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Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity

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JedMarum 15 Jul 03 - 11:02 AM
Jeri 15 Jul 03 - 12:02 PM
Uncle_DaveO 15 Jul 03 - 12:12 PM
Amos 15 Jul 03 - 12:52 PM
kendall 15 Jul 03 - 01:17 PM
clueless don 15 Jul 03 - 01:42 PM
Candyman(inactive) 15 Jul 03 - 01:50 PM
GUEST 15 Jul 03 - 02:05 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 15 Jul 03 - 02:30 PM
Peter T. 15 Jul 03 - 02:42 PM
Amos 15 Jul 03 - 02:43 PM
Deckman 15 Jul 03 - 03:00 PM
greg stephens 15 Jul 03 - 03:10 PM
chip a 15 Jul 03 - 03:28 PM
Mark Clark 15 Jul 03 - 06:54 PM
Rick Fielding 15 Jul 03 - 07:12 PM
Frankham 15 Jul 03 - 07:36 PM
Peter T. 15 Jul 03 - 07:58 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 15 Jul 03 - 09:22 PM
Amos 16 Jul 03 - 12:17 AM
JedMarum 16 Jul 03 - 10:32 AM
Rick Fielding 16 Jul 03 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,Pete Peterson 16 Jul 03 - 06:55 PM
Art Thieme 17 Jul 03 - 01:40 AM
chip a 17 Jul 03 - 10:39 AM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 17 Jul 03 - 11:52 AM
Art Thieme 17 Jul 03 - 12:22 PM
Art Thieme 17 Jul 03 - 12:26 PM
Amos 17 Jul 03 - 12:46 PM
Deckman 17 Jul 03 - 01:16 PM
GUEST,Pete Peterson 17 Jul 03 - 01:24 PM
Mark Clark 17 Jul 03 - 01:31 PM
chip a 17 Jul 03 - 01:51 PM
Deckman 17 Jul 03 - 01:56 PM
EBarnacle1 17 Jul 03 - 03:41 PM
Frankham 17 Jul 03 - 04:11 PM
GUEST,Martin gibson 17 Jul 03 - 05:18 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 17 Jul 03 - 05:32 PM
Jeri 17 Jul 03 - 06:03 PM
Rick Fielding 17 Jul 03 - 08:05 PM
MAG 17 Jul 03 - 09:24 PM
Art Thieme 17 Jul 03 - 09:38 PM
Deckman 17 Jul 03 - 09:53 PM
Frankham 17 Jul 03 - 10:00 PM
Amos 17 Jul 03 - 10:17 PM
ex-pat 17 Jul 03 - 11:24 PM
Deckman 18 Jul 03 - 12:11 AM
Art Thieme 18 Jul 03 - 12:19 AM
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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: JedMarum
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 11:02 AM

right on, Chip!


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Jeri
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 12:02 PM

Chip, I find I have a lot to learn about Pete, so this thread is obviously doing what it's supposed to. Pete's virtuosity is also obviously overlooked if people only think of 'bum-titty' when they think of him. (Not ragging on anyone because I've been in the 'Pete=bum-titty' crowd myself.)

I'd heard other players and groups before Pete, but their music didn't grab my attention like his did. I didn't have a clue about playing then, and had no real idea how to appreciate skill. What I COULD appreciate was that he could do quite a few things well. I appreciated that he didn't care so much for 'flash' - he wanted to make the music sound good and he wanted other folks to love it. Still does. Anyway, it's probably because of the fact he didn't seem to care about being a virtuoso that people haven't seen him as one. It's something you have to listen for. You have to pay attention.

I can see a CD or two in my future...


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 12:12 PM

Chip said:
I do think Pete is a virtuoso in the technical sense but where he shines is in the "musical" sense.

Hear, hear! In listening to his various LPs those many long years ago, I was always forcibly struck by the man's wonderful taste and judgment in his music.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Amos
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 12:52 PM

Martin,

You are mistaken on the subject of quality. While the Kingston Trio had a fine polish and a good dollop of showmanlike veneer, and even technical proficiency, they missed on the more important elements that make live folk music worth listening to. Listneing to them perform "Tom Dooley" and listening to the perform "Scotch and Soda" was six of one and half-a-dozen of the other -- smooth, slick, neat, harmonious, and vacuous. That's just the way the KT did things.

Listen to Frank Warner play Tom Dooley. The difference is so resonant, so palpable, and so penetrating as to be inescapable to any but the tinnest of ears.

