Peter Rowan (born July 4, 1942) is an American bluegrass musician and composer. Rowan plays guitar and mandolin, yodels and sings.
Rowan was born in Boston, Massachusetts. From an early age, he had an interest in music and eventually learned to play the guitar. At the age of twelve, he heard Elvis Presley for the first time and later, in junior high school, he formed a rockabilly band, the Cupids. Influenced by the blues musician Eric Von Schmidt, Rowan traded his electric guitar for an acoustic and began to play the blues. He was also influenced by the folk sound of Joan Baez. In college, he discovered bluegrass after hearing The Country Gentlemen and The Stanley Brothers. He soon discovered the music of Bill Monroe, and with some help from banjo player Bill Keith, he was invited to Nashville to audition for Monroe. Accompanied by Keith, Rowan went to Nashville and was hired in March 1965 as guitarist and lead vocalist of Monroe's Bluegrass Boys. His recording debut as a "bluegrass boy" took place on October 14, 1966 and he recorded a total of fourteen songs with Monroe before his tenure ended in the spring of 1967.
Rowan teamed up with David Grisman in 1967 forming the band Earth Opera which frequently opened for The Doors. In 1969, Rowan joined Seatrain, along with Richard Greene. In 1973, Rowan, together with Greene, Grisman, Bill Keith, and Clarence White formed the bluegrass band Muleskinner. The band released one album. The same year, (1973), Rowan and Grisman formed Old and in the Way with Greene, Jerry Garcia, and John Kahn. Greene was later replaced by Vassar Clements. Old and in the Way disbanded in 1974 and Rowan joined a rock band led by his brothers. Three years later, in 1977, he left his brother's rock band. For a time, he was touring with Richard Greene in Japan and playing clubs with fiddler Tex Logan. He also formed the Green Grass Gringos.
Rowan has been part of Mother Bay State Entertainers and played mandolin on their record of 1963, The String Band Project. He has recorded and performed with his brothers, Lorin and Chris, at various times, starting in 1972. Since then, he has been involved in many group and solo projects, including Peter Rowan and the Free Mexican Airforce, and continues to tour. He composed songs performed by New Riders of the Purple Sage, including "Panama Red," "Midnight Moonlight" and "Lonesome L.A. Cowboy."
Rowan also features on In No Sense? Nonsense! an album by UK band Art of Noise. His is the voice (yodel) on "One Earth," the last song of the album. It was recorded 1987, and it was released by China Records and Chrysalis Records Ltd. that same year.
Rowan has collaborated with his daughter, Amanda Rowan, to write the song "On the Wings of Horses". The song was recorded on Rowan's 1990 album Dustbowl Children and later recorded by Emmylou Harris on the 1992 Disney album Country Music for Kids.
Rowan released "Quartet" (2007), the second collaboration with guitarist and bluegrass musician Tony Rice.
Rowan contributed to the 2011 bluegrass tribute album to the British Progressive Rock band The Moody Blues, entitled Moody Bluegrass TWO...Much Love, singing lead vocal on Mike Pinder's song "Dawn Is a Feeling".
Rowan received the Bluegrass Star Award, presented by the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation of Dallas, Texas, on October 20, 2012. The award is bestowed upon bluegrass artists who do an exemplary job of advancing traditional bluegrass music and bringing it to new audiences while preserving its character and heritage.
Peter Rowan is a Buddhist.
His most recent releases are "The Old School" (2013) on Compass Records and "Dharma Blues" (2015) on Omnivore Recordings.