Mike Seeger was born in New York into a well-known folk music family and grew up in Maryland.  Although he was an accomplished musician who played many instruments, he was also known for his distinctive voice in old-time traditional music.  A founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers, Mike considered “music a vehicle for history” as his career demonstrated. He is honored for his greatest contributions, which is his work with Folkways music recording and production industry.  After the Smithsonian acquired the Folkways music library, Mike worked with Ralph Rinzler providing documentation and recreating numerous early musical recordings.  Because of his effort, recording treasures from the early 20th century have been preserved.  Mike Seeger passed away August 7, 2009.

Mike Seeger

Mike Seeger was born in Maryland, near Washington, DC in 1933.  His parents, Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, were composers and musicians. As a child, Mike grew up learning traditional folk music: family singing was a daily affair.

At age 18, Mike taught himself to play string instruments, and at age 20 collected songs from nearby musicians with a tape recorder. By the time he was 23 he had produced his first Folkways documentary recording. Over the years, he has absorbed traditional styles of music through direct association with master musicians such as Elizabeth Cotten, Maybelle Carter, Dock Boggs, and many others.  He is a founding member of the vanguard old time string band the ‘New Lost City Ramblers’, formed in 1958.

As a full-time musician and collector since 1960, Mike has toured throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. He sings a wide variety of traditional Southern rural songs and plays a number of old-time music on banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, autoharp, lap dulcimer, trump (Jew’s harp), harmonica, and quills (pan pipes). He strives for both variety and depth of feeling, in the music he makes, while maintaining his own identity by staying within the boundaries of true traditional music.

Mike has produced thirty-six documentary recordings of traditional music and fifty-one of his own. He has also created several instructional CDs and DVDs for instrumentalists, a documentary video and book, “Talking Feet,” on Southern traditional step dance. 

Mike has received six Grammy nominations: two with the New Lost City Ramblers, one with David Grisman and John Hartford and three on his own.  He has served as an advisor or consultant for government agencies, a record company, and many folk festivals. He has won a couple of banjo contests:  Galax, Virginia (1958) and Athens, Alabama (1974). He is recipient of four grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Smithsonian Research Fellowship grant, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, an award from the Grateful Dead’s Rex Foundation and an honorary membership in the Society for American Music.  Mike Seeger passed away August 7, 2009.