The day hundreds of screaming girls followed his uncle home from the Dick Clark TV show where he’d performed, Steve Lutke knew he would become a musician too.
Decades later, LUMBERYARD is excited to feature Steve Lutke – now famous himself – at our Sept. 23 End of Summer Shindig.
On that day, Steve Lutke, a 5-string banjoist, and his band members will share their popular bluegrass sound for the first time with Catskill residents.
“I like the idea of this gig because there’s going to be an audience listening in a discerning way,” he recently told us.
“We’re drawn to Catskill because of its support of artists. We know we’ll be heard. Creative people really like our sound.”
The Lutkes, a family of musicians
Steve Lutke is one of 7 children in a family of musicians – everyone either plays a professional instrument or sings.
They had a good example in the talent of Steve Lutke’s mother, Ginger Dinning, of the Dinning Sisters.
The vocal group, which also included his aunts, sold one million records, including the hit single ‘Buttons & Bows’.
Nephew, Dean Dinning, is well-known as the bassist for Toad the Wet Sprocket.
The 400-strong fan base followed home Steve Lutke’s uncle, Mark Dinning, from his appearance on American Bandstand.
After his performance of the hit song ‘Teen Angel’, Dick Clark asked Dinning where he was off to next. He replied with an exact address rather than the city where he was next performing.
“I saw the crowds and I couldn’t believe people were that obsessed with music,” Steve Lutke said. “I was inspired to do it. I learned banjo.
“I became obsessed. I’d do 2 songs and then more, and more, and more. I’m interested in anything with banjo in it.”
Steve Lutke’s early career
Ceaseless practice and the direction of a strict teacher, Doug Malcolm, transformed Steve Lutke into a sought after performer.
“You have to practice every day to achieve any kind of accomplishment,” Steve Lutke says. “It amazes me what kids can accomplish when they’re not told something is impossible.”
For the past few years, Steve Lutke has performed often at private concerts with musicians he handpicks for each gig. He has also become a teacher himself.
‘I wouldn’t have believed it’
It’s a quieter lifestyle than that of Steve Lutke’s early career when he played at venues around the world as a part of the band the Killbillies and with Roland White of The Kentucky Colonels.
In the 1990s, Steve Lutke regularly appeared on ABC radio’s show Lionel.
He also became the replacement for Jerry Garcia in Old and in the Way band.
“I’ve had to say to myself: is this real? When I got Old and in the Way, I thought it was the greatest thing ever from God. If someone had said I would end up in that band, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Steve Lutke has fond memories of playing with musicians he long admired, including greats like Vassar Clemens, David Grisman and Peter Rowan.
A trip to Nashville to visit his aunt, a performer on the Hee Haw Show, resulted in Steve Lutke meeting Earl Scruggs: “That was a very fine moment.”
He says his passion has sustained him and motivated him more than money ever could.
“When I’ve found my playing slipping away – a cog here, a cog there – I get back to it.
“Creating, writing music, playing new ideas… I’m more excited about it 40 years later.”