Regards,

A


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: kendall
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 01:17 PM

I don't remember if that was the U of M in Orono performance, could be
though.
As far as Gordon's "career" goes, he has worked AGAINST being famous. He just wants to share what he has without being too noticeable. Fame and fortune doesn't interest him.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: clueless don
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 01:42 PM

Not adding much to the thread, but I wanted to throw in a memory. I saw Pete (as if I know him well enough to call him by his first name!) play at the University of Maryland back in the late sixties. He did a song that I assume is called "Get Back" (has the chorus "If you're white, it's all right, and if you're brown, stick around, but if you're black, oh brother - get back! get back! get back!") He introduced the song by claiming that he was not a "good blues picker", but he then proceeded to play some banjo that sounded mighty good to me! It also made me wonder who WERE the "good blues pickers" on the banjo.

Did he ever record that song?


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Candyman(inactive)
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 01:50 PM

Clueless Don,

It's a Big Bill Broonzy song called "Black, Brown and White."

Pete Seeger's recording of it is included on "Songs For Political Action," a 6-CD boxed set on Bear Family Records.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 02:05 PM

Here's a recent picture of Pete:

http://www.woodyguthrie.com/Okemah_London_House.htm


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 02:30 PM

Amos

You sell the Kingston Trio short and your arguement reads like something out of a 1961 issue of Sing Out. I'd say, get over it, already. You never do mention what they are missing. What's wrong with showmanship? What's wrong with entertainment? What's wrong with technical proficiency or good harmonies? I'd say it moves everything up a notch.

I'll take all of that and "smooth, slick, neat, harmonious, and vacuous" over so called authentic folksingers who bray and bleat in the name of authentic and die in poverty and obscurity. Personally, I'd say Frank Warner should have got a new agent.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Peter T.
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 02:42 PM

If any of you are interested in the tired argument over the Kingston Trio, there is a wonderful interview on the Secret Museum of the Air (find it on google) with John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers, towards the end of which he takes a Charlie Poole song and plays subsequent versions of it, all the way up to a Kingston Trio travesty. He deadpans after: that is everything we were fighting against.

yours,

Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Amos
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 02:43 PM

Okay, Martin. Guess it depends on what you are looking for in your entertainment. Puff the Magic Dragon as the ultimate folk song never rocked my boat, and I personally prefer folk music that at least captures some of the effort and emotion of those who lived the tale. In my view, that's what it is for -- the remembrance of human life at its most memorable. Purèeing it for mass consumption just somehow takes all the fiber out. This may be dated point of view, but it isjn't a jaded one; I don't see why that should make it any less real -- it is certainly real to me. Your expression of "braying and bleating" just tells me you have an ear of tin. What the Kingston Trio is missing, since I didn't make it clear, is the authority of the songs they sing. I grant you this is a higyly subjective sense. Rick Fielding, Art Thieme, Seeger, Woody, even the hotshot Bobby Dylan, manage to construct reality with their voices that resonates with experiential authority. To my ear, the KT failed to do this.

But I don't mind if we disagree -- let's just agree to disagree.

A


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Deckman
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 03:00 PM

SHEEUH! I thought this thread was about Pete's banjo playing! Bob


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: greg stephens
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 03:10 PM

Great to hear people appreciating Pete Seeger's banjo playing.And there's nothing wrong with bum-titty, it is THE world rhythm as far as my experience goes, and it is astonishing how many different takes there are on it.
   You can't really compare Pete Seeger and Earl Scruggs. They are just too different. Hear a Scruggs record, and you hear banjo-playing. Why not, that's his thing and he's a master. Hear Pete Seeger, and I dont think you hear banjo-playing. i don't you really hear singing either. you hear Pete Seeger's world philosophy and sense of history. And the main thing he expresses that with is his love of music. he doesnt say "hear how well I play and sing this song". He says "I love this song and I'd like you to hear it so that you can love it too. And while you're at it, love the people who made it up, too". Well, that's what he says to me, anyway.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: chip a
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 03:28 PM

Well put Greg!

