My first memory of music was listening to my mom’s Beatles records—sometime after my birth in ’64 and before ’73. I consciously said to myself, “If there is a god, he’s speaking through these guys.” Their records were unbelievably bright and vibrant. My dad had some records of Scott Joplin rags too. I liked those melodies—really catchy. I used to play them on the piano—just one finger plunking out the melody line. Dad played piano and guitar and trombone, but I never did anything beyond that noodling around on the piano. It always seemed beyond a mortal human like me to come up with melodies the way The Beatles did—how does that happen?

I played trumpet in my middle and high school bands at my dad’s urging, but dropped music when I went to college. Then the summer after my junior year, I discovered another record, one that was by then over 20 years old: Dylan’s "Freewheelin’." That affected me differently than The Beatles did. I heard tenderness there, and other things more indefinable. That’s when I picked up an acoustic guitar and learned some chords. Then I got every Dylan album I could find, and it was like discovering riches. I got into REM, too, and Elvis Costello and Van Morrison. After college, Dylan's music led me to guys like Woody Guthrie, Jack Elliot, and Robert Johnson. Later I discovered Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, and Nick Drake.

It took me awhile to go from playing other people’s songs to writing my own. I went from dabbling to becoming more and more serious, until it even seemed I had a knack for writing melodies—that thing that I’d always thought was so magical. I found the hard part was the words. I wanted every word to be honest.

Over the years I’ve rounded up a lot of great musicians from the Bay Area where I live who have done me the honor of playing with me (see link below). Members come and go as lives change, but I’ve called every combination Crooked Roads. As William Blake wrote: “Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of Genius.”

–Chris Dingman
About
Interview with BBC Journalist Jonathan Wingate
Band Members