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Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)

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cool hand Tom 12 Dec 04 - 12:53 AM
katlaughing 12 Dec 04 - 03:14 AM
RangerSteve 12 Dec 04 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 13 Dec 04 - 01:22 AM
katlaughing 13 Dec 04 - 10:21 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 13 Dec 04 - 03:37 PM
cool hand Tom 13 Dec 04 - 08:33 PM
cool hand Tom 13 Dec 04 - 08:49 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 13 Dec 04 - 08:54 PM
cool hand Tom 13 Dec 04 - 09:00 PM
GUEST,Mark Clark 13 Dec 04 - 11:41 PM
Mooh 14 Dec 04 - 10:22 AM
GUEST,Maurice 14 Dec 04 - 04:21 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 14 Dec 04 - 05:17 PM
GUEST,Mark Clark 14 Dec 04 - 05:33 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 15 Dec 04 - 12:31 AM
GUEST 15 Dec 04 - 01:08 AM
GUEST,Songster Bob 15 Dec 04 - 01:29 AM
Andy Cohen 15 Dec 04 - 08:47 AM
GUEST,Mark Clark 15 Dec 04 - 11:43 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 15 Dec 04 - 03:29 PM
GUEST 15 Dec 04 - 03:32 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 15 Dec 04 - 04:22 PM
GUEST,Songster Bob 15 Dec 04 - 10:24 PM
cool hand Tom 15 Dec 04 - 10:30 PM
cool hand Tom 15 Dec 04 - 10:35 PM
GUEST,Doug Stangle 18 Dec 04 - 07:18 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 18 Dec 04 - 10:07 AM
cool hand Tom 18 Dec 04 - 07:46 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 23 Dec 04 - 01:03 AM
GUEST,Guy Guilbert 27 Dec 04 - 04:01 AM
Mooh 27 Dec 04 - 05:32 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 27 Dec 04 - 05:52 AM
GUEST,Guy Guilbert 27 Dec 04 - 11:29 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 28 Dec 04 - 02:03 AM
GUEST,Guy Guilbert 28 Dec 04 - 04:31 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 28 Dec 04 - 09:38 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 28 Dec 04 - 11:58 PM
GUEST,Guy Guilbert 05 Jan 05 - 03:28 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 06 Jan 05 - 08:14 PM
GUEST,Guy Guilbert 07 Jan 05 - 09:28 PM
Auggie 07 Jan 05 - 10:12 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 08 Jan 05 - 01:10 AM
GUEST,Guy Guilbert 08 Jan 05 - 02:54 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 08 Jan 05 - 02:59 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 25 Mar 05 - 12:01 AM
Amos 25 Mar 05 - 09:57 AM
GUEST,aerodynamicdon 10 Apr 05 - 04:16 PM
GUEST,aerodynamicdon@webtv.net 10 Apr 05 - 04:29 PM
GUEST,Ron 05 Aug 05 - 08:50 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 06 Aug 05 - 10:41 AM
GUEST,Norm "MadDawg" Siegel 26 Mar 06 - 11:00 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 26 Mar 06 - 12:01 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 26 Mar 06 - 03:44 PM
GUEST,NormMadDawgSiegel 28 Mar 06 - 11:31 PM
wordfella 29 Mar 06 - 10:21 AM
wordfella 29 Mar 06 - 10:23 AM
wordfella 29 Mar 06 - 10:38 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 29 Mar 06 - 03:40 PM
Mark Clark 30 Mar 06 - 01:49 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 30 Mar 06 - 09:53 PM
GUEST,Art thieme 30 Mar 06 - 10:06 PM
GUEST,Norm SIegel 01 Apr 06 - 06:45 PM
GUEST,William Malloy 06 Apr 06 - 03:56 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 07 Apr 06 - 12:37 AM
banjo Mick 30 May 06 - 11:23 AM
GUEST,patbanjo 21 Jun 06 - 06:29 PM
GUEST,Guy Guilbert 10 Sep 06 - 03:38 AM
Desert Dancer 10 Sep 06 - 08:42 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 11 Sep 06 - 08:00 PM
GUEST,Art again 11 Sep 06 - 08:02 PM
GUEST,Guy Guilbert 12 Sep 06 - 07:28 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 12 Sep 06 - 10:34 PM
GUEST,art thieme (sheepishly) 12 Sep 06 - 10:37 PM
Art Thieme 16 Oct 08 - 01:11 PM
GUEST,Jim 17 Oct 08 - 11:51 AM
GUEST,Jim 17 Oct 08 - 11:53 AM
GUEST 18 Feb 09 - 12:21 AM
GUEST,Soren Midtgaard 01 Apr 09 - 03:41 PM
Stringsinger 01 Apr 09 - 04:01 PM
GUEST,Irwin Liebman 28 Apr 09 - 08:17 AM
GUEST,Scott Newell 19 May 09 - 11:27 PM
GUEST,Drew 25 Jun 09 - 06:03 PM
GUEST,Judi Nowak-Hendrick 05 Dec 09 - 12:00 PM
Art Thieme 05 May 10 - 10:09 PM
GUEST,Bobert 30 May 10 - 01:23 PM
Fantome 24 Nov 10 - 09:00 AM
GUEST,fantome 24 Nov 10 - 03:36 PM
GUEST,Paul Petraitis "Closer To The Blues" 18 Jan 11 - 01:01 PM
Art Thieme 21 May 11 - 06:42 PM
Stringsinger 22 May 11 - 11:57 AM
Art Thieme 22 May 11 - 05:06 PM
Stringsinger 23 May 11 - 02:57 PM
Stringsinger 23 May 11 - 03:02 PM
Art Thieme 23 May 11 - 10:12 PM
Stringsinger 24 May 11 - 02:49 PM
Stringsinger 24 May 11 - 02:55 PM
Art Thieme 24 May 11 - 10:09 PM
GUEST,from tokyo 24 May 11 - 10:59 PM
Leadfingers 25 May 11 - 05:16 AM
GUEST,Sharon McCabe 06 Jul 11 - 08:52 PM
Art Thieme 06 Jul 11 - 11:56 PM
GUEST,Sharon McCabe 07 Jul 11 - 12:23 AM
Mark Ross 07 Jul 11 - 02:05 AM
GUEST,Ron L 14 Jul 11 - 04:33 PM
GUEST 23 Oct 11 - 08:50 PM
Desert Dancer 24 Oct 11 - 08:04 PM
wordfella 29 Dec 11 - 12:25 PM
GUEST,Scott Newell 10 Mar 12 - 12:43 PM
GUEST 04 Jul 12 - 06:27 PM
GUEST 14 Feb 13 - 10:49 PM
GUEST,Adam Cochran 12 Jun 13 - 12:53 AM
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Subject: Merlin Banjo
From: cool hand Tom
Date: 12 Dec 04 - 12:53 AM

I have a Merlin Banjo it was made in the mid 60s and is made of aluminium neck ect with a fibreglass pot and 2 brass tone rings.The company went defunct in 1967 due to overprice and traditional players prefering wood.I know a great hero of mine Luke Kelly played one as did Tommy Makem for a time.

