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Joel Mabus

Biography  -- Discography -- Festivals -- Clubs -- Camps -- Radio

[For shorter versions of Joel's biography and other promotional copy, click here]

Joel Mabus Biography (updated in 2015)

    (de)

"Joel Mabus is one of contemporary folk music's most eclectic performers. A skilled guitar, fiddle, banjo, and mandolin player and melodic songwriter, Mabus has played everything from traditional folk tunes to bluegrass, blues, and original songs." Craig Harris at AllMusic.com

Where is he from? He was born and raised in a working-class family in a modest Southern Illinois town, about 105 miles southeast of Mark Twain, 190 miles northwest of Bill Monroe, 110 miles southwest of Burl Ives and just over the river and up the hill from Scott Joplin. When Joel's parents came of age in the 1930's, they took their old-time farm-grown music on the road with other family members as "hillbilly" entertainers, barnstorming the Midwest in medicine shows, small-town radio programs as well as their long-standing job performing road shows for the WLS Barn Dance.

This pedigree was not lost on Joel as a child in the 1960's. The family mandolin was his first calling, quickly adding banjo, guitar and fiddle. In the midst of Beatle-mania, Joel was drawn to the tunes of Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs.

Joel made his first record for a small Michigan label in 1977 with mandolin legend Frank Wakefield guesting. Three years later he signed with Flying Fish Records for a two-record deal. In 1986 he was one of the first indie folksingers to start his own label (Fossil Records), even before the advent of the home studio and compact disc, which makes the practice so common today.

Mabus has toured widely and makes his living at music, though he is flying under the radar of American pop culture. Whether you label him folk, Americana , or a singer-songwriter, Mabus remains a one-off, walking that lonesome valley, making and marking his way as a working artist outside the confines of the usual music business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joel Mabus Discography

 

A BIRD IN THIS WORLD  2015  (Fossil Records 2415)

PEPPER'S GHOST & OTHER BANJO VISITATIONS   2013 (Fossil Records 2313)

A PARLOR GUITAR CHRISTMAS 2012 (Fossil Records 2212)

AMERICAN ANONYMOUS 2011 (Fossil Records 2111)

JOEL MABUS LIVE AT KERRVILLE FOLK FESTIVAL 2011 (FestivaLink.net 5/26/11 )

NO WORRIES NOW... 2009 (Fossil Records 2009)

THE JOEL MABUS OMNIBUS 2008 (Fossil Records 1908)
        (a compilation drawing from Firelake, Fossil 390 & Short Stories, Fossil 592)

RETOLD 2008 (Fossil Records 1808)

THE BANJO MONOLOGUES 2007 (Fossil Records 1707)

PARLOR GUITAR 2005 (Fossil Records 1605)

GOLDEN WILLOW TREE 2004 (Fossil Records 1504)

THUMB THUMP  2002 (Fossil Records 1402)

SIX OF ONE 2001 (Fossil Records 1301)

HOW LIKE THE HOLLY 1999 (Fossil Records 1299)

TOP DRAWER STRING BAND 1999 (Fossil Records 1199)

RHYME SCHEMES 1997 (Fossil Records 1097)

WESTERN PASSAGE  1996 (Fossil Records 996) 

PROMISED LAND 1994 (Fossil Records 894)

FLATPICK & CLAWHAMMER     1993 (Fossil Records 793)
     
(a combination of two tape releases: CLAWHAMMER, Fossil 491C & FLATPICK Fossil 693C)

SHORT STORIES  1992 (Fossil Records 592)

FIRELAKE 1990  (Fossil Records 390)

THE NAKED TRUTH  1988 (Fossil Records 288) 

FORTUNES  1987 (Fossil Records 187) 

FAIRIES & FOOLS 1983 (Flying Fish LP 296)  (out of print)

SETTING THE WOODS ON FIRE  1980 (Flying Fish LP 235) (out of print)

GRASSROOTS 1978 (Grand River Records 003)  
           
