Everett street fiddler Fred Weisz taught, played with top names in bluegrass

EVERETT — Maybe you threw some change into his violin case when he performed at noontime outside the Sno-Isle Food Co-op. Or perhaps you heard his fiddle tunes on summer days outside the Snohomish County Courthouse.

Keep the memories. Fred Weisz — beloved in national bluegrass music circles — is gone.

Weisz, 71, died Wednesday in Everett, where he had lived for decades, optimistically keeping his physical and mental illnesses in check. Services were Sunday at Temple Beth Or in Everett.

In a note posted Friday on www.mandolincafe.com, the famous mandolinist David Grisman paid tribute to Weisz and called him his oldest friend.

“We met in seventh grade in Passaic, New Jersey, and had a lot in common, losing our fathers too young and sharing a deep love of music, lasting all our lives.

“Fred taught me my first guitar chord — D, as well as many other things about the aesthetics of music and musicianship, spoken and unspoken. He was a talented musician who cared about every note that he (and everyone else) played. We spent countless hours after school learning to pick and sing, listening to folk and bluegrass music which we loved so passionately.”

With Grisman and many other well-known musicians, Weisz played in bands such as the New York Ramblers and the Even Dozen Jug Band in venues such as Carnegie Hall and on the “Hootenanny” TV show in the 1960s. Weisz played with Grisman at the Newport Folk Festival in 1966.

Weisz went on to join Charlie Gearheart’s Goose Creek Symphony as a fiddle, bass and banjo player. In 1970, he and the symphony appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” to back up country singer Bobbie Gentry.

Musician Barry Brower, formerly of Everett, first met Weisz in the mid-1970s when he was performing in Arcata, California.

Eventually, the two of them made their ways north to Snohomish and Skagit counties and in 1989 they formed a band they called “The Grand Ol’ Ospreys.”

“We were the ‘birds of play,” said Brower, who now lives in Anacortes.

About that time Weisz began to struggle daily with a mental illness akin to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. The medication he was prescribed initially took a heavy toll on his violin skills and his speed, causing tremors that disabled both hands.

In a 2007 Herald story, Weisz said the bad reaction to the medication robbed him of years of playing and his sense of rhythm.

Some days were worse than others and he never regained the lightning speed with which he played. But the more Weisz performed, the better his playing got.

After moving to Everett, Weisz’s doctor prescribed a different medication that allowed him to get out his fiddle once again. Weisz made a lot of new friends in Everett and held onto his old hippie pals from his days in Skagit Valley.

In his online post on Friday, Grisman said that his friend Fred “had a tough life with many trials and tribulations, but through it all he always looked at the bright side and spread much joy to all who knew him.

“I don’t think I ever heard him complain about anything except being out of tune! His friendship was, and continues to be, a true inspiration to me and I will carry his spirit with me for the rest of my days.”

Brower said his friends appreciated Weisz’s lovable optimism.

“He was gentle, unassuming, modest, kind, sweet, gracious and humble,” Brower said. “And this came out ad infinitum at the funeral as people talked about Fred.”

Then some of Weisz’s friends got out their instruments and played a few bluegrass tunes.

“And wouldn’t have Fred loved to have been a part of that jam?” Brower said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @galefiege.

Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect age for Weisz.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Fatal 2-car crash closes Highway 99 in Lynnwood

Police closed off Highway 99 between 188th Street SW and 196th Street SW while they investigated.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Most Read