What i would love to know is if any of you good people can remember them or anyone who played them or any general comments ect.I have heard them being called the slippery pig,cold kiss of death ect.I love mine and would just like to know a little more.

Regards Tom.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: katlaughing
Date: 12 Dec 04 - 03:14 AM

Froma search on google, it looks like you've got a pretty rare banjo there. Here's a little more info:

From This site:

The Merlin Mfg. Corp of Chicago, Il was formed in 1962/3 by Leonard
McCabe, Jay Smith and Bill Malloy. Merlin was to be a blend of modern
and traditional design. The instruments were made of aluminum and
fiberglass. The fretboard was ebony and the resonator was spun brass.
The neck was highly polsihed cast aluminum. The hoop or rim was
fiberglass. In 1965 the company stopped production after selling less
than 100 banjos.
Curtis McPeake


And, from a "capo mmuseum site, which also mentions McPeake: Capo shown on a Merlin scroll down to the "Small Cramp" title


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: RangerSteve
Date: 12 Dec 04 - 11:13 AM

A friend of a friend had one, but I don't know his hame or where he is these days. I also recall seeing a Tommy Makem record cover where he was holding a Merlin. I also remember that it had cone-shaped tuning pegs, with mother of pearl yin-yang symbols on the ends.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 13 Dec 04 - 01:22 AM

There was a time these things were said to be the coming thing in banjos around the Chicago folk scene. We tried to sell a couple of them at the store I was asst. manager of in '65-'66 and 67.(The Old Town Folklore Center---343 W. North Ave.) They were the most unbalanced banjos I've ever tried to hold up. Just plain heavey---on the neck side. The company gave one to Tommy Makem as I recall---hoping his playing it would bring more to try it. This was a time when long-neck banjos were extremely popular--and Merlin's main banjo was a long-neck model. Of course, it was Pete Seeger's influence that popularized the ong-neck Vega. If you were in a folk group, you had to have a long-neck banjo.

BILL MALLOY was a member of a pretty fine folk group called THE NEW WINE SINGERS. And Bill was a big part of the Merlin Banjo Company. This group owned, operated, and were the house act at a GREAT folk bar nightclub called THE RISING MOON. (1305 N. Wells Street--Old Town) The rest of that group were Arnie Lanza, Malcolm Hale and Gusty Herve. Gusty was replaced by Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane about '65. The Rising Moon burnt up one night around 65 or 66. A friend sent me a framed photo of the balcony at that club -- complete with the huge moose head -- AFTER the big fire. The huge burnt-to-a-crisp moose is too depressing to look at---so I never put it up. I'm thinking of donating it to the Old Town School Of Folk Music in Chicago.

Back to Merlin banjo's:

We always had one behind the counter at the Folklore Center to pick on. I always preferred to pick up Johnny Carbo's Gibson Mastertone if I had my choice. But when John had a gig, I had to use the Merlin. That's how I learned to play banjo. In '66 Grandpa Jones was doing a concert upstairs of the store at the Old Town School and he blew into town too early so he stopped into the shop. I was playing that Merlin banjo. He saw pretty quick I wasn't very good so he gave me a lesson that lasted about an hour and a half. That got me over a huge plateau I was stuck on where frailing was concerned. I've always been grateful to Grandpa Jones for doing that---for sure.

Nobody ever wanted that Merlin so I was allowed to buy it---for forty dollars if I remember right. Eventually I sold it---for my rent I think---one month when cash was tight.

By the way: After the Rising Moon burnt, another club went into that same renovated space on Wells St. This was MOTHER BLUES. It lasted quite a while and was grand place to hear music and hang out. Freddy Holstein had his apartment upstairs of the club and one night it was Fred and Malcolm Hale, George Carlin and myself---maybe Patty Talac too... But that's another story!

Fun memories!!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Dec 04 - 10:21 AM

Another story we want to hear, My Fine Art!! Jaysus...Grandpa Jones, Carlin and the rest, PLUS an obscure banjo!!! Tell us more, tell us more....:-)

luvyakat


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 13 Dec 04 - 03:37 PM

Not much to tell---except that Bill Maloy played banjo in that group--The New Wine Singers and after they formed the Merlin company he always played that metal banjo.

One good thing: The neck never warped!!

The Merlin banjo was really amazing and fun to go over visually. The innovations were extaordinary. That spun fiberglass pot was just cool. And the workmanship (machining) amazing in that it left you feeling speechless at first. Then you'd just wonder WHY? Why had these people decided this was the way to go? I suspect it had something to do with the success of the Dobro resonator guitars---and the National all metal resonator guitars. But those had a real sound difference from the original wooden ones. These metal banjos sounded just like any decent banjo. They always hit me like making a solid metal apple. It was tasteless.

I do suspect the momentum and inertia (spelling?) took over. The idea sounded good. The money was found to begin, so they began!! Then the market took over---and changed their minds.

In all fairness, I must say there were numerous production problems as I recall it. That slowed everything down right from the start. Like the war in Iraq, as Pete said in his song, "The damn fools said to push on!!!"

Good bottom line.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: cool hand Tom
Date: 13 Dec 04 - 08:33 PM

Thank you very much for the info folks,and the stories about the Merlin in the shop u managed very interesting.My merlin is the standard G model with resonater which i take off as i mostly frail.Iv seen a few Merlins and all seem to have differences.I have a link here allmost exactly the same,ill post it at bottom.Mine has the original hard case with it which was abonus.I have heard that Tommy Makem gave his Merlin to Luke Kelly in the very late 60s early 70s.Mine plays very nicely and i must agree with it being neck heavy.I was originally looking for a long neck version so if anybody knows anybody who has one let me know.Here is a good set of pics of one like mine www.banjoworld.de/High323.htm


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: cool hand Tom
Date: 13 Dec 04 - 08:49 PM

Sorry i cannot get the link to work.

             Regards Tom.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 13 Dec 04 - 08:54 PM

I mean no offense to anyone by alluding to Pete's good Viet Nam era song--Waist Deep In The Big Muddy---with it's "fool" reference. This was 45 years ago we're talking about. I always enjoyed Bill Malloy's nusic and humor (as off the wall as my own) and those folks were pioneers. Few had ever heard of anything like a "fol nightclub". The New Wine Singers were pretty great for back then.   

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: cool hand Tom
Date: 13 Dec 04 - 09:00 PM

Hi Art any links on the net for the New Wine Singers.

Regards Tom. If you still had that merlin id give ya $100 LOL


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Mark Clark
Date: 13 Dec 04 - 11:41 PM

I can remember the New Wine Singers but I don't think I've ever had a Merlin banjo in my hands. I remember hearing about them but that was as close as I got.

