Glenn Worf says Marsh Shapiro won't remember him, but Glenn Worf remembers Marsh Shapiro.

"I'm not sure I would have been a musician without him," Worf was saying Thursday.

Worf, 55, who grew up in Madison, has become quite a musician. Based in Nashville, he plays bass and bass guitar in recording sessions for the best acts in the business.

He played on Jimmy Buffett's last two studio CDs, and then late last month, Worf sat in with Buffett at Alpine Valley in East Troy.

It was his first time playing live with Buffett. "Jimmy knew I was from Madison," Worf said.

Tuesday, when Mark Knopfler's new CD, "Get Lucky," is released, you can hear Worf on bass. Next year he'll spend five months on the road with Knopfler.

But Worf's roots are here, and he says he owes it all - or a good part of it anyway - to the many nights he spent outside Marsh Shapiro's Nitty Gritty with "my wet nose pressed to that big plate glass window."

Worf was too young to get inside, but he thrilled to the national blues acts - Buddy Guy, Luther Allison - that Shapiro began booking in 1968 when he took over the bar at the corner of Frances and Johnson streets and renamed it the Nitty Gritty.

Worf stood outside at the window that allowed a view of the stage. "Occasionally Marsh would take pity on us and bring us Cokes," he said.

Worf grew up in the Orchard Ridge neighborhood and his parents, Gayle and Mary Worf, still live there. Glenn said that his dad tells the story of how one day when Glenn was a young teen, he summarily announced he was going to take up the guitar. Glenn doesn't recall any such epiphany but he'll take his dad's word for it. In any case, he got started, first with guitar, and then, at 15, with bass.

"On my end of town there weren't any bass players," Worf said. "And I liked the way the bass sounded."

He played in bands while attending Madison Memorial and that's where he met his future wife, Susan Meier. Susan is in the area this week visiting her sister, Pam, who owns the Panacea retail shop in Spring Green. Glenn and Susan now have four grown children.

It was the desire to raise a family that led Worf to settle in Nashville as a freelance studio musician. After UW-Eau Claire, where he studied music, Worf played in some bands. He fondly remembers one with Madison legend "Westside" Andy Linderman, but for the most part, Worf said, the music and venues were uninspired, the travel brutal.

He moved to Nashville in 1979, and after a few lean years, developed a reputation as the go-to guy when a bass player was needed. Over the years he's played with Emmylou Harris, Bob Seger, Alan Jackson, George Jones and many others. Worf met Knopfler in the early 1990s when Worf was playing with some buddies on a Monday night at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville and Knopfler walked in.

"I knew with Glenn straight away," Knopfler told the Nashville Tennessean in 2005, "'Now this here is bass playing.'" The former Dire Straits star contacted Worf a short time later and they've collaborated ever since.

Worf said he considers it "the supreme honor of my professional career" to play with Knopfler, whom he calls "the greatest musician I've ever met." Worf played on "Get Lucky" during two three-week recording sessions in London in December and February. The CD is out Sept. 15.

Worf met Buffett through Buffett collaborator Mac McAnally. He enjoyed the Alpine Valley gig with Buffett last month, and said that with his kids grown, more touring may be in his future.

There is more Wisconsin in his future, too. Worf still considers Madison home and he said he and Susan have a farmhouse in Door County and hope to spend six months a year there.

Perhaps Worf will check out the Nitty Gritty again, too. The only song he is likely to hear is "Happy Birthday," but, hey, at least he'll be inside.

Contact Doug Moe at 608-252-6446 or dmoe@madison.com.

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