"I love this song and I'd like you to hear it so that you can love it too. And while you're at it, love the people who made it up, too". Well, that's what he says to me, anyway.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Mark Clark
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 06:54 PM

Peter, Thanks, I found the archive…
October 21, 2001: Old interview on WBAI with John Cohen (New Lost City Ramblers) by Estelle Wade
and you're right, the KT version is truly offensive. The sequence you referenced starts at about minute 20. Now I'll have to go back to hear other Secret Museum of the Air archives.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 07:12 PM

I AM SO IMPRESSED!! Jeez, 65 posts on a TECHNICAL thread about Pete Seeger's pickin'! And all we had to do was add a little sex and violence! Ha ha!

Anyway, back to my original point, I have to agree with CBS (the network, way before the blacklist and the record company,) when they called Pete Seeger the World's greatest Banjo player in their newspaper adds.

My opinion was based on his

VARIETY
SUBTLETY
BREADTH OF REPERTOIRE (Classical to pop)
NUMBER OF KEYS USED
....and my own enjoyment of the album "Goofin' Off Suite".....plus being able to play eighty percent of this stuff, along with Scruggs style, and knowing how damn hard it is! (I knew by 16 there were Seeger and Scruggs licks I'd simply never have the sppeed for)

Anyway, who cares, but thanks for the arguement.....better than anything on Dubya's IQ.

P.S. My views on people who are forced to play when they're way beyong their prime are well known around here....that Damn Nashville network has done it before, and so has PBS with SOME of their nostalgis stuff. So sorry Martin, yer probably right but we'll have to agree to disagree on that one.

Cheers
to
All

Rick


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Frankham
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 07:36 PM

Hi Bob,

Agreed! Earl Scruggs himself has great admiration for Pete and his playing. It's a problem usually of a 'tude creeping into the music. One musician assumes a god-like proportion when this is not necessary.

Hi Peter T.

The music of the Ituri forest is quite suited to contrapuntal banjo.
The time signatures are probably a form of 12/8 which is consistent because of it's potential for counter rhythm. My part was quite simple. It was a series of three eighth-note intervals of fifths played with an emphasis of 3/4 time. Pete played the contrapuntal lead part over it.


Re: The Kingston Trio

The Kingston Trio were popular music stars and they were entertaining.
It has to be categorically stated however that if it weren't for Pete Seeger, they would have never existed. Just like Dizzy Gillespie said about Louis Armstrong, "No Louis, no me." They operated in a different world of aesthetic values. It's not fair to compare apples and oranges. But everyone is entitled to their preference.

The most significant aspect of Pete's musicality is that he is a superb accompanist and his playing highlights any song he undertakes to perform. Not many banjo players can do this. It's almost like a classical guitar accompaniment for art songs. Every Seeger note is in place and significant as part of a larger picture of instrument and voice. One of the classic examples of this is the early 10" record of Darling Corey. These accompaniments are gems of musicianship. Sure, some are simple but that's the art. He plays the right notes all the time.

There is another side to Pete Seeger. His ability to make other performers sound great. Check his backup for Big Bill, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, his work with the Weavers behind Ronnie Gilbert and Lee Hays, his early work with the Almanac Singers, Arlo Guthrie and the recordings (limited) that he made with Jean Carignan. I've played with a lot of folk musicians in my time and I can say that jamming with Pete is one of the most satisfying musical experiences that I've had for the above reasons.

My only regret about Pete is that he didn't make more recordings of just him alone doing his arrangements sans audience participation.

Also, if you want to hear a good banjo accompaniment in the Seeger style to folk music, there is the album "True Religion" by Erik Darling. It should be re-released on CD and I'm not sure that it has been. Of all the Pete followers, IMHO, I think Erik's banjo captures it best.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Peter T.
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 07:58 PM

Thanks Frank. A privilege to share electrons with you. yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 09:22 PM

Some of what has been written I do agree with, don't get me wrong, but a tin ear I do not have, Amos. Personally, I would say all who can stand to listen to Bob Dylan sing have tin ears, but not ones who enjoy smooth harmonies or like their folk music served without offensive, authentic body odors direct from Appalachia.

As for John Cohen's fighting, I also say give it up, and be glad the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary and such sold MILLIONS of records that turned on many to American folk music and bluegrass music so that people just might realize there was a bigger world out there. The dissing of the folk scare groups is such a tired, old, outdated arguement.

My arguement was not against Pete Seeger and all he has done, but that quite frankly, more people heard Dave Guard play the MTA and that he in turn exposed much more people to the banjo.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Amos
Date: 16 Jul 03 - 12:17 AM

There's no question about the numbers, for sure. Sorry for being a bit sharp. We're talking about two entirely different qualities, of course -- and they won't compare easily, natrurally, like apples and oranges again. I am still a little perplexed at this concept of statements growing dated, though. If the facts haven't changed, what the hell diference does it make when something was said? Consider the songs of David, for example. That is the primary virtue of many folk songs. But let's drop that side of it. Its probably a dated argument.