But Art, tell me about the location of the Rising Moon. I somehow recalled the old Rising Moon as being on Pearson between State and Rush or at least close to there. There was a sunken bar in the front but the back had a framed stage and dance floor and and railed balcony. I know you used to play there and Chad Mitchell when Paul Prestopino was backing them up. We use to hang out in the bar after hours with Hoyt Axton and his enterage. What *was* that place if not the Rising Moon?

Boy, this age thing just ain't working out.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: Mooh
Date: 14 Dec 04 - 10:22 AM

There's a very cool example of a Merlin banjo at www.frets.com Frank Ford's ubersite of stringdom. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Maurice
Date: 14 Dec 04 - 04:21 PM

Try Elderly Instruments, Lansing....they had a Merlin banjo in their "vintage" section of their website not long ago...I think it was regular 5-string, not longneck. Can't remember the price, but not expensive I think.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 14 Dec 04 - 05:17 PM

Mark, I, too, remember the place on Pearson. I think it was before or after the fire. You've got me wondering, once again, about my memory.

I think I'll get Guy Guilbert into this discussion. He is in California now.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Mark Clark
Date: 14 Dec 04 - 05:33 PM

I well remember Mother Blues. What a great place. I was there one time just after the Weavers had finally split. Ronnie Gilbert and Rev. Gary Davis were sharing the bill. Great music! But I was saddened to see Rev. Davis sitting alone in a corner between sets. No one would even talk to him except the waitress.

So I went over and struck up a conversation. He was in town alone and I wound up inviting him over for Sunday dinner the next day. It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving and it turned out he was booked at Mother Blues the next weekend too so we invited him for Thanksgiving dinner. He enjoyed Sunday dinner so much that he called his wife and she flew in and joined us on Thanksgiving day. What a great pair those two were.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 15 Dec 04 - 12:31 AM

Mark,

I remember it a little bit different. Gary Davis surely was an amazing talent. I'm not sure if this was the same gig you're talkin' about, BUT the good Rev. was alone in town, as you said. He was rather surly and drank a bit much. It wound up with him doing a set where he started that American March thing he did and it lasted nearly 45 minutes. By the time he quit the powers that be were so pissed at him that they INSISTED he call his wife to come to Chicago because she was the only one who could keep him in line! Well, she came to Chicago, Gary calmed down, and all went relatively well for the rest of the gig. Could it be that he was alone the night you remember because folks were ticked off at him?? Maybe.----Anyhow, that's how I remember it. Could've been a different gig at that same club. Generally Rev. Davis stayed with Andy Cohen in those days---and Andy took real decent care of him.

The two photos of Gary Davis in my on-line collection were taken at an after gig party at Andy Cohen's house. -------- Once again, those folk scene photos of mine can be viewed at:

http://rudegnu.com/art_thieme.html

When prompted, enter the single word mudcat (lower case) for both the USER NAME and the PASSWORD.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Dec 04 - 01:08 AM

Great Pics Art
                Regards Tom


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Songster Bob
Date: 15 Dec 04 - 01:29 AM

I do believe a distant cousin of mine may have a very rare banjo, then, 'cause she had, as I recall, a left-handed long-neck Merlin banjo. I only saw it once, I think, but that's how I remember it.

Amazing.


Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: Andy Cohen
Date: 15 Dec 04 - 08:47 AM

The gig being referred to at Mother Blues must have happened at a point before I came to Chicago. The one Art is referring to occurred next door to Mother Blues, at the Quiet Knight. Rev. Davis was by himself, and he stayed at my house for a week. It was 1967. I remember it the same way Art does.

Gary did indeed drink too much. He had a routine where he would speak into his glass of whiskey as though it were a telephone, finish the conversation, say goodbye and knock it back.

But Ronnie Gilbert wasn't there, it wasn't over Thanksgiving, and Mother Davis wasn't there to manage the Rev.

As for Merlin banjos, I thought they were awful. If you could design everything on a banjo to be ugly and inconvenient, that was it. I remember John Carbo, though. Somebody told me he had passed away. Is that true?

Andy Cohen


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Mark Clark
Date: 15 Dec 04 - 11:43 AM

Yes, two different gigs. I think the one I referred to was in 1964. My oldest daughter was born in February of that year and in the picture I have of her sitting on Rev. Davis' lap she looks about nine months old. And Ronnie Gilbert was definately on the bill with Gary.

Of course the fact that I'm referring to an earlier gig doesn't mean that Mrs. Davis wasn't called in to keep him in line. I'm only relating the story I got. <g>

My brother told me of seeing the whiskey routine at a party in Grinnell, Iowa, one time. And the glass wasn't a shot glass, it was a standard restaurant water glass (8-10 oz.) pretty well filled with Jack Daniels Old No. 7. At least I assume it was Jack Daniels since that's what the Grinnell students were drinking in those days.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 15 Dec 04 - 03:29 PM

Andy, hello!

John Carbo had a 4-string banjo band in the 60s. With guy guilbert (who I'm trying to get into this Merlin discussion), Dama Chchran and Big John Scofield (with tuba--that a chicken came out of). That gave me the idea to keep a rubber chicken in my banjo. (A chicken in every pot---so to speak!! ;-)

John Carbo edited video tape at CBS in Chicago. Then went on to be the film editor on the Blues Brothers movi

More cool memories I'd almost forgotten.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Dec 04 - 03:32 PM

that is GUY GUILBERT--

and ADAM Cochran---not Dama !

I'm doing laundry and in a hurry!

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 15 Dec 04 - 04:22 PM

Songster Bob Clayton,

Nice hearing from you! How are things in D.C. (My best to Jennifer.)
(I do hope I'm speaking to the Bob C. I think I am!! ;-) I'm having a time trying to figure out how Merlin could've produced a left handed model. That'd mean re-tooling all the metal machines. But you could be correct. Fascinating.

Andy, You are right about the original Quiet Knight being there on Wells Street---just South of Mother Blues. That Quiet Knight is where I took the shots of Jack Elliott in '67. Dwayne Story opened that show for Jack and a shot of Sdayne is there as well.

And I remember Ronnie Gilbert being at Mother Blues that time. After hours she ang Guy Guilbert (guitar), John Brown on Guitarone and Gil Turner (banjo) would sit around and do Weavers songs. Guy has a great photo of them doing that.
I do hope Guy finds his way here...

Mark, your memory is in fine shape. Those were different gigs from what I was talking about.

Tom, I am glad you liked my pictures. It was great of Bruce Kallick to put 'em up on his site for me. I'm real uneducated in those cyber things.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Songster Bob
Date: 15 Dec 04 - 10:24 PM

Hey, Art, yes, it's me. I'm pretty sure it was a left-handed Merlin, though it's possible it was right-handed and she was trying to learn to play it lefty. I don't think so, though.

Merlins had, as I recall, tuners with a 32/1 ratio, so it took till next Tuesday to bring a string up to pitch. When you're used to friction pegs (ratio of 1/1), that was quite a change.

