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Dave Giegerich, Baltimore-Washington musician known for rootsy Hawaiian music, dies at 57

By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 22, 2011; 6:26 PM

Dave Giegerich, a musician known in the Baltimore-Washington area for his hybrid of Hawaiian tunes, western swing and rockabilly, died Dec. 29 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore of complications from aplastic anemia, a blood disorder. He was 57.

Mr. Giegerich was known in the local roots music community as a master of the steel guitar and the dobro, an acoustic guitar with a metal resonator to amplify its sound.

As a sideman, he accompanied a number of singer-songwriters and bluegrass groups, including Bill Harrell and the Virginians. He also contributed to dozens of recordings by groups such as Wayne Taylor and Appaloosa as well as Smooth Kentucky.

Mr. Giegerich also recorded a solo album, "Slide-Tracked," and performed at the White House, the Kennedy Center and the Birchmere in Alexandria.

In 1988, he was inspired to co-found his own group, the Hula Monsters, while playing a gig on a dinner-cruise ship in Baltimore. He had been hired by the houseboat's regular band to evoke Hawaii between sets, and a rootsy, island-tinged sound was born.

"We didn't really have a background in playing with a Hawaiian feel," Mr. Giegerich once said. "We did have Hawaiian shirts, though!"

The band evolved into a quartet that played at local venues and had a regular date every other Tuesday at the Cat's Eye Pub in Baltimore. The group performed some original Giegerich compositions but mostly covered crowd-pleasing standards, such as the jazz-blues song "St. James Infirmary" and the Hawaiian-themed "Hula Girl."

The Monsters supplemented their income by selling Hawaiian shirts they'd collected from thrift stores and garage sales.

"The other night, I made twice as much from selling shirts as I did for playing," Mr. Giegerich told the Baltimore Sun in 1997.

The Hula Monsters were well regarded if not generously paid.

In 1996, Eric Brace, a musician and former writer for The Washington Post, praised the Monsters as "one of the best bands in the world" in an article about Baltimore night life.

David Giegerich was born in Chicago on March 15, 1953, and grew up in South Haven, Mich. He started playing guitar as a young man and, after studying for several years at Michigan State University, dropped out of school to pursue music full time.

For the past dozen years, he had worked as an audiovisual specialist at the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore. In 1988, he graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Survivors include his wife of 25 years, Pamela McLeod of Ellicott City; two sons, Axel Giegerich of Ellicott City and Carter Giegerich, who is studying bluegrass at East Tennessee State University; his father, Raymond Giegerich of South Haven; two brothers; and a sister.

Mr. Giegerich won more than 10 "Wammies," awards given annually by the Washington Area Music Association. He had recently formed a bluegrass group, East of Monroe, and was in the midst of recording an album when he became ill.

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