The Virtual Strangers were formed in 1992 in Napa, California. Originally, the members were Mike Tatar Sr. on banjo, Mike Tatar Jr. on fiddle, Jon Cherry on mandolin, Jerry Harwood on guitar, and Yvonne Tatar on bass. Given their location the band played many gigs for wineries, private parties, street fairs and mini festivals. Due to corporate downsizing the Cherrys in '94, and the Tatars in '96, relocated to San Diego County. Since moving to the San Diego area the Virtual Strangers have reformed and performed at many local events. The band currently consists of Mike Sr., Jon, Yvonne, and Kit Birkett .
The "Strangers" sound is a mixture of traditional, Stanley, Monroe, and Flatt and Scruggs material with more progressive material from Blue Highway, Lonesome River Band and some Del McCoury. Usually a four piece, banjo, guitar, mandolin, and bass the are still able to produce nice three part harmony with all musicians singing on one song or another.
Mike Tatar sr. grew up in Detroit where he learned to play guitar in the 60's and with his brother started a rock band which he played in until he was drafted into the Army 1970. During his Army days he met Yvonne Higby of Newark California. Upon his discharge he moved to Newark where he and Yvonne were wed. He has been playing banjo since 1977 when he discovered it and bluegrass music. Beside the banjo, he plays guitar and sings lead and harmony vocals, and also plays the resophonic guitar.. He has also played with "In Cahoots", "Snowy River" and has accompanied many contest fiddlers in Northern California, He was also made an honorary "Piney Creek Weasel" by the former bandleader, the late Rick Abrams. Mike also hosted the "Bluegrass Central" on the internet at world music webcast for 4 1/2 years. Mike was the President of the San Diego Bluegrass Society (SDBS) for 4 years and has been the Membership Chairman for the past 7 years. He was also the Co-Chair of the Summergrass Bluegrass Festival in Vista, Calfornia for two years and is the present FestivalChair. Mike plays Redline Resophonic Guitars exclusively, http://redlineresophonics.com/.
Jon Cherry started playing bluegrass in the late 60's. Jon's guitar and mandolin work
added strength to the bands "Union Creek" and "Snowy River". Dissatisfied with many of the mandolins that he has played he decided to construct his own "Cherry" Mandolin. Jon plays mandolin, guitar, and sings harmony and lead vocals with Virtual Strangers.
Yvonne Tatar plays the stand up bass and sings harmony vocals. She played bass in
high school until graduation. After having children she returned to the bass playing with "In Cahoots" and the California Old Time Fiddlers Association accompanying many fiddlers in both performance and contests. Her father, grandfather, and great grandfather played old time fiddle.
The newest member, on guitar, is Kit Birkett. Kit has been playing bluegrass since the
mid 60's. His rhythm playing adds a rock steady beat to the band and gives it the drive a bluegrass band needs. Kit also shares lead vocals. His band credits include the "Squirrel Barkers" and most recently the San Diego band "Down the Road", winners of the 2001 Southwest Bluegrass Play-offs.
The band are members of the San Diego Bluegrass Society (SDBS), North County Bluegrass and Folk Club (NCBFC), California Bluegrass Association (CBA), Southwest Bluegrass Association (SWBA), and the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA).
Virtual Strangers have played at a number of wineries in both Napa, California, and Temecula, California. The have played at the Summergrass Bluegrass Festival, www.summergrass.net, in Vista, Ca. The Julian Bluegrass Festival, in Julian, Ca., The Brawley Cattle Call in Brawley, Ca. The Parkfield Bluegrass Festival, (Camp Rude), in Parkfield, Ca., the Sam Hinton Folk Festival in San Diego, Ca, Sea World, San Diego, Ca. Blythe Bluegrass Festival, Blythe, Ca. The band has also opened for Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, James King, Special Consensus and have shared the stage with Bluegrass Etc., California, the Dillards, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Lost Highway, and Fragment. The Strangers took 1st place at the 2007 Arizona Bluegrass Band contest it Wickenburg, Az.
Not known to many, the band has an alter ego named the Tatar Patch Bluegrass Buddies where they perform an educational set at schools, and children's music camps and programs.
When you're looking for bluegrass in San Diego the Virtual Strangers won't be to far away!