Bob Clayton

... and Jennifer's OK. So's Andrew, whom you may have never met (he's somewhat antisocial, and 13 now, so there goes even more in terms of being outgoing).


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: cool hand Tom
Date: 15 Dec 04 - 10:30 PM

Art.
    Can i pick your brain and ask if you know how much Merlins cost at the time,and if so was it alot of cash for the day.I once heard they where overpriced ect,that would explain why they gave one to Tommy Makem and it seems he gave that to Luke Kelly not long after.Much preferred his Vega.

I have a love of weird and unusual 5 string Banjos and have recently bought a Framus Longneck which sounds wonderfull and with the top tensioners looks like a huge cog or a weapon LOL when in battle bring out the merlin and framus.Again if you have any info on the Framus id love to hear it and if you can throw in a tale all the better.

If Merlin made left handers just goes to show they ecpected great things,but like u said its the publics choice.Maybe had they made them in the early 70s it would all be a diff story.Sad thing is even with the rarity they are not a valuable instrument.Mine even has the Merlin original hardshell case,probably worth more than the banjo.

Well ill have a drink to the MARVELOUS MYSTERIOUS MAGICAL MECHANICAL MELIN.
       Regards Tom.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: cool hand Tom
Date: 15 Dec 04 - 10:35 PM

Hi Bob
       My Merlins tuners are 40.1 ratio,sure does take time but once your in tune its great for really tweakin to perfect but after awhile it kinda gets very monotinus.All part of the Merlin pleasure.

    Regards Tom


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Doug Stangle
Date: 18 Dec 04 - 07:18 AM

I took have a Merlin, but the regular neck style. I think this is the bluegrass one like one I saw on Elderly or Gruhn's website a few months ago for about $1000. I bought it a number of years ago but never played it much due to the high action. Took it to Hogeye music in Evanston, IL and John Carbo there fixed the action (thanks John). It now plays well and sounds like a bell. The neck is alittle wide but you get used to it. Was going to sell it but now will keep it for awhile as it's a good bluegrass banjo with a great bell sound. I used to see Merlins at Lyon and Healy in the early 60's. My email is dbstangle1@aol.com. Art Thieme, give me a shout. I was friends with Ed and Fred Holstein and went to HS with them, hung around the old Fret Shop in High Park, Chicago where George Gruhn got his start, etc. Ed Holstein tells me we went to one of your banjo seminars in the early 60's   I remember all those clubs including Big Johns where Paul Butterfield used to play. Also atended the 3rd U of C Folk Festival and haver attended almost every year since. Had dinner w/ED Holstein last Sunday after not seeing him for well over a decade.

Regards, Doug Stangle


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 18 Dec 04 - 10:07 AM

Doug,

I will e-mail you later today. Was it Jim Craig that set up your Merlin at Hogeye Music in Evanston?? John Carbo was at the Folklore Center at 343 W. North Avenue in Chicago in the mid and later 1960s. He passed away several years back. Anyhow, I too was at Big Johns---a great blues almost 2 or 3 nights a week after I'd close the Dlklre. Cntr. at 11:00 PM each night. Mike Bloomfield had his own band before going with Butterfield's band. I remember Jim Schwall and Corky Siegel auditioning there one night. They got the job. And Muddy Waters was on Monday nights, Howlin' Wolf on Tuesdays. Little Walter was on Wednesdays for a while until he was too alcoholic to keep on responsibly. Unique times.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: cool hand Tom
Date: 18 Dec 04 - 07:46 PM

My MERLIN IS THE ONE THAT CAME FROM ELDERLY,AND I AGREE THEY DO PLAY WELL I HAVE TAKEN MY RESONATOR OFF AND PLAY OPEN BACK.JUST WANNA SAY HI TO A FELLOW MERLIN USER.
                            REGARDS TOM.

          ps i had a drink and sorry guys for the capitals.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 23 Dec 04 - 01:03 AM

refresh for Guy G.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Guy Guilbert
Date: 27 Dec 04 - 04:01 AM

Hi, everyone,

First: The Rising Moon was not on Pearson and State. The Off Stage was. It was a great little club. I met the Smother Bros. there one night at the bar; who often came in. Also, one night I met Hoyt Axton. He had just come from Hollywood from filming a Bonanza episode. We had a nice talk. The Off stage was a great place. The Rising Moon Singers played there a lot. One would walk through a hallway to a large back, main room. To the left of the front door was a doorway leading down some stairs to a bar in the basement. This bar also had a balcony that looked down on it; all very cozy. Years later it became The Red Garter, a banjo-band joint.

The Rising Moon was on Wells Street north of Division. The mob burned it down and was it resurrected as Mother Blues. Richard Harding, who later owned The Quiet Knight and Poor Richard's, managed it. He hired John Brown and me to open the Monday night Hootenannies with a few songs and John would then host the rest of the night. I would play bass or guitar behind anyone who needed it. This was '63.

MERLIN BANJOS:

I worked at Merlin putting those suckers together. I worked there at two different occasions. The first was before all the fancy stuff. We just had the long-necks. The first long-necks had an ornate, rococo head; kind of ugly. So ugly they had Fleming Brown design a more traditional looking head.

I forget how long I worked there; at least a half a year. Maybe more. Then a year or two later, I worked there again; at a reduced salary. By then they had the bluegrass, tenor and I don't know what all. The place was doomed from the start, though.

I first met Jay Smith, the inventor and a beautiful guy, in the late fifties at The Old Town School Of Folk Music. He was taking banjo lessons. He had this cool looking aluminum banjo. It was made of many pieces and very different from the mass produced product; kind of a prototype. At the school people were always coming up to him admiring it. In 1961, Bill Malloy of the New Wine Singers said he got a day job at this cool place. I was the Merlin factory. He was their new salesman.

Here's an interesting story (I have a million of them): The New Wine Singers were booked to play at Gene Autry's hotel in Chicago's burbs. At the same time, they were hired by Orange Crush to write, sing and star in a series of commercials. Also, during this time, they were scheduled to participate in a live "Hootenanny TV Show" album to be recorded live at The Gate Of Horn. The national TV show was hosted by Jack (son of Art) Linkletter. Bob Gibson was also the weekly headliner.

The night of the taping for some reason, Bill Malloy got mad at The New Wine Singers and stomped out of the dressing room and went home. The New Wine Singers did not do the album. The next day they were scheduled to record the demo for Orange Crush. I filled in for Bill. I helped write some of the commercials and sang and played on the demo. A day or two later, Bill rejoined the group and, of course, I was out. (None of the agency people or Orange Crush people were at the demo recording. We sent them the tape.)

A few days later The New Wine Singer's picture was in the paper about them headlining at Autry's club. Orange Crush got wind of the gig and had second thoughts about hiring a group with the name "Wine" in it. Wine and Orange crush just don't go together. They were fired and asked if they knew anyone who could replace them. Some friends of mine and I were hired to fill in. THE STEEL SINGERS WITH GUY GUILBERT! The ad agency was going to pay The New Wine Singers for writing the commercials. (Now it get complicated.)

