Neil Rossi hails originally from the Boston, Massachusetts area. He grew up during the "folk scare" of the late 50's and early 60's, and was first exposed to folk music by groups like The Kingston Trio and The Limelighters. His grandfather was an Irish fiddler, and his mother had played piano and accordian for Irish Ceilidh bands in Boston before she married. His father had often earned a few extra bucks playing piano in speakeasies during the Prohibition era. Neil learned many Irish fiddle tunes and airs from his mother, while also continuing to play popular folk music and 50's rock'n'roll. "Both my parents played piano, though they tended to play more popular music and show tunes. But there was always music around the house."
"It just mesmerized me. I thought that was the coolest sound I'd ever heard. I didn't even know what the music was called, but I knew I had to play it."
His life changed in 1960 after hearing The Osborne Brothers play on Wheeling, West Virginia radio station WWVA. "WWVA was right next to one of the popular Boston rock'n'roll stations on the dial and I tuned it in by accident while the Saturday night WWVA Jamboree was on. It just mesmerized me. I thought that was the coolest sound I'd ever heard. I didn't even know what the music was called, but I knew I had to play it," says Neil. He annoyed his parents mercilessly until they bought him a banjo. "I started searching the radio dial for country stations late at night when the signal would reach all the way up to Boston. I'd stay up till three in the morning so I could pull in WCKY in Cincinatti, some of the Canadian stations, maybe listen to Lee Moore's late-night show on WWVA, and sometimes even get WSM in Nashville. It was an education."
Using a Pete Seeger banjo instruction book, and an Earl Scruggs record slowed down to 16 r.p.m., he spent hours every day learning three-finger picking. Later, he bought a mandolin and, in 1964, began learning fiddle after being given an instrument that had belonged to his grandfather.
The group won the Grand Champion Old Time Band trophy at the Union Grove (NC) Fiddler's Contest in 1970 and later that year made the first album recorded by the Rounder record label.
In 1966 he formed The Spark Gap Wonder Boys, an old-time band that played frequently around colleges and coffeehouses in the New England area. This group won the Grand Champion Old Time Band trophy at the Union Grove (NC) Fiddler's Contest in 1970 and later that year made the first album recorded by the Rounder record label (Cluck Old Hen [RR-0002]).
Over the years Neil has also played and recorded with The David Bromberg Band, The Yankee Rebels, Diamonds In The Rough, Bob Yellin & The Joint Chiefs Of Bluegrass, and Two Chord Jones, among others.
What people don't usually know about Neil is that he has two Master's degrees, completed all the coursework for a Ph.D. in physics, and has a 5th degree black belt in Taekwon-Do (Korean karate).
Neil plays mandolin and fiddle and sings baritone and lead with Big Spike. His primary mandolin is a blonde F-5 copy made by P. W. McKinley in 1985. His main fiddle is a Hopf. He lives in Westford, Vermont. Contact Neil at firstname.lastname@example.org.