Alan Munde Steve Martin Banjo Prize FreshGrass Foundation

2021 Prize Winner: Alan Munde

Alan Munde was born November 4, 1946 in Norman, Oklahoma and began his bluegrass banjo career while attending the University of Oklahoma. He and fellow student Byron Berline, fiddler extraordinaire, spent much of their time away from classes honing their performance skills at various fiddle contests and musical events.

When Alan graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1969 he moved to Kentucky, where he recorded with Sam Bush and Wayne Stewart on the legendary, groundbreaking album Poor Richard’s Almanac. 

Alan moved to Nashville in late 1969 and began playing with Jimmy Martin and his Sunny Mountain Boys. He toured and recorded with Jimmy Martin for two years appearing at many of the early festivals and participating in the recording of the much-acclaimed Jimmy Martin gospel album Singing All Day and Dinner on the Ground. He also performed on Jimmy Martin’s album, I’d Like to Be Sixteen Again.

Leaving Nashville in early 1972, Alan rejoined his musical schoolmate Byron Berline and bassist Roger Bush in California, where they formed the seminal bluegrass band Country Gazette. The Gazette traveled extensively for over 20 years and made regular tours to Europe and Japan. The group’s first album, Traitor in Our Midst, was a top selling album for United Artists. The Gazette recorded over 30 projects together (albums and CDs). 

Alan also released many highly acclaimed banjo instrumental albums such as Banjo Sandwich and Together Again (for the First Time), with Sam Bush. His latest recording project is a pair of CDs with mandolin player Billy Bright titled Bright Munde in 2017, and Es Mi Suerte in 2019, both receiving excellent reviews. 

During his career Alan also spent much time developing bluegrass banjo workshop/seminar materials and presentations that have become a mainstay of the summer music camp scene. Munde was one of the first high-profile bluegrass banjo players to make his recorded solos available in written form and also one of the first artists to present workshops. Much of his musical output is available in instructional material for Mel Bay Publications, Texas Music and Video, and his self-produced material.

To further the educational aspects of his career, Munde joined the faculty of the Creative Arts Department at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas n 1986. As the bluegrass expert in the Commercial Music Program, Munde further developed his unique teaching concepts that resulted in several publications including Getting into Bluegrass Banjo, a book that offers a systematic path to learning the bluegrass style banjo.

Alan retired from the school in 2007 and maintains an active performance, teaching, and recording career. Alan and co-author Beth Mead-Sullivan have a book available from publisher Hal Leonard titled The Great American Banjo Songbook containing banjo arrangements of 70 songs from the golden age of American popular songwriting. Alan also operates an online business called “Al Munde’s Banjo College” where he sells his instructional books, DVDs, bluegrass banjo recordings, and downloadable lessons.