I was a New Wine Singers and a Steel Singer. In effect, I was going to pay myself for writing the commercials. Here's the punch line: The Steel Singers and I had a BIG meeting at the agency at a long conference table. They put on the DEMO TAPE (there I am plunking and singing away), turned to me and earnestly asked me (having no idea that was me with The New Wine Singers we were listening to) can I sing like that and play banjo like that? I answered, "Ah...yeah...sure. Never letting on...

What got me on this jag was: I received a new Merlin for using it in the commercials...pictures and all.

A friend of mine, Bob Grey, was a good friend of The Kingston Trio. He arranged for me to be an emissary and bring a free long neck Merlin to John Stuart for his endorsement. Bob and I arrived the Chicago's Opera House, and I presented the Banjo to him. Back at the factory, a party was being set up for the Trio. After the concert, Bob and I took off with the Trio for the Merlin factory. We partied until about two or three in the morning. Very strange standing by my drill press sipping cocktails.

More later.

GuY


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: Mooh
Date: 27 Dec 04 - 05:32 AM

Guy...That's facinating, thanks! More?

Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 27 Dec 04 - 05:52 AM

GUY, thanks for fining this and coming in here.

----I knew Mr. Guy Guilbert had a ton of tales to tell about this era in Chi-town and Merlin Banjos if he looked in here at this discussion. People, please, listen to him. He was a big part of the most successful and popular aspect of the early 1960s folk music scene in the city of Chicago. This was a nightclub caberet era---a time with VERY late night bars (5 AM on Saturday nights---4 AM otherwise) and neon reflected-in-wet-pavement with mesmerizing music, talk, and love affairs---beat poetry and Lenny Bruce-----Judy Collins, Lord Richard Buckley and a barefoot Baez opening for Gibson at the Gate Of Horn. And it was before AIDS --- a no-guilt era ( with all that that implies!) Personally, I was drunk on the whole scene---enthralled by Bob Gibson at his best, and I was playing at those hoots (open stages) at The Rising Moon for three drinks and a burger. (Also, I was pickin' at No Exit coffeehouse as a 19 year old with no beard yet. The coffee sobered and wized me up---actually and intellectually. It kept me from falling into the pit of booze and drugs that consumed so many good friends.

So, tell more Guy. These new folks need to hear it. I'll start some new threads too. One on the SPANKY AND OUR GANG era in Chi to emcompass McGuinn, Mama Cass, Gusty Herevey (who was she?), The Old Town Singers, the group you were in with Barb Stracke and the trio with Ginny Clemmens, Elaine (Spanky before Our Gang) McFarland and yourself. Even the Banjo Rascals if you want. John Carbo doing the film editing on The Blues Brothers film with Belushi. John Belushi's time at Second City. (Were you part of that?)

And when was that picture I sent to you taken---the one of the RISING MOON's burnt moose head hanging from the scorched balcony??? I hadn't realized that it was the Chicago MOB that had burnt the place down !

So many questions---and tales to tell !!!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Guy Guilbert
Date: 27 Dec 04 - 11:29 PM

Okay, here's some more stories:

DOG AS A SMALL MUSICIAN

Ya know, I played with them all: Josh, The Weavers, Gibson, Ronnie, Will. (Will? Will who?) Will Holt, that's who!; Shel Silverstein, The Kingston Trio, The Clancy Brothers.
Let me tell you about Gibson. He had always been an idol of mine. The zenith. To play like Bob Gibson was the best. I remember first seeing him, in 1960, at The Gate of Horn. He was playing in the basement of a three story apartment building on Chicago's swinging Gold Coast. The "apartment" was now the nightclub: The Gate Of Horn. The big "buzz" going around was, "Have you seen Gibson and Camp yet? They're incredible. They're the best. A new sound!"

I remember entering the packed bar. I was only seventeen. The show was going on past the door on my left. You could faintly hear the music for the crowd cheering and clapping. The excitement going on behind the door was palpable. Irresistible, magical things were going on in that room. I had to get in no matter what! The door was closed and guarded by the hostess. No one could get in anyway, because the room was "packed". Occasionally the door would open letting someone in or out, and you could peak in and glimpse just a flicker of the stage. The railroad-car-shaped room was long with a low ceiling and dark, except for the brilliantly lit stage which silhouetted the heads of what seemed to be a million, jammed in people. You could feel the heat, the sweat and the excitement. Craning my neck, I caught something on stage: a movement, a flash (from the guitar?), singing. Then the door snapped shut!

This was no good. I had to get in to that room! The way to sneak into a filled-to-capacity-show and not pay the cover, of course, was to wait until the hostess went off on some errand. Then quickly, like a thief in the night, slip, while crouching, into the showroom and disappear amid the crowd to find an empty chair—if there was one—hunch over and be invisible; ducking whenever the hostess walked by.
And there they were, Gibson & Camp. Boy, they were cool. The two Bobs! With their suits and skinny ties, they were epitome of coolness. There were three of them. Gibson, with his mighty twelve-string. Bob Camp, with nothing but his incredible voice and stage presence, and Herb Brown: Mr. Mellow bass player. His bass was the size of a ice box, and you could feel every thundering bass-rumble he had to say with it. I had just sat down when Camp started doing an impression of Louis Armstrong, and the audience was howling. They were so good together and they were really getting off on each other. Their harmony and blend was anything as good as Lennon and McCartney's. (Coincidentally, it was the same kind of frenzied musical energy that was happening, at the very same time, in a place called The Cavern in Liverpool, England. Except the audience there was, of course, much younger.)

Well anyway, that was the first time I ever heard or saw Bob Gibson.
A little while later I finally got my chance; to show and prove to myself that I could match my talent—at least as a bass player—with Gibson's. I was hanging out at Mother Blues—a nightclub on Chicago's Wells Street—when Gibson came up to me and asked if I wouldn't mind playing behind him while he did a guest set? Mind? Hell no, I didn't mind! Now was my chance to finally play with the great one. (And I'm not talking about Jackie Gleason.) I ran up to the dressing room excited and nervous thinking, 'This is a big prove it or lose it time'. Now I get the chance to show my mettle; to step-up a notch in musical prominence. (At least in my mind.) It was a challenge I was longing for. I was sure I could do it. I had to do it! When it was near time to go on stage, I went downstairs to confer with Gibson. He comes up to me and says, "Oh, by the way, John Brown is going to play Guitaroon behind me instead. But, Thanks." I was devastated, but I didn't show it. I played it cool. I was so pissed off at Brown. Not really pissed off at him but pissed off at the unfortunate timing of Brown walking in the club that night at that time, and him having that goddamn guitaroon. He sure looked like he was having a good time up there with Gibby.


