Larry Unger was raised in Detroit, and he moved to the Boston area as a young adult. He has been a full-time musician since 1984, and he has presented a diverse range of music at contra dances, Scottish and English country dances, waltz events, dance weekends, dance and music camps, festivals, coffee houses and concerts all across the United States. He has also toured in Canada, England, Scotland, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Denmark and Sweden, and has taught music in Afghanistan and performed in India.
Larry has played guitar, banjo, and bass with many top bands for contra dances including Big Table, Notorious, Reckless Abandon, The Reckless Ramblers, Tempest and Uncle Gizmo. He has accompanied such fiddlers as Elke Baker, Ralph Blizard, Alasdair Fraser, Matt Glaser, Judy Hyman, Audrey Knuth, Rodney Miller, Lissa Schneckenburger, and Eden MacAdam-Somer, to name a few. The bands Larry has been a part of vary in style from old-time to New England to Celtic and international.
In addition to his work with other musicians, Larry gives solo concerts that include a wide variety of music: finger-style blues and slide guitar, rags, old-time banjo tunes, original waltzes and fiddle tunes. He likes to play a number of unusual instruments such as banjo guitar, fretless banjo, jaw harp and piano harp.
Larry has a broad understanding of traditional music, and he enjoys telling the stories about the origins of his music and the people he learned from. Larry spent many hours playing blues with Etta Baker, John Jackson, Turner Foddrell, Ted Bogan, and other masters of the style. His trips south also included numerous sessions at old-time fiddle conventions.
Larry has composed more than 5000 tunes, many of which have been recorded by one of his bands or by other groups. His tunes are widely played at contra dances everywhere. He has published three books of original tunes and has recorded two entire CDs of original waltzes (with Ginny Snowe).
Larry's compositions and recordings have been featured in four different Ken Burns television documentaries. His tune "Door County #2" was played on the Grand Ole Opry by Mike Snider. "That Schoenberg Rag" was performed by the San Luis Obispo Symphony Orchestra.
Larry teaches guitar and old-time banjo at the Music Emporium in Lexington, Massachusetts. (He has also been known to give bass or ukulele lessons.) He also presents workshops at camps and weekend festivals on a variety of topics from guitar and banjo to dance-band and tune-writing.
More information about Larry can be found in the article "Larry Unger: Tune Maker" by Sam Bartlett in Sing Out! Volume 55 #2, Winter 2013.
See also "Seven Questions for Larry Unger" posted by Lynn Nichols on the CDSS [Country Dance and Song Society] Blog, December 20, 2010.