A


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: JedMarum
Date: 16 Jul 03 - 10:32 AM

Frank - I love your comment that Pete has the "ability to make other performers sound great." This is one of the marks of a great musician and it is one I truy respect.

A few weeks ago I met a very talented woman who plays string bass. I saw her playing with some pretty good local fellows and they were trying to play a song the trio didn't really know - well bass wasn't a very important part of this song, but when she saw the other two struggling, she changed her style of play, provided a very strong structure for them and never dropped her vocal harmonies. The audience never noticed - and she carried them right through. Graceful and powerful as you please. The mark of a fine musician.

I've seen the trait before and I am not surprised that you see it Pete. Thanks for the insights.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 16 Jul 03 - 11:31 AM

By the way folks, there's another guy who picks pretty good and can make other folk sound better.

Frank Hamilton.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: GUEST,Pete Peterson
Date: 16 Jul 03 - 06:55 PM

I almost wish I had left this thread alone so that Rick's praise of Frank H (with which I totally agree!) could stand alone, but I gotta spend some time agreeing with those who praise Pete S.

1) He could do bum-titty better than ANYBODY else I know, and used that strum to back up an astonishingly large number of songs. Very well.
1a) the only other person I know who REALLY got into the bum-titty strum was the late Peter Colby of Brockton MA, who used it to back up contradance fiddle (and accordion).

2) he could play any number of other styles very well: frailing, up-picking, various three-finger styles; about the only thing I've never heard him do is Charlie Poole's style (as a Poole freak, I listen for it) and had a gift for finding exactly the right style to express what he wanted to.
2a) somebody pointed out that accompaniment to "come all ye fair & tender ladies" from Darling Corey-- agreed. WOW.
2b) some of his experiments on Goofing Off Suite-- just thinking of them in the first place was a wonderment, then DOING them. . .
2c) on the various American Favorite Ballads (didn't it get up to volume 4?)-- the accompaniment ALWAYS fit the song being sung. WOW.
2d) and he had a gift for making OTHER people sound wonderful, as has been pointed out already

3) Where I disagree with Rick: he cites "number of keys used" as a point in Pete's favor-- not sure this is relevant. With a long neck banjo in G tuning you can play in any key from E up to C; in C tuning from A to F; you pitch the song where it suits your voice once you've learned this is a good idea.
3a) but Pete COULD play well in any number of tunings; can't even count all the tunings he used on Goofing Off Suite alone!

4) I wonder if anybody else of my generation (tried to learn banjo from the YELLOW edition of "How to Play. . . " starting in 1960) had the same experience I did: the "basic strum" bum-titty was one I found to be a musical dead end! I played basic strum for about two years anhd had a great deal of trouble unlearning it when I learned to frail-- IMHO you can do everything with frailing that you can with bum-tty and it's a lot more versatile once you get into double-thumbing and moving the thumb off the 5th string. And the 2nd edition's description os Scruggs style-- ouch! (by the time the 3rd edition and its red cover arrived-- MUCH better!)

5) to summarize: a wonderful musician and, not unmindful of Earl Scruggs and Don Reno, probably the best banjo player of his generation. Not a bad guitar player (6 and 12 string!) or mandolin player either! ANd I will always be grateful to Seeger for that little squib in that book I just complained about mentioning the late Paul Cadwell, classical banjo player who I was sure had three hands, until I actually met him.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 01:40 AM

I've started writing a polemic for this thread several times tonight. I've deleted them all.

All I can say is that Pete Seeger has been a bright beacon for me, musically and socially, over all the years. Following his leads has made me a much better human being. In all that time, he has never ever developed the proverbial feet of clay. The Kingston Trio has, on the other hand, has given me nothing except a true realization of how I NEVER want to present American folk songs and ballads. The only positive thing they showed me was that wearing vertical stripes is more slimming than wearing horizontal ones). For that I take this opportunity to thank them heartily. Pete's banjo style is one I emulated and sought to make a bit more old-timey over those same decades. It was perfect for the big story songs I loved so much. Now that I can't pick worth a steaming turd any more, the good old open-G tuning and Pete's basic strum keep me keeping on albeit with a diminished spinal cord (or chord).