The next shot I got at Gibson was in '66 at Mother Blues, again. I was the "official" house bass player, and he was booked for two weeks. The club had to have an "official" house musician to appease the local musicians union, and I was asked to go along with the charade. "Officially" on paper, I was paid a hundred twenty five bucks a week. Of course, I got nothing, unless I was working. The "real deal" was: I got all the free drinks I wanted.


Anyway, here I am. I'm supposed to play with Gibson. Now, first of all, I didn't own an upright bass. Never did. Any time I needed a bass, I would go down to Kagen & Gaines on south Wabash and rent one. They had a wall with a row of basses, I swear, that was about fifty feet long. One bass after another. Basses of every kind, shape and color. Most of them were pretty bad. No tone, or too hard to play. All of them had on really old, gooey strings. I knew Gibson would do his version of "Sweet Betsy From Pike" and would need a bowed-bass accompaniment with it. Bob Mathews was the originator of this bass arrangement and it really sounded great, and I had to do the same arrangement. Now, I had never "bowed" a bass before in my life. I definitely am not a classically trained musician. I was lucky though, and had rented a really nice bass with a bow, and it wasn't too hard to get a fairly decent bowed sound from it.


So now I was set. I went to the club early opening night thinking, "Oh man, this is it. Make it or break it." Well, up in the dressing room, Gibson got his guitar out, we tuned up, and we broke into the first tune. I was carefully studying his face for any signs; approval or displeasure, but it was just kind of a blank stare. Well, after a couple of tunes he just said, "Let's go." That was it. I had passed muster. I had made it! The first set was pure joy. Went off without a hitch. He had a big smile all through it. Sometime even smiling at me! From then on, I was in. Gibson treated me like an equal. I had reached a new plateau.

More later...


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 02:03 AM

...yep, the spiggot is open. Good tales, Guy.
I'd followed Gibson since 59---my senior year in high school. His solo shows in that long low basement room you mentioned were great. I think he only did one song with 12-string----"Matty Groves".   Gibber taught that arrangement of the song to Joan Baez---during the gig at the Gate where she opened for Bob. (What a voice she had.)
My brother was in the audience at the Gate Of Horn the night the Gibson and Camp LP was recorded with that silly song making fun of Marty Faye's sister's sexual preferences. They had to pull the album from the market and when it came out again it was without that song.----- The recently issued CD of that album once again contains that song. I think it is on Alan Shaw's Folk Era Records label. It is also in the current Collector's Choice mailorder/web catalogue.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Guy Guilbert
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 04:31 PM

A correction: I mentioned it was The Rising Moon Singer who played at the Off Stage. Wrong. It was The New Wine Singers.

Also Art, the Gibson and Camp album was recorded at the NEW Gate Of Horn on Rush Street.

More later...


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 09:38 PM

Guy, I think you are off the mark on that. The origional LP called Gibson and Camp at the Gate Of Horn was recorded at the original Gate Of Horn---in that great black-painted long basement at Chicago and Dearborn. Check out Shell's liner notes on the album. I've still got my original copy.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 11:58 PM

Well, Guy, you might be right. But that'd sure be news to me. If so I've been wrong for over 40 years! So what else is new?

(sheepishly) Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Guy Guilbert
Date: 05 Jan 05 - 03:28 PM

Sorry, Arto, I'm pretty sure I is right. Look at the album jacket. They're smoking outside, standing across the street from the "New" Gate. The marquee is behind them announcing in big letters: GIBSON & CAMP. Now, maybe it WAS recorded at the "old" Gate, but they were singing at the new Gate when it came out. We folkies assumed it was at the "new" Gate. Maybe I've been wrong all these 40 years. I'm going to send you Camp's eMail eDress and you can ask him. Let me know what he says.

guy


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 06 Jan 05 - 08:14 PM

Well, Guy, as certain as you sound, I think, no, I am POSITIVE (99% sure) that you're wrong!

I just checked with brother Richard. He and a special lady were on a special date that night. Just the first of many for the two o' them. The night is vividly etched in his mind's composite eyes. It was DEFINITELY in the original Gate Of Horn that the LP Bob Gibson and Bob Camp At The Gate Of Horn was recorded---the same room where I first saw Sandy Paton, Josh White, Joan Baez, Paul Clayton, The New Lost City Ramblers, Lord Richard Buckley, Leon Bibb, Theo Bickel, Judy Collins, Roger McGuinn, John Carbo, Odetta, Barbara Dane, Ron And Nama, Brock Peters---hell, even Ray Watkins (remember him?). Not Lenny Bruce though. I saw Lenny at the NEW Gate Of Horn---one of the nights they busted him 'cause the first Mayor Daley didn't like his pointing out stuff about the church in the same breath that he also noted that women had breasts. (Also because C.K. was way underaged and was there hanging out and/or waiting tables.)

Later, I remember her sister, T.K., walking L.B. up Rush Street and down State Street ("that great street") around and around--all night to keep him "awake" after he'd just obout O.D.'d---and she was the only reason he hadn't YET.

And we were all young enough to think that all of it was cool as all hell----which it was from where we were watching and listening then, but not so much now mostly because we are here now and still alive while Lenny, and Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield and Malcolm Hale and so many others are, and have been, as dead as if a tsunami just washed 'em off the face of the Earth. And I sure do miss all of them!!

Yeah, it was the old Gate Of Horn.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Guy Guilbert
Date: 07 Jan 05 - 09:28 PM

Well. Art, I guess you're right. If your brother was there, he was there. I wasn't. All I know is, It's one hellofa good album. I have a signed LP. (Art-who is CK? Your brothers girlfriend? And who is LB?)

MERLIN BANJOS:
When I went to work at Merlin, I was friends with Bill Malloy, who is mentioned earlier. I also became friendly with Jay Smith the inventer. (He is mentioned earlier.) In fact, Jay taught me how to drive. The second time I went to work at Merlin, things had become deteriated and more hectic and desperate. They were making many kinds of banjos hoping to cash in on present trends. Banjo bands were kind of happening.

The problems, though, were several: First: the whole idea of the banjo was that it would be easy to mass produce. Mold them out of aluminum and snap them together. Easy! The fiberglass rims were drilled with holes to give them tone. No aged wood to deal with. Jay had invented a saw with as many blades as frets to simultaneously cut the fret grooves as you slowly crank the blades through the ebony. It was all supposed to be a piece of cake.

The molding of the aluminum was pretty much a failure. Turns out, each neck had to be hand worked and messed with, therefore requiring a lot of time with each one. Also the necks, being made of aluminum, were never to warp. All I can say is mine did. The glue that held the fingerboard to the neck, on mine, came undone. All the foam in my case turned to dust. Yuk.

The other BIG problem, as I saw it, was stockpile. Bill Malloy did a great job going around the country to music stores selling banjos and taking orders. The problem was, Merlin couldn't fill them. Pure and simple. When I went to work there the second time, the place was in a state of confusion. Leonard McCabe would spend his day going through filing cabinets sorting screws; acting as if he had not a care in the world. I got fairly frustrated and started to make a long list of procedure improvements. It was ignored. I left soon after.

