much prefer to play than sing. It will be primarily an instrumental record.