A Site Dedicated to all enthusiasts of Classic Style Banjo
From "Preston Sturges on Preston Sturges" . When Bill Evans and I had our Secret Life Of Banjos show I would read this aloud while he played the variations of Home Sweet Home. When I got to the part about swinging from his knees I would look over at Bill who would cease playing for a mili-second and with a perfect panic-struck look on his face would shake his head "no!"
Mother took a rotten little apartment for us on Twelfth Street, the only banal apartment I have ever known her to take, and one afternoon I arrived home with a big smile on my face and a peculiarly shaped package under my arm.
"What's that?" asked my mother looking at the package apprehensively.
Then in a pale gray voice, she added, "That wouldn't happen to be a banjo by some remote chance, would it?"
"How did you guess?" I cried enthusiastically. "Just wait till you see it!
The pawnbroker practically gave it to me for only three dollars, including the case, and it has real mother-of-pearl between the frets and around the scroll!"
"It's a curse," said my mother, putting her hand to her forehead, "a taint."
"A what?" I asked, thinking I had misunderstood her.
"A pollution of the blood," said my mother, "like leprosy. It has to be from the blood, there is no other possible explanation. With the utmost care and during your entire life, I have refrained from giving you even a hint about this vice of your father's. I never let your Grandmother Biden or anyone else mention it to you for fear that it might awaken a dormant strain and encourage you to emulate him. But it has all been in vain. You may as well know now. Your father was considered, in banjo circles, to be one of the very best banjo players in America. Such was his talent that manufacturers would actually send him new models for nothing, just to get his opinion and endorsement of them.
"Your father always enjoyed playing a piece on the banjo for me, always a
long one, and at the beginning of our marriage, I could stand it. Then as
time passed, he was no longer satisfied with just plunking out a piece once,
but immediately after finishing it, he would plunk it again in several
different keys. Then i would get it with variations and countermelodies
woven in...but still the same piece. He would wind up by plunking it behind his back in a sort of contortionist's grip. One night he actually gave the finale while swinging by his knees from a trapeze he had strung up between the sliding doors. If any more loathsome instrument than the five-string banjo has ever been invented during the entire history of music, I have yet to hear of it. I thought I had suffered from that miserable thing for the last time in my life, but you can't get away from heredity! So tune up your banjo, then go down to the corner and get me some poison".
And it turns out that unlike most of her other predictions, she was wrong on this one. I didn't end up in the gutter,I got a job working in a brewery and never looked back; also, despite everything she said about me playing the banjo and how it was the road to the gutter and worse, she actually got me my first job playing my banjo in a jazz band.
Jody Stecher said:
When I was about the same age (14 or so) my dentist's wife was a high school music teacher. She was appalled that I played banjo, which I had done since age 12. She asked me, her voice full of condemnation, why I didn't learn to play a "real musical instrument". I told her that the banjo was as real as any other instrument. She was shocked and even angry. To her bizarre way of thinking only instruments used in an orchestra were legitimate. They made "good music". Other instruments and other kinds of music were not simply inferior. She thought they had no right to exist. In retrospect my reply in my imagination is "After I hit you on the head with my banjo you can give your opinion as to whether it is real or not. "
Richard William Ineson said:
When I took up playing the banjo at the age of 14 ( my mother wanted me to learn to play the violin) my mother said, "You will end up in the gutter playing that thing, but at least you will have something to keep you amused when you get there."