Dan Gellert of Dayton has performed in public for years. He has released albums and networked with other old-time music performers, but he’s never been one to seek out the spotlight.
Of course, when you’re as talented as Gellert, a New York native proficient on guitar, banjo and fiddle, sometimes the spotlight comes seeking you. That’s exactly what happened to Gellert recently, when the transplanted Daytonian shared the stage with music legend Ry Cooder at The Trolley Stop in The Oregon District in a special performance for Time magazine political columnist Joe Klein.
The writer was in town on day 13 of his latest working road trip on the recommendation of Cooder, who Klein noted “has made a specialty of finding the great, lost American songs and some of the great American players.”
In addition to his work as a respected musician and producer, Cooder is a historian of underappreciated American music..
“When I contacted (Cooder) he said, ‘I’ve got this great fiddler player, Dan Gellert, in Dayton, Ohio,’ ” Klein said. “ ‘Maybe the best I ever heard. I want to come out with you and see him.’ ”
Klein captured the experience in a video report posted on Time.com, which featured Gellert and Cooder performing together for the first time on June 13.
“It’s meaningful, especially at my age,” Cooder told Klein. “I’m 65, and I don’t expect to see too many more master musicians. In Dan, we have that kind of a human being, which is rarest of all. And for a person like me who is a fan, basically, hoping to have yet another great experience, you know, hoping to play again something that’s great and exciting. That’s what you live for.”
Reason to believe
Gellert, who lived in Elkhart, Ind., with his wife, Debbie, before relocating to Dayton five years ago, is surprised at the sudden exposure, but he’s taking it all in stride.
“People say I’ve been discovered with the stuff that’s happened here in the last couple of weeks,” said Gellert, 63. “The comment from people I know and people that know me is, ‘Well, gee, we’ve known about him for 40 years.’
“Of course, I was totally blown away by some of the very complementary things Ry said about me,” Gellert said. “He certainly has a reputation for always seeking out the best. He’s played with an incredible number of people who are just world masters. For him to say, ‘You’re right there on the A team,’ is a mindblower.”
Cooder is once again nudging him into the spotlight. On Oct. 14, the multi-instrumentalist is joining Cooder for a special all-star tribute to Woody Guthrie at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.