The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #61138   Message #981573
Posted By: Frankham
11-Jul-03 - 07:38 PM
Thread Name: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
Hi y'all.

What needs to be mentioned here is that Pete Seeger introduced the Scruggs style to a lot of city kids when they didn't know about Scruggs. Kids like Roger Sprung, Erik Darling, Dave Guard and others. Tom Paley introduced Hobart Smith to New Yorker folkies but Pete showed us city kids about Scruggs.

My friend Erik Darling and I concluded that no one is able to do the basic Pete Seeger strum as well as Pete himself which consists of a lead with the index finger up picking and a brush down with the middle and ring fingers. He makes it dance and come alive. Pete also introduced something that no five-string banjo player had done before him. That is, counter lines in the accompaniment of a song that represented bass lines in counterpoint to the melody. The old timers always picked the melody tune they were singing. His accompaniments were so innovative that they spawned a raft of similar banjo pickers such as Dave Guard,Bob Gibson,Bill Faer so and many others. He also developed the "whamming" style of banjo playing which was suitable for song leading.

Pete used to play with finger picks and he created an exciting banjo sound that audiences responded to with contagion. He could really rev a crowd up with that. He certainly did in the early days of the Henry Wallace campaign in which he and the Almanacs put so-called "protest" music on the map.

Scruggs turned the banjo into a virtuoso solo instrument but Pete was the first master of song accompaniment. Three influences would be the first banjo player he ever heard, Aunt Semantha Baumgartner at the Ashville Folk Festival, Bascom Lamarr Lunsford who was the entrepenuer of the Ashville Folk Festival and another banjo player and retired coal miner from Hamilton, Ohio by the name of Pete Steele who played banjo up-picking style like Pete. His sister Peggy picked up Pete's style as well and could play beautiful five-string accompaniments to songs. Pete and his half-sister brought a level of musicianship to the banjo which it didn't have before. This banjo sound spawned the sounds of all those folk groups from the Revival from Limelighters, Kingston Trio, Highwaymen etc. etc.

Scruggs may have influenced a lot of pickers from the South but Pete did it in the North. Actually Earl was one of the main known influences but Don Reno deserves an equal footing with Scruggs but because he was in the army he didn't get the same publicity.

Earl is still fabulous though and what a nice guy!

Frank Hamilton