I can now see that I got past the K.T. the moment I leared to play my fourth chord. Pete is simply the best--pure taste--never lost the story to the glitz. His GOOFING OFF SUITE showed my I could actually try to fool around and try off-the-wall things like San Antonio Rose, The Theme From Tammy And The Bachelor, The Bells Of St. Mary's, Lazy Bones, and As Time Goes By on my banjo. When Frank Hamilton and Pete did their fine NONESUCH LP of duets, Frank taught the song "Singin' In The Country" (later became "Living In The Country") to the class I was in and gave me permission to play beyond the third fret for the first time. (Frank, thanks !!! That's still the only music lesson I ever had. You left Chicago to join the Weavers after that lesson on a Saturday afternoon at the North Avenue O.T.School.)

I've said more than I planned to say---but there is no way I can ever thank Pete Seeger enough for all I learned from him about playing the banjo, hopefully, maybe half as tastefully as he did.

Time to end.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: chip a
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 10:39 AM

I gave my Weavers album another listen last night. I can agree with all the good things said so far about Seeger's playing.
I've said many times that playing "just like" someone else is good. But where the genius lies is in originating the arrangements so copied by others. Pete always did that although I suspect he could have played them "just like" anyone he chose to copy.
Pete P., We played a few together in the barn at Mt. Airy this year and I'm still inspired by the sounds we made. You may, as you said, be a "Charlie Poole freak" but like Pete S. what comes through you is definately your own. By the way, I also tried the basic strum for a while when I was first starting. It was a wrong direction for me as well. I went back to my two-finger up picking and worked on that.
One more thought. In this time when so many are playing, listening to and otherwise enjoying this old music, pete Seeger stands there reminding us that there were and still are many ways to approach a song. His vision has been wide and in the end that may be his greatest gift for us.

Chip Arnold


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 11:52 AM

Art

Your rip of the Kingston Trio's folk legacy is probably the best reason why I and others haven't had the desire to see you perform in Chicago.

There are people out there who enjoy folk music and have played it for years in a group style. We like rousing banjos, smooth harmonies, fun songs, trading solos, and even stripe shirts. It's as American folk music as anything you do.

Though I do not attend their shows any longer since Nick Reynolds retired for good, don't you find it amazing that they still fill concert venues at $40.00 a seat? Same, if not more for Pter, Paul, and Mary.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 12:22 PM

Martin,

You are full of shit.

Art ((Big Smile))


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 12:26 PM

And so is George Bush.

Art


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Amos
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 12:46 PM

I just listened inadvertently to another rich example of the laundered-folk style of performance which swept the country during the folk scar eof the 60's -Green, Green, being sung by The New Christy Minstrels (Today & Ramblin'). They were having a great deal of fun stomping and twanging in a nicely polished way. They were doing a nice job of entertaining.

But the cogntiive dissonance of the style in which they were singin -- a sort of Whiffenpoof faux-finish style -- and what they were saying about being a rambling man was enough to maske me roll on the floor snorting. This is why "Mighty Wind" was such a successful parody with side-splitting songs like "I Never Did No Rambling". These guys aren't even trying to feel what they are saying, and it leaves a dissonance wide enough to drive a record company through.

Sorry for the thread drift. I'd rather listen to Art Thieme, who at least has walked the walk and rubbed elbows with those whose whole lives were spent that way. The New Christy Mistrels and the KT as well, by comparison, are just a picture from life's other side, where the tide of life is a laundry detergent.


A


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 01:16 PM

I've got a suggestion here. Let's stop to compare Pete Seeger's banjo virtuosity to the Kingston Trio. The Kingston Trio was an extremely successfull group of entertainers. I certainly recognise their value and the high standards they set, as entertainers. Pete Segger is also an entertainer. But, when it comes to "folk music," he is much more than an "entertainer." By the way, can anyone fill me in on his current health. I would welcome a private note if you feel it's more appropriate. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: GUEST,Pete Peterson
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 01:24 PM

Thanks for kind words, Chip! (Are you coming to Clifftop?)

