A homemade banjo made from a pie tin and fishing line and constructed for a sixth-grade class assignment launched Tony Furtado on a music career. He decided to make a banjo because he saw them when his grandfather watched “Hee Haw.”
Furtado is among 12 musicians who will perform during this weekend’s Moab Folk Festival Nov. 2-4 at concerts at the Moab Ball Field and Star Hall.
Furtado said he was fascinated as a child to learn that the banjo came from Africa.
“I begged my parents for one on my 12th birthday and that’s what I got,” he said.
The Portland, Ore., resident was studying art and music at Cal State Hayward when he entered the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival in Winfield, Kan., and won the grand national championship. He got his first record deal in 1992 and has been a professional musician ever since, with his 15th album, “Golden,” released last year.
These days Furtado concentrates on slide guitar during live appearances.
“They’re somewhat opposite ends of the spectrum as far as tone quality,” he said during a telephone interview. “Banjo has an intense attack, but slide guitar is more languid, more lyrical, more of a smooth sound. Being the good Libra I am, I need balance.”
He recalls hearing slide guitar as a child and said, “It flipped me out.” Ry Cooder, Leo Kotke and Taj Mahal are some of his musical influences.
Expect lots of high-energy, upbeat music when he plays at the festival, said festival executive director and producer Melissa Schmaedick.
Furtado was on hand for the first Moab Folk Festival in 2003 and is happy to be returning.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for months,” he said. “The area is just gorgeous. I’ve been traveling around the country for 25 years and every time I’m in Moab I always think, ‘I wish I had a gig here tonight.’”
Grade school also played a key role in Suzy Bogguss’ road to becoming a musician. She still remembers a music teacher “pounding on the piano and leading the class in rousing renditions of folks songs from all around the world.”
Bogguss also is looking forward to returning to Moab, although it will be her first appearance at the folk festival after first seeing the area three years ago while playing at Red Cliffs Lodge.
“I’ve had it in my sights for a long time,” she said of the Moab Folk Festival.
Bogguss will play acoustic guitar with accompaniment by Charlie Chadwick on upright bass and Pat Bergeson on acoustic and harmonica. “These guys are unbelievable,” she said.
Bogguss’ musical career began at age 5 in her church choir. She learned piano at her mother’s urging, then picked up her older sister’s guitar after her sibling went to college.
“I wanted to touch everything of hers while she wasn’t there to yell at me,” Boggus joked. “I played some chords and pretty much picked up stuff out of music books and from friends.”
She bought her own first guitar from money from babysitting jobs.
Bogguss won a Grammy in 2005 for Traditional Folk Album, the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award in 1992 and Album of the Year. Last year, she also became an author with the release of “American Folk Songbook” in CD and companion book form.
The music itself honors traditional American tunes such as “Shenandoah,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and “Red River Valley.” Bogguss said she will play several tunes from that album, although, she added, “We have an eclectic show.”
In the songbook, the Nashville, Tenn., resident wrote about touring with Garrison Keillor in 2008, something she lists as a highlight of her career.
“One of my favorite things about music is collaborating and sharing,” she said.
Bogguss is also looking forward to something else while she is in Moab – taking Chadwick on some sightseeing trips in the place he’s never visited.
“I want to watch Charlie’s jaw drop,” Bogguss said.
This year’s 10th anniversary festival will also feature a familiar face, and sound – Moab’s own Cosy Sheridan. She has become a mainstay on the folk circuit as a singer and songwriter since winning the songwriting contest at the Kerrville Folk Festival and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1992.
Sheridan’s material ranges from modern renditions of mythology, children’s stories fashioned into tales of modern adulthood, blues and gospel guitar, and love songs for adults.
When she released her 10th CD last year, The Chicago Examiner wrote, “Rarely do you find a CD where every song is memorable. It happens here.”
Besides being a 20-year performer and songwriter, Sheridan is co-founder of the Moab Folk Camp, which is being held this week.
Sheridan has been called “one of the era’s finest and most thoughtful singer/songwriters.”
She first appeared on the national folk scene in 1992 when she won the songwriting contests at The Kerrville Folk Festival and The Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Since then she has released 10 CDs, written a one-woman-show and her music has appeared in books and film. She has taught songwriting, guitar and performance workshops at music camps for the past 15 years, including the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop and the Swannanoa Gathering. She is the director of the Moab Folk Camp, which is held annually in the week leading up to the festival.