This is a tune written for the great banjo player Fred Van Eps by his accompanist Felix Arndt. Apparently, FVE didn't play it much when the duo was together ...

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Comment by Steve Harrison on July 20, 2020 at 9:52

That was one impressive performance of a great tune. I didn't know about its connection with FVE, it just shows there's still lots to learn about classic banjo, even at the age of 72.....All the best..Steve.

Comment by thereallyniceman on July 20, 2020 at 10:08

Well really !!!! What a superb performance from everyone and Covid safe too ;-)

This is live playing at its very best. Thank you so much.

For me, here in the UK, social distancing has never been a problem. As soon as I play my banjo everyone scarpers fast.


Comment by TONY BRYAN on July 20, 2020 at 12:22
Awesome! (Literally.)

The great thing about these recordings by Jerron is that you can actually see him play it! Listening to a recording is not the same as watching someone with utter self-confidence rattle faultlessly through one of the more difficult pieces of the banjoist's repertoire. Difficult, but one of the top memorable tunes.

I did miss watching Jerron's face changes in reaction to the music, though. Somehow, they always seem to add a joyful and personal dimension to the music.

Comment by carrie horgan on July 20, 2020 at 18:42

Great stuff.  Hope you make a recording of some classic banjo - help spread the word!

Comment by marc dalmasso on July 21, 2020 at 7:10

Superbe . congrats

Comment by F. Chris Ware on July 23, 2020 at 18:51

Absolutely fantastic in every way! Wow, in a word, and holy cow, in two. Many thanks for recording this complicated tune, and for posting it!

Comment by Richard William Ineson on July 24, 2020 at 6:05

Another very assured performance of a tricky banjo tune, just lovely see and hear.

Comment by Shawn McSweeny on July 25, 2020 at 1:35

Sensational !!  Every measure was a pleasure ! 

Comment by Brett Lowe on July 30, 2020 at 23:57

What a great performance.  It does suit banjo well.  Although I think you'll find Nola was written for Arndt's wife Nola (nee Locke) as an engagement present, not specifically for Fred van Eps. 

It was a huge hit in about 1915 and 1916 as a piano solo, orchestral piece and feature solo for many of the popular instruments of the era (including banjo, xylophone and saxophone).  It has been revived many times since.  It was particular popular in 1922 and 1923 after J. S. Zamecnik re-orchestrated it for dance bands (he had already written at least 2 other arrangements in the teens for small / salon orchestra). It was even arranged for concert band in 1924 by Floyd J. St. Clair.  It became the theme tune for pianist and band leader Vincent Lopez following the success of his recording in 1922 and remained so until at least the 1940s.  

Musically it is a significant piece of music as it was the first major hit of the Novelty style of music (particularly piano solos) and sparked a whole new genre (often mistakenly considered a type of ragtime although quite distinctly different) which remained popular until the 1950s.

Felix Arndt was a highly accomplished solo pianist (not only an accompanist - although he was a great accompanist also).  He made numerous recordings as a pianist and over 3000 solo pianola rolls (including several recordinga and rolls of Nola).   

I've been playing Nola for almost 30 years on piano (original), tenor banjo, xylophone, saxophone and used to feature it with my salon orchestra (which has since disbanded).  Although I have yet to give it a go on Classic banjo - I hope I can one day play it on CB as well as you do here.

Comment by Joel Hooks on July 31, 2020 at 13:44

Hi Brett, the story came from Van Eps and Paul Cadwell.  Cadwell even claimed to confirm the story as he was playing it at a party that Nola attended and they discussed it.  Walter Kaye Bauer told Galen Wilkes that it was originally titled "Banjo Juba".  The title was not liked so they changed it to Nola.

Then there is another story (also told to Galen) from Peter Van Spall that follows the narrative of it being composed for Nola as an engagement present.

All are plausible and none can be confirmed, but one is certainly more marketable with a warm fuzzy feeling while the other is business as usual for professional musicians.  And it was that story that no doubt contributed to the success of the piece.  I doubt it would be as successful if it was called "Banjo Juba".

All sources are otherwise reliable.

I have learned to become skeptical of warm and fuzzy feel good stories that surround commercial popular culture.  When your lively hood relies on some marketing, you make a product that will sell.

Music was a product, If it did not sell, they did not eat.

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