I haven't listened to some of those Pete Seeger records in years (lost ability to play vinyl too many years ago; gotta do something about that) but can remember the way he managed to fit the accompaniment to the song better than anybody else I know or know of. (And the other people I think of as really good accompanists almost always cite Pete S as somebody they look up to musically)

   Back to the Darling Corey record (that 10" Folkways) -- I remember being disappointed in his arrangement of the title song-- then realized (much later) it was one of Seeger's few attempts to play something just the same way his source played it (B.F. Shelton) --

Staying out of the whole Kingston Trio discussion except to admit that as for so many other people, they were my first experience with "folk music"; went from there to the Weavers, to Pete Seeger solo and to people HE recommended, and then to the New Lost City Ramblers and the Anthology, and it was all downhill from there. But I admit where it started. . .

BTW, Art, what's so bad about three chords? It was good enough for the Carter Family!


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Mark Clark
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 01:31 PM

Martin, Speaking for myself, I don't mean to say the KT wasn't a fun group. I still enjoy their music as I do other pop groups of the era: the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, etc. The point is that although they drew some of their material from folk sources, they were a pop music band. You can draw a pop music timeline right through the KT to show where they came from and where the music went and none of it has much to do with folk or traditional music. It didn't have to be folk music, there's lots of nice mucic that isn't folk music.

But while we're on the subject of virtuosity, we ought to include a mention of Art Thieme's virtuosity. I've never forgotten the first time I saw Art on stage. At a time when a lot of acts were KT/PP&M/Limelighters knockoffs Art actually played his guitar and his banjo. His fingerpicked accompaniments were intricate and tasteful and complemented his singing in a way very few other performers achieved. Art seemed to use his considerable talent and ability to showcase the song rather than use the song as a vehicle for showcasing himself. It's hard to express how much I admired that.

Oh, and Martin… Art made a really cogent observation—well, two cogent observations actually—about an hour ago.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: chip a
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 01:51 PM

Pete P,
I heard a quote attributed to Pete Seeger in which he said that while it was true that many old timers did in fact only use three chords, the best of them got by with two!
Yup, we'll be at Clifftop.

Chip


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 01:56 PM

I listened last night to Woody Guthrie singing "Pastures of Plenty." He did the entire song with ONE chord! Bob


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: EBarnacle1
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 03:41 PM

Re: Pete's health--It isn't great. He hasn't the stamina he used to have. When he appears in public, he tends to use others for most of the voice work. He has had occasional relapses of Lyme disease. His spirits are generally good. Last November, I went to visit him on Mount Seeger for the first time in our association. During my visit, he was constantly receiving phone calls and chatting about business and social issues. He is still sharp despite his frequent statement that his memory is going. I hope we will have him around for many more years though I worry about him on a regular basis.

Kendall, Pete does not look for fame, either. It comes to him. Gordon is enough of a power that his work speaks for itself and brings the public to him.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Frankham
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 04:11 PM

Whoa Martin! Hold the phone.

"but not ones who enjoy smooth harmonies or like their folk music served without offensive, authentic body odors direct from Appalachia."

You might be falling into a bit of stereotyping here. Many people who do traditional music are not all in blue jeans and don't take baths. This is the province of the kind of thinking that belongs on the "Real Beverly Hill-Billies". This "reality programming" might need some reshaping. So many of the fine traditional folk musicians and singers are known to appear before audiences in their "Sunday best" and not farm overhauls or ragged clothes. If you are referring exclusively to the music than perhaps it's time to take a listen to some of the field recordings put out by the Lomaxes or Lib. of Congress and then you'll get a truer picture of where groups like the Kingston Trio come from.

Dave Guard was a nice man. He was talented and entertaining and owes his career to Pete Seeger. If he were around today, he'd tell you that since that's what has said in print. But did he introduce the five-string banjo to millions of people? Not sure about this. As you have said, Scruggs may have had greater mass influence. But Pete certainly had a powerful influence not for the two or three years of the KT but over a period of a long time where he couldn't get on the media but nonetheless influenced countless young people to want to play the banjo. Every college campus in the country in the 50's and 60's had a five-string banjo and they weren't all playing bluegrass.
I know because I used to travel to some of those places for concerts or to visit. Every college kid I talked to during those years had heard of Pete Seeger. Some hadn't heard Scruggs yet.

I have nothing against the KT. They were entertainers like PPand M and made the music market place a little richer (didn't mean Little Richard) through their endeavors. (Although he did too). But that body odor is what makes us all human even in this time when they try to sell us deoderants and toothpaste to sanitize our "quality of life".

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: GUEST,Martin gibson
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 05:18 PM

So Frank, I'll remember to not get to close to you!