A funny note: I would sometimes go into Jay's or Bill's office to "party". After a while, Jay had to set me straight. He said I could only go in after work hours because the other employees would get jealous.

More later...


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Auggie
Date: 07 Jan 05 - 10:12 PM

Great thread Art and Guy.

If you came of age in Chicago when I did (i.e. just a few years too late to catch that early 60's music first hand) you should have to pay money to read stuff that is this good.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 08 Jan 05 - 01:10 AM

Auggie,

It's mostly very new inside Merlin info I'm hearing from Guy too. I love it. Guy has been a friend for a long time...

1959--There was a house band at the original Gate Of Horn that played and pretty much hosted the Sunday afternoon hootenannys. This trio was THE FRETS --- and it was made up of John Carbo (the mgr. of the Old Town Folklore Center when I was asst. mgr. there), Louis McDonald (a Chicago postal worker) and Jim (Roger) McGuinn. (Yep, founder of The Byrds.) McGuinn was a student at the Latin School in Chicago at the time.--------- A few years later, Guy Guilbert took McGuinn's place in The Frets. I was a student at the Navy Pier --- Chicago campus of the Univ. Of Illinois. There we had a folk music club and we brought in sometime Mudcatter, FRANK HAMILTON, to do an evening concert for us. Frank brought along The Frets (with Guy) and a strangely unique flamenco guitarist named Ray Watkins. I taped that show and later met up with Guy so he could copy my tape.

Fred Holstein would later take Guy Guilbert's spot on guitar with The Frets.

But Guy was the first one who loved The Beatles that I ever met. He (and my wife Carol) showed me the way to appreciate that group. Being the folkie that I was/am, I resisted for many years, but eventually I got so I could enjoy the boys and their success.--------Over the years Guy and I have split off as is the way of the world. But e-mail has made it easy to renew our friendship---across this big continent. When I saw this thread, I pointed him to it. This is fun.

As I've mentioned in other threads, John Carbo, who passed away a few years ago, wound up being film editor on the BLUES BROTHERS movie---with John Belushi.

Guy, L.B. is Lenny Bruce. I'll e-mail you about S.K. and T.K.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Guy Guilbert
Date: 08 Jan 05 - 02:54 PM

Auggie, do you want an address to send that oney to?


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 08 Jan 05 - 02:59 PM

Guy and Auggie,

There is no indication on the original Gib. & Camp LP what year it was---but that original place was all there was back then--so it'd have been obvious it was done in the first Gate.

BUT I have finally seen an "in print" reference to the date that LP was recorded.

The NEW liner notes to the reissue of that LP on CD were written by Richie Unterberger.

He says, almost as an afterthought, "In the mid 1980s, the reunited duo released Live At The Gate Of Horn Revisited", which reprised much of the material from their 1961 album."

Shel Silverstein's original liner notes are reproduced in the package also, but are printed so small you need a magnifying glass to read them.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 25 Mar 05 - 12:01 AM

refish


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Amos
Date: 25 Mar 05 - 09:57 AM

One of the best threads yet on the era. Thanks, gentlemen!!


A


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,aerodynamicdon
Date: 10 Apr 05 - 04:16 PM

This is great! Thanks for some good Chicago memories. 'Old Town' has few characterietics of
it's former self. Old Town School of Folk Music
is still cooking, and has a second branch. Remember ITS HERE on North Sheridan, where you could sit on the floor and get cramps? Jeez...I'm old. I've got a perfect chrome Merlin long neck and a gold annodized long neck. You'd think that this would last a lifetime right?   No rust, no warp. Nope, I want another, and that ever elusive spring clip
5th string capo.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,aerodynamicdon@webtv.net
Date: 10 Apr 05 - 04:29 PM

And furthermore....(who says that? Me I guess),
If the molds, tooling and supersecret stockpile of tuners could be found and purchased I'd try
to resurrect the Merlin. Dreaming and drooling,
                           Don


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Ron
Date: 05 Aug 05 - 08:50 PM

Hi, im buying (already put money down) a Merlin 5 string long neck, $1400.
Has anyone put a list together of known Merlins (specs/pics) ?


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 06 Aug 05 - 10:41 AM

I am truly amazed that, even in these later inflated times, that banjo costs that much. There was a time that you couldn't give them away to many of us in Chicago. We saw them as way-too-heavy and unwieldy -- unbalanced and laughable aberations that were in a league with fiberglass body guitars like the Ovation, and certain plastic molded in one piece instruments.

That said, the ovation is highly regarded now as a very balanced instrument--bass to treble--for recording as I've been told.

I remember a joke going around: One guy says, "I just got a set of strings for my Merlin banjo." His friend says, "Good trade!!"

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Norm "MadDawg" Siegel
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 11:00 AM

Oh My God! What a thread! I have been in touch with Art but where has Guy been? Someone said he passed away. Well, have ya? write me at uncledizzy55@comcast.net if you see this! uncledizzy55@comcast.net


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 12:01 PM

Norm, seems you're searchin Mudcat and finding stuff that hits "home". (Sweet Home Chicago)---Just know this place can be addictive!

This is an old thread and Guy Guilbert probably won't be in here now. I have an e-mail address for him if you'd like. He's in S. California now. Same curmudgeonly gent he always was, but now he's an old curmudgeon... Folks tell me to write a book---but the book is right here at Mudcat in my many posts! I'm only motivated to write when folks ask in a thread for info about times I was a part of.

Ild friend, have fun! I know ya will.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 03:44 PM

Thanks Art and Guy for bringing back memories of The Gate of Horn and the early Chi folkscene.

Bob Gibson is the reason I came to Chicago. I stayed at his apartment on (can't remember but think it was on Wells Street). He and I were a duo at the old Gate of Horn and I was playing 12 string guitar. Jo Mapes joined us later. We were Gibson and Hamilton. Al Grossman discovered Bob Camp in the Village and put him together with Gibson. Al was a prescient marketer.

The Dearborn and Chicago location of the old Gate was quite a place.
I worked for Alan Ribback (later to become Moses Moon in the Bay area) as house musician for the Gate. I accompanied many acts such as Bud and Travis, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Brother John Sellers, Martha Schlamme, Bob Gibson, Alan Mills and the phenomenal fiddler, "Ti Jean" Carignan, Shoshanna Damari and Barbara Dane. One night we had a jam session with Peggy Seeger and Big Bill Broonzy.
We worked with bassists Herb Brown, Spike Lee's father, Bill Lee and the be bop legend, (can't remember his name but he used to hit on us for pennies to support his habit.) It was dope city in those days jazz guys and the folkies all were into it. Even the gangsters showed up to dig Bud and Travis.

Gibson started the Sunday afternoon "hoots" at the old Gate. The entire Chicago music folk community showed up at one time or another.