Debut LP featuring Frank Wakefield  (out of print)

 

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JOEL HAS PLAYED SOME OF the top festivals:

THE ANN ARBOR FOLK FESTIVAL  - Ann Arbor, MI 

BIG MUDDY FOLK FESTIVAL - Boonville, MO

THE BOSTON FOLK FESTIVAL - Boston, MA

CHAMPLAIN VALLEY FOLK FESTIVAL Burlington, VT

CTMS SUMMER SOLSTICE FESTIVAL - Los Angeles, CA

GREAT LAKES FOLK FESTIVAL - East Lansing, MI

KENT STATE FOLK FESTIVAL - Kent, OH   

KERRVILLE FOLK FESTIVAL - Kerrville, TX 

LIVE OAK MUSIC FESTIVAL - Santa Barbara, CA 

MARIPOSA FOLK FESTIVAL - Barrie, Ontario 

THE MIDWINTER SINGING FESTIVAL - East Lansing, MI 

OLD SONGS FESTIVAL - Altamont, NY

THE PHILADELPHIA FOLK FESTIVAL - Schwenksville, PA 

SAN DIEGO FOLK HERITAGE  - San Diego, CA   

STRAWBERRY MUSIC FESTIVAL - Yosemite, CA 

SUMMERFEST - New Bedford, MA

SUMMERFOLK - Owen Sound, Ontario 

VANCOUVER FOLK FESTIVAL -Vancouver, BC    

THE WALNUT VALLEY FESTIVAL - Winfield, KS 

WHEATLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL - Remus, MI 

WINNIPEG FOLK FESTIVAL - Winnipeg, Manitoba 


& folk clubs / concert series:

 

THE ARK Ann Arbor, MI 

CANAL STREET Dayton, OH 

THE CHERRY TREE Philadelphia, PA

THE COFFEEHOUSE EXTEMPORE` Minneapolis, MN

CORNELL FOLK SONG SOCIETY  -- Ithaca, NY

DOWN HOME Johnson City, TN  

DOWN EAST FOLK ARTS - Beaufort, NC

THE FOCAL POINT   St. Louis, MO 

FOLKSTAGE - Chicago, IL 

FREIGHT AND SALVAGE Berkeley, CA 

FOX VALLEY FOLK Aurora, IL 

GODFREY DANIELS Bethlehem, PA 

THE IRON HORSE Northampton, MA

KENTUCKY ACOUSTIC GUITAR MASTERS - Louisville, KY 

OLD TOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK MUSIC - Chicago, IL

PASSIM (and CLUB PASSIM) Cambridge, MA 

PORTLAND FOLK SOCIETY - Portland, OR

PRINCETON FOLK MUSIC SOCIETY -- Princeton, NJ

THE SOUNDING BOARD - Hartford, CT

SEATTLE FOLK SOCIETY - Seattle, Wa

TEN POUND FIDDLE E. Lansing, MI

 

& music camps:

 

AUGUSTA HERITAGE - WV

PUGET SOUND GUITAR WORKSHOP - WA 

CALIFORNIA COAST MUSIC CAMP - CA

SUMMER ACOUSTIC MUSIC WEEK - NH

SUMMERSONGS at ASHOKAN - NY

MARYLAND BANJO ACADEMY - MD

MIDWEST BANJO CAMP - MI

STRINGALONG WEEKEND - WI

LAMB'S SONGWRITER RETREAT - MI

FOLK COLLEGE - PA

BUFFALO GAP DANCE WEEK - WV

MICHIGAN DANCE HERITAGE - MI

 

  
 & nationally syndicated radio:

 

A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION

THE FOLK SAMPLER (theme song)

RIVER CITY FOLK

OUR FRONT PORCH

RURAL ROUTE 3

DOCTOR DEMENTO

FLEAMARKET

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Photo Credits

2015 Joel Mabus
Last revised: January 28, 2015 .