You can tell a lot about a person from the company he keeps. When that company has included Bob Dylan, The Beastie Boys, George Harrison, Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson, John Hiatt, Jerry Garcia, Reverend Gary Davis, Dr. John, Pete Seeger, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Phoebe Snow, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Mississippi John Hurt, you realize you’re dealing with a very special case.
Bromberg’s sensitive and versatile approach to guitar-playing earned him jobs playing the Village “basket houses” for tips, the occasional paying gig, and employment as a backing musician for Tom Paxton, Jerry Jeff Walker and Rosalie Sorrels, among others. He became a first-call, “hired gun” guitarist for recording sessions, ultimately playing on hundreds of records by artists including Bob Dylan (New Morning, Self Portrait, Dylan), Link Wray, The Eagles, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, and Carly Simon.
An unexpected and wildly successful solo spot for 600,000 concert goers at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival in Great Britain led to a solo deal with Columbia Records, for whom David recorded four albums. His eponymous 1971 debut included “The Holdup,” a songwriting collaboration with former Beatle George Harrison, who also played slide guitar on the track. David also met the Grateful Dead and wound up with four of their members playing on his next two albums.
Bromberg’s material, based in the folk and blues idioms, continually expanded with each new album to encompass bluegrass, ragtime, country and ethnic music, and his touring band grew apace. By the mid-’70s, the David Bromberg Big Band included horn players, a violinist, and several multi-instrumentalists, including David himself.