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Vince Herman - Friend of the DFC

Vince Herman is a singer, songwriter and co-founder of the legendary band, Leftover Salmon. He spoke with us about his childhood, time living in Colorado and "getting lost together" in music.  

From Polka to Bluegrass
Growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, Vince was part of a big family and surrounded by music. “I saw a lot of polka bands as a kid. I was the youngest of seven kids, so I was influenced by all my older siblings’ musical interests. I just devoured them on the family record player. Everything from Motown to the British Invasion and more rock 'nroll like Traffic and Humble Pie.” 

It was a music festival that really got the ball rolling musically for Vince. “In eighth grade I went to the Smokey City Folk Festival and saw this group of about thirty people playing underneath a tree. I assumed they had just met each other, and there they were making this music … it was mind boggling that these folks could come together and play this stuff and that opened the door to the social aspect of music for me. It never occurred to me that by playing and learning these tunes I could travel anywhere and meet people and have this instant bond and musical camaraderie. That was a real revelation to me about what music can do. From that point on I really dug into bluegrass.”

Although the country and rock genres were popular at the time, Vince began branching out musically. “I was listening to Charlie Daniels and Marshall Tucker, southern rock. But more and more folks like David Bromberg and Doc Watson got into my ears and opened the door to bluegrass. When I moved to West Virginia and got into the old-timey music scene and got to play with heroes like Melvin Wine and Mose Coffman, that really connected me deep into the American roots scene. I guess I’ve been chasing that ever since.”

A Hippie with a Guitar
Vince took guitar lessons from third to seventh grade, then began teaching in eighth grade until he went away to college. “I took piano lessons but the guitar caught my eye. When I was two years old, my brother made me a little plywood guitar with rubber band strings. I used to entertain my mother’s card club. We were a strict Irish German Catholic family and the cultural revolution was going on, so my brothers and sisters dressed me up like a hippie, because they weren’t allowed to be. I have a photo of myself at age two dressed like one of The Beatles. Not much has changed in my life – I’m still a hippie with a guitar.” 

On the Hot Rize Trail
In 1985, Vince moved to Colorado “pretty much on the Hot Rize trail and the bluegrass festival. They made Colorado look like a great progressive bluegrass scene to step into after being in West Virginia all those years.”

When he pulled into town that first night, Vince stopped in a place called The Walrus in Boulder and there was a sign outside that read: Live Bluegrass Tonight. “I walked into that place and the Left Hand String Band was playing. I would later join forces with the Salmon Heads and start this thing called Leftover Salmon that’s been going for 32 years now.”

And Vince is no stranger to the Denver Folklore Center. “The store has an amazing history from back when Harry Tuft was involved. So many people of great musical importance have passed through there. I’ve been to the store and known about it forever. That’s where Hot Rize got together. It’s a legendary place. I lived in Boulder and Nederland and bought an instrument at the store about fifteen years ago. Unfortunately, I never saw a show or performance there, but I know the mythology.” 

Getting Lost Together 
Vince listens to a variety of music and sees himself as “kind of a punk rocker. I love Irish music, old-time music. I’ve got an extensive collection of 78s for my Victrola. I like picking up some old string band stuff, and just found some Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers yesterday. I really love New Orleans’ music in a strong way – talk about music with a social role to play. There’s nothing better than being in a New Orleans’ second line with a brass band, man. I really like to get my ears in that.”

When he’s performing, Vince is all about the social aspect - meeting people and traveling. “There’s a lot of real-time presence at a musical event. I remember as a kid going to shows and that feeling right before it started – you just felt like you were going to pop! Just couldn’t take the buildup. And that’s really because you’re present. The rest of the world kind of goes away and you’re there. I like getting lost in that. And one reason I like the improv on stage is gathering people into the show in real time. That’s something essential to the human experience – to be lost in something as a group. I believe in it.” 

Songwriting and Collaborating
Since moving to Nashville, Vince has been writing a lot of songs. “I’ve been co-writing for the first time ever. It’s really an amazing process. In town you tend to have sessions that go about four hours (10am – 2pm) and it’s guaranteed you’ll get at least one song out of a session. Nobody leaves without something being done. It’s an amazing process. I love to improvise on stage and make words up on the spot and always wondered if it was going to help me get into a co-writing situation and it really seems to have worked.”

“I’ve had a lot of great times with meeting a lot of new people who are incredibly talented and the writing process has been a real eye-opener for me. I’ve had so much fun doing it and I’m working on releasing my first solo record. After doing all this writing I’ve got a collection of songs I have to get out to people. So that will be coming out this summer."

Leftover Salmon isn’t his only band. Vince also plays with The High Hawks – a band that includes Tim Carbone (from Railroad Earth), Chad Staehly (from Hard Working Americans), Adam Greuel (from Horseshoes & Hand Grenades), Brian Adams (from DeadPhish Orchestra) and Will Trask (from Great American Taxi). They’ll be in Vail June 21st – all tour dates are HERE.

And enjoy some Leftover Salmon in 2022 as they support their latest album “Brand New Good Old Days” – see all their show dates HERE.

Catch the band in Colorado:
June 4th and 5th at Block Party Eagle in Eagle, CO
July 1st and 2nd at The Mishawaka in Bellvue, CO
July 16th at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO
August 12th and 13th at I Bar Ranch in Gunnison, CO