Monday, January 28, 2008

My washtub-bass-playin' world debut

J.R. Jenks plays Dr. Donald R. Kanner's washtub bass at the Lincoln Restaurant's banjo night

I had the best time with the Windy City Jammers at banjo night at the Lincoln Restaurant in Chicago. My humble banjo-playin' skills aren't even close to cutting it yet, but as it turns out I'm a natural at the washtub bass.

More on that washtub bass when I get the time. For now, enjoy some pictures.

Dr. Donald R. Kanner plays his washtub bass at the Lincoln Restaurant's banjo night Richard croons at the Lincoln Restaurant's banjo night J.R. Jenks plays Dr. Donald R. Kanner's washtub bass at the Lincoln Restaurant's banjo night J.R. Jenks plays Dr. Donald R. Kanner's washtub bass at the Lincoln Restaurant's banjo night J.R. Jenks plays Dr. Donald R. Kanner's washtub bass at the Lincoln Restaurant's banjo night

Update: This post just isn't complete without some praise for the wonderful group of musicians that perform every Monday night at the Lincoln. (They drift in between 6:30pm and 7:00pm [or later] then play 'til 10:00pm.) From pros to gifted amateurs to amateurs to, er, me -- everyone is welcome.

It's billed as "banjo night" but the Windy City Jammers are an entire band. I'm told that you never know what instruments are going to show up. This week it was:

  • Three plectrum banjos (four-string)
  • Tenor banjo (four-string)
  • Washtub bass
  • Electric sax
  • Washboard
  • Jaw harp
  • Two mandolins
  • Three violins
  • Accordion
  • Trombone
  • Trumpet
  • Five-string banjo (that's me!)
  • A percussion box with -- literally -- all the bells and whistles, plus a bike horn.

The crowd varied in age from the college kids at the corner table to the Swedish octegenarian ladies who have been the band's groupies for twenty years.

The music stands strain under the weight of the band's three-inch thick, xeroxed songbook. I probably captured about a fifth of the night's selections in my notes: Wolverine Blues, Do You Ever Think of Me?, Pennies from Heaven, Dr. Jazz, Bill Bailey, In a Shanty In Old Shanty Town, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Cecilia ("Does Your Mother Know You're Out"), Ja-Da, When You're Smiling, You Were Meant for Me, Under the Double Eagle, Sweet Georgia Brown, Somebody Loves Me, and When I'm Sixty-Four.

There was a lot of friendly banter. Nobody picked on me for my lack of experience, but I had to take a little grief for bringing a five-string banjo to a four-string band.

I'll definitely be going back. I just need to find an instrument to play until my banjo skills are worthy of the band.

Lincoln Restaurant, 4008 N. Lincoln Ave. (between Cuyler Ave & Damen Ave), Chicago. (773)248-1820. Banjo night with the Windy City Jammers is every Monday night. Dinner starts at 6:00pm; music from 7:00pm to 10:00pm. $5 minimum.

1 comment:

Daryl said...

That is so cool, James. Just the idea of a bunch of musicians being so welcoming. It warms the heart, it does.