Autoharpist Bryan Bowers was born in St. Petersburg, VA, on August 18, 1940. As a boy, he would often sing along with the call-and-response harmonies of the railroad workers. He enrolled at Randolph Macon College in Ashland, VA, where he eventually began playing the guitar. But an itinerant multi-instrumentalist turned him on to the autoharp, and he was immediately hooked. Bowers dropped out of school and in 1971 moved to Seattle.
While in Washington, Bowers busked on street corners and in barrooms, honing his autoharp performance skills. Then he made his way to Washington, D.C., where he was noticed by the Dillards during a performance at that city's famed folk club The Cellar Door. He tagged along with the band to a bluegrass festival in Berryville, VA, and when they brought Bowers out for their final encore, he brought the house down. Bowers' five-fingered picking of the instrument (rather than the traditional strum) was unique, and added resonance to his already dynamic performances.
In 1977, Bowers signed with the Flying Fish label, which released his debut in 1977. View from Home featured contributions from New Grass Revival members Sam Bush and Courtney Johnson. Released in 1980, Home, Home on the Road showcased not only Bowers' astonishing autoharp technique, but his easygoing wit as well. Bowers was always as much a singer and storyteller as he was an instrumental virtuoso; the rich vocals and Celtic arrangements on his 1982 LP, For You, speak to this. Despite these successful recordings, Bowers was always more comfortable as a live performer, and continued to appear at festivals and workshops throughout the 1980s and '90s. Finally, in 2000, Bowers returned to wax with Friend for Life. He also released an instructional autoharp video intended for intermediate players interested in taking the next step toward advanced songs and styles. ~ Johnny Loftus