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Uncle Eddie & Robin

Biography

Uncle Eddie and Robin, “Not Your Usual Old Folkies”, are a dynamic musical duet with a taste of the old and a flair for the new. Their energy belies their age, and the breadth of their life experience makes for a rich and rewarding musical evening. This husband-wife team combines their voices in stunning, tight harmonies on songs that pack a punch, and their musical chemistry is undeniable and their sound is unmistakable.
Ed “Uncle Eddie” Mahonen, “Banjo Player, Raconteur, and All Around Old Dude” is an icon in the Appalachian music scene. His wildly imaginative banjo playing, silky vocals, and intelligent, witty songwriting make him a joy to listen to. His style incorporates elements of bluegrass and folk, which he has shaped into a unique and original blend which he terms, “plunk rock”. West Virginia’s “Graffiti” Magazine said Ed has been “a force in West Virginia music for over thirty years”. Not just another folk 'n bluegrass musician, he applies his velvety baritone voice to his own "plunk rock", and has been known to "rap" along with his more traditional renditions.
Ed “Uncle Eddie” Mahonen was born and raised in a small town in Massachusetts, not your usual breeding ground for bluegrass music. He began his musical career in grade school with piano, later moving on to trumpet. But one night, he found himself at what was then called, a “hootenanny”, and was instantly drawn to the call of the banjo. Despite the derision and snickering of his high school friends and family, Ed practiced and persevered with his instrument, and has honed it to the surprising sound you hear today. He is also accomplished on guitar and bass, and dabbles with the tuba. His rich velvety baritone voice completes his presentation in bluegrass, folk and other musical genres.
After graduation, he served in the Navy in San Francisco in the 60’s, where he was influenced by the singer-songwriters and poets of the era. Following his discharge, he spent a summer hitchhiking across Canada and the US, with his banjo slung across his back. Passing through Wheeling, West Virginia, he got into a jam session with some of the local pickers and quickly fell into the young progressive bluegrass scene. Before long, he became a fixture on the local scene, with the band “West Virginia Grass”. “We were playing jamgrass in the early 70’s, before the term had been invented. We were just doing what came naturally to us.” He also made his first appearances on the legendary Wheeling Jamboree. This period culminated with his participation in the band, “Castlemen’s Run”.

In the 80’s, Ed played traditional bluegrass with Pittsburgh’s "Beaver Creek" band and for over 30 years was part of the legendary "Short Crick Flatpickers", touring statewide and regionally. “Uncle Eddie” was born when he was appearing in the 90’s at the Wheeling Jamboree, and did solo spots of bluegrass, novelty songs, jokes and funny stories. The spots were called "Uncle Eddie's Corner", and the nickname stuck. His easy going demeanor and booming laugh made him a favorite with his audiences.

Ed met Robin, appropriately enough, at an open mike jam night which Ed hosted in Wheeling. Their chemistry was immediate. Robin is the daughter of the late Jimmy Knepper, internationally renowned jazz trombonist, and Maxine Fields Knepper, a strong independent woman who was already on the road with her trumpet at the age of 16, before anyone had ever coined the term “feminist”. Robin was listening to music before she was born, and has fond memories of jam sessions lasting late into the night as she drifted off to sleep as a little girl. Her early musical influences were shaped by some of the most influential jazz artists of the day. She played piano at age 8, picked up her first guitar at age 14, and played her first coffeehouses shortly thereafter. After a brief hiatus of twenty years from music while she raised her four children as a single mother and pursued a career as a social worker in private practice, she returns to the music scene with a vengeance. She brings her born and bred musical ability and her deep understanding of pathos and the human condition to her every note she sings. Imagine: a bluegrass banjo player, and the daughter of a legendary jazz musician- it’s unthinkable? Or is it???

More recently, Ed was associated with West Virginia’s premier jam band, “The Recipe”, and his cutting edge explorations and signature sound clearly comes through on their latest CD, “Jubilee”. Joe Prichard commented on Ed’s original song, “One Eye Laugh”, which closes the CD, “Ed was able to say in one song what it took me a whole album to say.” As the Recipe’s “Uncle Eddie”, he and Robin became a fixture at summer jam band festivals, and are much beloved by festival goers who seek them out for a pat on the back, a shared joke, and, if desired, a gentle bear hug.
 

Uncle Eddie and Robin have released a CD titled "When We're Together" consisting of eleven original songs. It features stunning vocal arrangements and some dazzling instrumental work by Ed and several guest artists. Ed’s solo work, “My Own Words”, is a compilation of ten original songs, including the often requested “West Virginia Farm”, and “Let ‘Em Eat Cake”, and the amusing, yet socially poignant “Plain White Rapper”, which leaves audiences scratching their heads. Stylistically, they are literally all over the map, and yet they expertly craft their shows to the particular taste of their listeners.
 

Uncle Eddie and his banjo continue to be a force on the Appalachian music scene. Through numerous appearances on the Wheeling Jamboree, the hard core traditional bluegrass of the Short Crick Flatpickers, and his cutting edge explorations with The Recipe, “He has respected and preserved the rich musical traditions of the region while keeping it alive and evolving by taking it to new and unexpected places.” (Graffiti Magazine) His newest collaboration with Robin, has added a new dimension and texture to an already eclectic musician.
 

Uncle Eddie & Robin also operate a recording studio, ELM Cottage Studio, out of their home, and are available to help aspiring young musicians produce their own original music.
 

An evening with Uncle Eddie and Robin is like sitting down with old friends. Kick off your shoes, put up your feet, and open yourself to a musical experience which will make you laugh and cry, and laugh again.
 

“One Eye Laugh, One Eye Cry.”