Mudcat Café message #985619 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #61138   Message #985619
Posted By: Art Thieme
17-Jul-03 - 09:38 PM
Thread Name: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
And I am sorry for shooting/clicking from the lip once again here in this good forum. "HOT AIR" would've been more fitting than the 4 letter word I chose..

Right at this moment I'm listening to Pete and the Almanacs singing the Wobbly song, "HOLD THE FORT". His supreme banjo picking on the intro is, if nothing else, prime Scruggs picking. Just great.

I believe the first time I ever heard Earl Scruggs was on the CBS(?) TV show called FOLKSOUND U.S.A. I think it was one of the first times folk music was on television. The host for the show was CISCO HOUSTON. Guests included John Jacob Niles, Frank Warner, Scruggs and Flatt doing "Earl's Breakdown" and "Salty Dog", Joan Baez, Casey Anderson and John Lee Hooker doing his "Tupelo, Mississippi Flood" song. It was 1959 I think. I taped it by holding a hand-held mike up close to the speaker of the TV on a 50 or 60 pound Webcor 2-track tape machine. For me the high points of the show were Cisco doing Woody's "Hard Traveling" and Flatt and Scruggs. That driving banjo really just demanded your attention. It is, I think, the refinement of all the great old-timey sounds that led up to it. And that style does seem to keep on drawing more and more people in to learn it and innovate on their own ala Bill Keith and Bela Fleck.

What was MISSING was the WORDS---literary aspect---the polemic present in the Child ballads and the songs of conflict and protest and, also, cowboy, lumberjack, murder ballads etc. etc. For that kind of mind stimulating narrative it was necessary to tweak another part of the brain than the one that made us tap our feet to the fiddles. PETE SEEGER did that with the ideas he presented to us kids back then. There was a gap between Earl and Pete that was at least as wide as the one between the Beat literature of Kerouac and Ginsberg --- and the sky HIGH acid smoke dreams of the Hippy movement with all it's emoting and the Jefferson Airplane "White Rabbit" type of musical and artistic output.

I hope this makes sense. I know what I mean, but I'm not sure I've said that. --------- Think of the difference these days between the songsters at festivals who want to sing at and to one another in a quiet setting and the fiddlers who play tune after tune after tune with no words anywhere in sight.

Maybe the difference between what Martin Gibson is trying to say and what we who were there then know and want to let the new generation in on. That is nothing less than the truth of the thing as we came to know it. We get pissed off and a bit strident when people can't see what seems so obvious to us.

But it is the way of the world for the new kids to find new places to pierce----sometimes they, wittingly or unwittingly, pierce our hearts. That leads me to feel those others are full of hot air. But it's only one guy's opinion.

Art Thieme