For troubadour Bruce Piephoff, the music doesn’t stop.
It’s impossible to overestimate the contributions of Boomers to our musical heritage: Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, Motown, the British Invasion, to name just a few. For singer-songwriter and Greensboro native Bruce Piephoff, it was a wealth of inspiration that couldn’t be ignored.
“There was so much music back then,” says Piephoff. “The radio stations played the top ten, a mix of stuff. It was a great time to go into music, but the bar was set pretty high because of all the great artists.”
Piephoff grew up in Greensboro in the 1950s and 60s, a time he described as a “whole different world.”
“It’s funny the little things that stick out in your memory,” says the 65-year-old Piephoff. “It seemed like a smaller world with less gadgets. You spent more time outdoors. I can remember the trolleys and going to the Carolina Theatre on Saturdays to see movies.”
Piephoff was born in Greensboro in 1949, when his father returned from military service in World War II.
“When my father got out of the navy, we moved to Garden Homes on Shady Lawn Drive. It was near the radio station, WBIG. Later we lived near Guilford College, it was kind of near the edge of town then, and there were a lot of woods near the house,” says Piephoff. “It was great.”
The seeds of Piephoff’s interest in music sprouted early, thanks to his family’s influence.
“My father owned the Greensboro Health Club and loved music. He would play Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie at work, and introduced me to all that stuff, all the singer-songwriters of the early sixties,” says Piephoff. “My mother worked for an insurance company, but she also had a degree in art, and was an artist. There was a lot of music and art in our house.”
Piephoff went to UNC after he graduated from Grimsley High School, but dropped out after two years to pursue a career in music.
“Back then a lot of people went into music. You had a day job, but if you have a calling, when you’re that young, you have the nerve to do it,” he says. “I went to New York City, Nashville, California. It wasn’t like winning American Idol back then.”
Piephoff went back to college in his late 20s. After receiving an MFA from UNCG in 1984, he became a visiting artist at North Carolina community colleges, a position he held until 2001.
“I would play at local schools and organize concerts in the community. It was inspiring to write songs with third and fifth graders,” says Piephoff. “It was fabulous.”
Today, after releasing 22 albums, Piephoff is still a full-time musician. Living in Greensboro with Laura, his wife of 31 years, he’s still dedicated to his music and dealing with all the changes that have taken place in the music industry since he started.
“I’m fortunate. I’m still out playing,” he says. “I’m always trying to figure out where I fit in, constantly re-assessing. I enjoy working with younger musicians; I can pick up things from them, and they can pick up things from me. The age difference just washes away when you’re playing.”
Piephoff’s advice to young musicians? “Follow your passion and you will find a way.”
Piephoff reflects on what he describes as his “long odyssey.”
“There’s a quote by Miles Davis: ‘A legend is an old man with a cane known for what he used to do. I’m still doing it.’ That’s me.”