Shirley Mauch Spanhanks grew up on a farm near Mooreton, ND listening to her mom play piano, harmonica and accordion. She took accordion lessons herself for about four years. While working in Yellowstone National Park in the summer of '69, she was given a guitar and dabbled in folk songs. In 1976, Shirley heard Doc Watson and the "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" album and loved the guitar picking. When she found Adam Granger teaching flatpicking in '78, she became a life-long student of his. Shirley performed with Calamity Jane and the Eclectic Company (doing "Artist-in Residence" programs in the schools) for about seven years. She played accordion with the Heart of the Beast's production "On the Day You Were Born", which took her to places like Toronto, Seattle and Salt Lake City.
In 1994, Shirley attended South Plains College in Levelland, Texas to study bluegrass for 2 1/2 years. She studied guitar with Joe Carr and Alan Munde. During the summer of '95, Shirley played guitar and accordion with the 80-member musical "Texas" put on in Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, TX. When she returned to Minneapolis, she was asked to join the successful all-female bluegrass group the "Outskirts". Shirley was awarded a Folk Art Apprenticeship Grant to study flatpicking guitar with Master Adam Granger in 1997. Shirley now enjoys the challenge of playing with her husband, Jerry Spanhanks in the bluegrass group Blue Wolf. Shirley was interviewed in Flatpicking Guitar Magazine in 2006.