Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Banjo versus TV: Week 16

Banjo 115 hrs, TV 93 hours
A weekly check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s resolution to spend more time in 2008 on his banjo than on TV.

This week, as portrayed by the graphics from Hal Leonard Banjo Method Book 1:

Also in the last week:

  • Illinois suffers a 5.2 earthquake along the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone the day after I play Wabash Cannonball on my banjo. Coincidence?
  • Came across a quote from Earl in a 2006 Rocky Mountain News article:
    Gary Scruggs reminded his dad that when he started out, most banjo players were country comedians such as Stringbean and Uncle Dave Macon.

    "Uncle Dave told me I played good in a band but I wasn't a damn bit funny," Scruggs said.
  • Saw Slightly Bent at the No Exit Cafe in Chicago. The banjo player, Bill James, was friendly and informative when he found out I was a banjo newbie. Thanks for the tips, Bill!

    Here's a video from a Slightly Bent performance in January:
  • I watched a Netflix copy of Earl Scruggs: The Bluegrass Legend: Family & Friends. This PBS documentary was shot in 1969. It captures an interesting moment in banjo history – just after the 1969 breakup of Flatt and Scruggs. Highlights:
    • Foggy Mountain Breakdown with Earl on the Banjo, Randy Scruggs on guitar and Gil Trythal on the Moog synthesizer
    • Earl's joins a Vietnam War Moratorium protest in DC. "I'm disgusted and sorry about the boys we've lost over there."
    • An interview with Earl's best friend. "Prior to Earl Scruggs, the banjo was a rhythm instrument; it was an instrument of the clowns."
    • A classmate of Randy Scruggs, goofing on the J. Edgar Hoover's book, Masters of Deceit, which is being handed out to all of the seniors at their southern high school.
    • Earl and Bill Monroe warm up backstage at the Grand Ole Opry.
    • Joan Baez describes how she confessed her crush on the shy Earl to a stranger in a ladies' room, who was (of course) Earl's wife Louise.
    • In the middle of singing It Ain't Me Babe and with baby Gabriel on her knee, Joan Baez slips into a hilariously dead-on impersonation of former lover Bob Dylan.
    • Many other examples of Joan Baez being charming and funny during a rough time in her life. From Gabriel's age I'm guessing her scenes were shot in 1970 during husband David Harris' 15-month incarceration for refusing to serve in Vietnam. Earl asks Joan to sing If I Were a Carpenter with him and Randy, "for David". Really, you should pick up this DVD just for the Joan Baez scenes.
    • Lots of other performers, including The Byrds and Bob Dylan.
    Highly recommended. And now I must get:

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