No Net "brilliantly encapsulates everything he loves about acoustic guitar" Acoustic Guitar Magazine - June 2000.
Stephen Bennett is a widely respected guitarist. Equally expressive in both fingerpicking and flatpicking styles, Bennett has gone on to be known as “the quintessential harp guitarist,” (Walnut Valley Occasional), helping to rescue this rare and wonderful instrument from near extinction.
Born in Oregon, Bennett was raised in the Hudson Valley area of New York. He began playing clarinet, piano and guitar as a child, performing in school and with a series of local rock and roll bands. It was when he attended a concert of the progressive rock group Yes that Bennett first fell in love with the sound of fingerpicked guitar. “I was completely inspired watching guitarist Steve Howe play and knew I had to learn how to do it. Gradually, he began to teach himself various styles from the works of artists like Leo Kottke, Guy Van Duser and Doc Watson.
After moving to Virginia in 1977, Bennett continued to work on his guitar technique and in 1987 he won his first place title as National Flatpicking Champion.
A family trip back to Oregon in 1989 added yet another dimension to Stephen’s music. He discovered his great-grandfather’s 1909 Dyer harp guitar in his uncle’s basement. The harp guitar is a unique instrument that allows the artist to play a conventional 6-string guitar and reach up to pluck occasional bass notes on 6 lower pitched strings on the arched extension of the guitar’s body.
“It’s like having a sustain pedal from a piano combined with a minimalist but dependable bass player. The additional strings start singing immediately, triggered by the sound of the regular six strings. Then, when the thumb reaches down and grabs the occasional bass note, you really have an extra dimension added to the sound.”
Since 1988, Stephen has regularly recorded, releasing predominantly original music, along with his striking interpretations of some traditional tunes and other pieces. If you walked into a Bose showroom anytime in the last several years, you likely heard some of Stephen’s music featured. His latest effort, Beatles Acoustic Guitar Solos, is his 15th solo recording.
Stephen Bennett plays all over the US and around Europe, including many dates with the legendary Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel. In the last few years Stephen has begun playing on the other side of the world as well, touring in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. He has appeared on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio show. He is a regular performer at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society convention in Nashville and at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas.
“His warm stage demeanor and quick humor make him as unforgettable on stage as he is on disc,” says George Maida of Richmond, Virginia radio station WCVE. Julie Davis of the Swallow Hill Music Association in Denver says “What I like best/have always liked best about Stephen’s music is its depth of feeling whether it’s a playful fiddle tune or a deeply comforting melody full of diamonds...”
Stephen Bennett continues to live in Virginia on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay with his wife, Linda Schaffner, a marine biologist, their 15 year old son, Will, and their assorted cats and dogs.