116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It's fitting that David Bromberg splits his time between an apartment in Manhattan and a home in Wilmington, Del.
Bromberg, 76, was born in Philadelphia, which is a half-hour from Wilmington and the gifted folkie made a name for himself in the New York City folk clubs during the ’60s.
The multi-instrumentalist, who plays guitar, fiddle, dobro and mandolin, has enjoyed a fascinating career. Bromberg, such an underrated musician, was a session man for his friends Jerry Jeff Walker and the iconic Bob Dylan.
Bromberg co-write “The Holdup” with George Harrison, which is his biggest hit. Such legends as Willie Nelson, Jerry Garcia and Jorma Kaukonen have performed with Bromberg.
“I have so many great memories,” he said. “That’s particularly so during my early days in New York.”
The New York coffee shop circuit, with such clubs as Cafe Wha? and The Bottom Line, showcased the finest in folk a half-century ago.
“It was a great time since it didn’t matter what style of music that you played,” Bromberg said. “All you had to be was good. I was doing my best on a scene, which had so many talented people. I look back and I love the variety of music that was played.”
Bromberg learned his fingerpicking style in New York from the late Reverend Gary Davis, and his skills turned ears. His prodigious guitar skill earned him studio work with Tom Rush, Tom Paxton and Richie Havens.
Vocalist Rosalie Sorrels noticed Bromberg and hired him to play guitar. Sorrels was booked to play the Isle of Wight festival in 1970. During Sorrels’ set, she allowed Bromberg to play a song. The tune and his performance went over so well that Bromberg was invited to deliver his own set that evening. Because of that stroke of good fortune, Bromberg was offered a deal with Columbia Records after he performed.
“That experience is proof that you never know what’s going to happen in this business,” Bromberg said. “Crowds were different back then. I remember Kris Kristofferson, who is a terrific singer/songwriter, and he was getting booed. Rosalie, who was always best performing in a small room since her music is so intimate, had a tough time, too.
“Rosalie and I were performing before hundreds of thousands of people. She asked me to play a song and the crowd liked it. One thing led to another and I ended up with Columbia.”
The prolific Bromberg recorded six albums for Columbia between 1971 and 1976 and somehow squeezed in considerable session work with such prominent recording artists as The Eagles, Carly Simon and Ringo Starr during that period.
“I was working a lot, but I was a young man who loved making music,” Bromberg said. “I still love it. There’s nothing like it.”
Bromberg enjoyed steady success. A loyal fan base was established and he earned his peers’ respect.
“David Bromberg doesn’t get enough credit for how talented he is,” singer/songwriter James McMurtry said. “David is remarkably consistent and he always does his own thing.”
Bromberg stepped out of the box and opened a shop, “David Bromberg Fine Violins,” in Wilmington in 2002 to focus on making violins. And he took a hiatus as a recording artist.
“I always found violin shops fascinating,” he said. “I enjoyed the craft of making violins.”
But Bromberg was compelled to return to music. In 2011 he came back with the terrific solo project, “Use Me.” He recorded songs by some of his favorite songwriters, Dr. John, John Hiatt and Guy Clark, among other ace tunesmiths.
“Who doesn’t love playing a well-crafted song,” Bromberg said.
Bromberg, who will perform with his quintet Sept. 8 at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, also enjoys working with such accomplished producers as Larry Campbell. Dylan’s guitarist has been behind the board for the last few Bromberg albums, including his latest, “Big Road,” released in 2020. It’s an eclectic Americana album bolstered by terrific performances by members of Bromberg’s band.
It’s not surprising those who flank Bromberg are fine musicians. Guitarist Mark Cosgrove, multi-instrumentalist Nate Grower, drummer Josh Kanusky and bassist Suavek Zaniesienko are in lock step with Bromberg. Campbell, who aside from producing, also plays mandolin and pedal steel.
“I can’t go wrong with guys who play like the musicians in this band,” Bromberg said. “And then there’s Larry (Campbell), who I’m so comfortable with. I’m so inspired being around all of these wonderful musicians.”