Mark Clark: Your definition of folk music is by far very limited, narrow, and borderline arrogant.

Many in this thread define folk music in a very limited way. No, the Kingston trio were not folk "purists" but please define purists in 25 words or less. don't do it it 25 words or more because I don't have the patience for the rhetoric. Why do you have to live the music for it to be believable? Why do people like me have to constantly have shoved down our throat what is purist, what is traditional, and what's not? Like I've been saying all along, it's such a tired attitude and arguement.

The elitists haven't a clue how locked in a box they are.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 05:32 PM

Art

So are you!

Martin (Smiling bigger while playing some Flatt & Scruggs music)


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Jeri
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 06:03 PM

Martin, just out of curiousity, do you actually know anything about banjo technique? You seem intent on playing the "my artist is bigger than THE ONE THIS THREAD IS ABOUT is game," and haven't said one word about techniques. You like KT? Fine. Lots of people do. There's probably a fan club someplace.

This horse is DEAD and it isn't going anywhere.

And now, amazingly, somewhat on topic:
Does anyone know if some stuff was edited out of the 5-String Banjo book? A friend mentioned tabs for Goofing Off Suite and Blue Skies, and they aren't in the copy (1962) I have.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 08:05 PM

Martin, I've done a random read on some of your old posts and you get pretty angry at a lot of things. This is just about the technical aspects of the banjo, nuthin' else. In my first couple of posts I was polite and humourous while disagreeing with you, but I sense you just wanna take shots at folks who are part of the folkie community.

This really isn't worth gettin' upset about.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: MAG
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 09:24 PM

Folks, it hould be obvious by now that Martin Gibson (and what an alias that is!) is the Garg kicking up dust again. Ignore him; he is a baiter.

My intro. to the 60's folk scare was PPM, and then Dylan, and they were fresh and new to this then 14 year old. I admire Dylan's music and still dislike some aspects of it. (By the way, I just saw a movie trailer where he plays a musical has-been tryingto get back on the stage.)

PPM broke up with a lot of public airing of their mutual dislike. They only got back together because their solo careers were less than stellar. (I did enjoy one Mary Travers concert I   went to in Chicago. spendy it was; very spendy. I liked hearing that her parents were friends of Paul Robeson and that she learned Motherless Child from him.)What I've seen on TV is thin, padded, overproduced, and generally sadly embarassing to an old fan.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 09:38 PM

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


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 09:53 PM

Art ... right on. You express yourself very well. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Frankham
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 10:00 PM

Martin Gibson...tnat name has a familiar twang. Shoulda' picked that up. Sounds a little like that name is in a box. With strings attached.

You say, "So Frank, I'll remember to not get to close to you!"

I can assure you that it won't be a problem for me.


Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Amos
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 10:17 PM

MArtin:

Locked in a box?? Puhleeze!! Maybe some of us are deliberately placing ourselves where the reception is a little clearer. If that's elitism, then well and good. I never signed up to promote asinine mediocrity, and it's a tad late for me to start doing so now.

A


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: ex-pat
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 11:24 PM

Been reading through this thread for a couple of nights... Pete Seeger is definately the reason I have loved playing the banjo for the last 40 years. I bought his red book in Manchester, England as a teenager in 1963 and many an album too. I have American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 5. Pete showed us that the 5 string banjo was as versatile an instrument as one wanted it to be. A true master and icon, to be sure.
Earl Scruggs is also a true master and icon. This thread is for Pete!
Too bad about the twat who keeps annoying everybody. All too often, there's always one, isn't there?


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Jul 03 - 12:11 AM

True ... but we can always ignore him!


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: Art Thieme
Date: 18 Jul 03 - 12:19 AM

Sorry for the drift.

Art


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: JedMarum
Date: 18 Jul 03 - 12:37 AM

I have been enjoying the thoughts in this thread. And while it has been going on these last few days, I have been playing a lot of banjo - coincidentally.

For a damn guitar player, the banjo sure has brought me a lot of pleasure!

Thanks Pete - thanks y'all.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Banjo virtuosity
From: JedMarum
Date: 18 Jul 03 - 12:44 AM

Oh - and while we're at it ... I have been considering getting me a new toy ... when I last vsited Mick and Rick I stopped by Elderly Music and really really wanted this little thing. What a cool sound, and plays great.

I love the sound of my Vega - but this little thing has a charm of its won, way up high ... Anyone ever played with such a thing?


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