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".

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Isn't the banjo wonderful? It has allowed Preston Sturges to sum up the 20 volumes of the Rougon-Macquart cycle in one page.

Perhaps we should compose a coda to Zarana and call it Zola-na......

Mike Moss said:

Isn't the banjo wonderful? It has allowed Preston Sturges to sum up the 20 volumes of the Rougon-Macquart cycle in one page.

How about J'accuse On Parade?

Jody Stecher said:

Perhaps we should compose a coda to Zarana and call it Zola-na......

The funniest piece of banjo writing in the history of humankind and it gets twelve views? TWELVE? 

Not quite the case Jody. Only members who sign in and view a page are counted. Many members and visitors do not bother to sign in unless they wish to post, but still view the pages while not logged in.

We have over 20,000 page views a month and I, too, find it very frustrating that people don't comment.

Remember when thereallynicelady posted that she wished that the "lurkers" would contribute?

You said at the time:  "One of the beauties of a shared interest website such as this is the freedom to not actively participate."

I guess you were correct, but it is still a bit frustrating after the effort has been put in to produce content for the site and nobody comments.

Thanks. All points duly noted.  I think it's a hilarious piece of writing, especially when read aloud in tandem with Home Sweet Home Variations. For those who may not have "connected the dots" Preston Sturges was the director of the movie "Sullivan's Travels" from the early 1940s. The plot centered around a director of comedy films who wanted to make a serious film called "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou".  I find it interesting but not surprising that there was classic banjo in the Sturges family. Also interesting that he was a Biden (like the American Vice President) on his mother's side.

It is a funny story and I am sure that the audience found it so, particularly the spouses of banjo players in the audience :-)

Next time you perform with Bill perhaps you could forget the trapeze and get him to try this as part of your act:

I'm a big fan of Sturges films- and probably good for all of us that he was steered clear of anything that would have kept him from pursing film as his art form. I've heard variations of his mother's lament many times over the years from spouses and significant others who are forced to cohabitate with banjo players. But then again, I've heard it just as many times if not more from those forced to listen to saxophone, drums, accordion, trumpet, etc. being beaten into submission by struggling players. The next worse experience from having to live under such circumstances is to live next door to that person- as aptly described by the vocal group The Bobs in their song "Through the Wall"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3hj22suhyM&list=PL48jT3yBFRlGM.... The best line- "your boyfriend is really a jerk, will he ever learn to play the saxophone? He plays the same song over and over and over and over..."  We've all been there. I've always done my best to make the banjo as much a musical instrument as any other, and I often come back to one of the the best compliments I've ever gotten from another musician- a bass player at a pick up gig years ago. "Yeah, Peter is really good. He's the last annoying banjo player I've ever played with". Gotta take those strokes where and when you can! 

I suspect a typo or an over-zealous computer spell correcting device.  Maybe "last annoying" was meant to be "least annoying"?  

Peter LaBau said:

I'm a big fan of Sturges films- and probably good for all of us that he was steered clear of anything that would have kept him from pursing film as his art form. I've heard variations of his mother's lament many times over the years from spouses and significant others who are forced to cohabitate with banjo players. But then again, I've heard it just as many times if not more from those forced to listen to saxophone, drums, accordion, trumpet, etc. being beaten into submission by struggling players. The next worse experience from having to live under such circumstances is to live next door to that person- as aptly described by the vocal group The Bobs in their song "Through the Wall"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3hj22suhyM&list=PL48jT3yBFRlGM.... The best line- "your boyfriend is really a jerk, will he ever learn to play the saxophone? He plays the same song over and over and over and over..."  We've all been there. I've always done my best to make the banjo as much a musical instrument as any other, and I often come back to one of the the best compliments I've ever gotten from another musician- a bass player at a pick up gig years ago. "Yeah, Peter is really good. He's the last annoying banjo player I've ever played with". Gotta take those strokes where and when you can! 

Hah! Great catch, Jody. I set myself up perfectly for that. "Least" was the intended, but then maybe "last" would be a dream come true for the bass player! - Peter

Jody Stecher said:

I suspect a typo or an over-zealous computer spell correcting device.  Maybe "last annoying" was meant to be "least annoying"?  

Peter LaBau said:

I'm a big fan of Sturges films- and probably good for all of us that he was steered clear of anything that would have kept him from pursing film as his art form. I've heard variations of his mother's lament many times over the years from spouses and significant others who are forced to cohabitate with banjo players. But then again, I've heard it just as many times if not more from those forced to listen to saxophone, drums, accordion, trumpet, etc. being beaten into submission by struggling players. The next worse experience from having to live under such circumstances is to live next door to that person- as aptly described by the vocal group The Bobs in their song "Through the Wall"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3hj22suhyM&list=PL48jT3yBFRlGM.... The best line- "your boyfriend is really a jerk, will he ever learn to play the saxophone? He plays the same song over and over and over and over..."  We've all been there. I've always done my best to make the banjo as much a musical instrument as any other, and I often come back to one of the the best compliments I've ever gotten from another musician- a bass player at a pick up gig years ago. "Yeah, Peter is really good. He's the last annoying banjo player I've ever played with". Gotta take those strokes where and when you can! 

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."

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."

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