Osborne Smith, Bob Atcher, Ella Jenkins, and maybe Fleming Brown but that I can't verify. Guy, I believe you were there as well as "Spanky" MacFarland, Johnny Carbo and Ginny Clemens. it was quite a scene. Wonder what ever happened to Elaine MacFarland? I met her in California many years ago but lost track.

Gibson was an extraordinary entertainer who referred to himself as a "saloon singer".

Does anyone remember Mike Bloomfield's (blues guitarist) coffeehouse, The Fickle Pickle? Gibson used to come down to see me and two other guys on Monday nights. One time our trio played opposite Dick Gregory who did a guest shot there while he was being featured at Roberts Show Lounge.

The Gate of Horn was closed down when it moved to it's new quarters by noneother than Lenny Bruce. Down the street Lenny used to appear at the Trade Winds, a mafia-owned joint often in the nude. But at the Gate he aroused the ire of the cops and city fathers by appearing in a priest's outfit. Catholic Chicago couldn't take that. That shut down the joint. I saw Mortimer Adler of the Great Books Club slinking out of the final Lenny Bruce show. ( A little intellectual slummming pehaps?)

Re Merlin: I always thought that they had too many overtones. They were loud though. They loooked kinda' neat.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,NormMadDawgSiegel
Date: 28 Mar 06 - 11:31 PM

The "old times" are still quite addictive! This place is full fo the old time comraderie and THAT is addictive. However, it is people like you who keep the historoy going and make folks like me remember that we were also a part of that era.

As for the Fickle Pickle, I remember Joe Klee with a capo in his lapel and going down for an audition on Novemebr 24, 1963---even in the throws of mourning a dead president, the music went on! It's Here on Sheridan road, the Barbarosa, the YEllow unicorn, all the places we hung out at. The New Gate on State---saw Peter Paul and Mary there! Josh White, Theo Bikel and more. Holy Cow! The Way Out in Skokie, now a McDonalds!!!! That was where I first saw Bob Gibson live in 1964. And, of course, The Earl.

Many fond memories of many fine people that I am proud to say I know! Keep the thread going! By the way, I thought the Merlins were a leap in the right direction---unfortunately that direction wasn't the way most folks wanted to go!!!! Interesting concept!!!


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: wordfella
Date: 29 Mar 06 - 10:21 AM

Frank--

Elaine McFarland was part of a recast Mamas & Papas a few years ago, singing Cass's parts. There was at least one tour, I think.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: wordfella
Date: 29 Mar 06 - 10:23 AM

Correction: it was "McFarlane."


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: wordfella
Date: 29 Mar 06 - 10:38 AM

Frank

McFarlane email


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 29 Mar 06 - 03:40 PM

Thanks Wordfella. Sent her a post. It was Macfarlane.

Norm,

Joe Klee became a jazz critic. Saw some of his writing I think in the Mississippi Rag. I rememember him with uke and cigar.

Does anyone remember Bob Dorough? He was producer for Spanky and Our Gang for a while. Also Fred Kaz, Ira Sullivan and Joe Siegel?

BTW the bass player I couldn't remember was Wilbur Ware along with Herb Brown, and Bill Lee.

Anyone know whatever happened to Bruce Langhorne? Great guitar player with Odetta. Also, Sam Brown with Miriam MacKeba?

Frank


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Mark Clark
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 01:49 AM

Joe Klee, now there's a name I haven't heard for a long time. Joe and I both had appartments in the same crummy building at 1227 N. Dearborn. I think it's a parking lot now. Joe had been a writer on the Dave Garroway show.

Joe would write topical songs about anything. One time Joe and I and Herb Jones and maybe someone else played a gig at Medinah Temple for a campaign rally for the real Mayor Daley. At least one of the songs we did was some campaign song Joe had written.

I remember seeing Herb Brown at The Gate but it was the new Gate across from Mr. Kelly's.

I didn't realize that the Fickle Pickle was Mike Bloomfield's. I used to see Mike there and we'd both sit in the front row on Tuesday nights when Bob Koester was still running the blues jams. To see Big Joe Williams, Yank Rachell, Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomerey, Sleepy John Estes, et al., at the same time and up close was just an amazing experience. I saw Yank again just a year or so before he died. He still remembered those days.

Everyone was on "the street" in those days. One night Herb Jones and I were walking across Rush Street after a gig and ran into Josh White. Herb knew Josh and Josh had a protégé named Willie Wright who we knew and who sang in the local clubs. Another night we ran into a couple of the Clancy Brothers.

Those happy times are so far in so many ways from today, I often wonder how we got to where we are now.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 09:53 PM

More recollections!:

First, there are photos of Joe Klee in my folk photo collection.

http://rudegnu.com/art_thieme.html

Frank Hamilton and Mark Clark are there too.

I also remember walking down Rush Street and seeing Toni Knox walking Lenny Bruce to keep him from passing out and/or passing away 'cause he had, once again, overdosed himself. And it was Toni's sister, the beautiful (amazing, for her age) Sydni, who was waiting tables at the Gate Of Horn one of the the major nights Lenny was busted there. Ostensibly, it was S.K.s under-aged status that was the reason for the bust --- but it was a ploy to get Lenny, as Frank said, because of his church-based comedy shticks. It wasn't comedy so much as social commentary and philosophical treatises by Lenny. He talked about what if Jesus came back today and saw the princes of the church with huge diamonds on their fingers and the people of the parish starving in the gutters.

AND Guy Guilbert played bass for Josh White a ton of times around Chicago. He did that for Bob Gibson too. Up at my photo site there is an interesting, but not-too-good, photo of Bob and Guy on stage at Richard Harding's original Quiet Knight folk club on Wells Street---before he moved it to the upstairs place at the corner of Belmont and Sheffield. --- And Gibson was "dating" Brigid Baslin then. She was "The Blue Fairy" on a 1950s Chicago kids TV show. Her mother was Maggie Daley, who was well known for something-or-other in Chi-town, but I don't remember what it was. All of this was tied into the old Bateman School --- and Latin School too -- where Jim McGuinn was...

John Carbo the banjo player was manager of the OLD TOWN FOLKLORE CENTER---I was asst, manager there 1965-'66 & '67.

Of course, Frank Hamilton, along with Win Stracke, Dawn Greening and Gert Soltker, were the founders of the Old Town School Of Fake Music. (pun intended) Same Frank Hamilton who is in this good thread. He was also a member of the illustrious folk group THE WEAVERS!!

The Weavers were second only to the group I started with Patti Page, Rosemary Clooney and Elvis.

We were called "Presley, Page, Rosemary and THIEME!"--- (But ya had to be there!!)

At the photo site there is a nice shot of Frank Hamilton and Win Stracke on stage at the Chicago folk club called Holstein's.

Art THIEME


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art thieme
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 10:06 PM

Frank, Bruce Langhorn was playing second guitar on Dylan's original recording on Columbia of the song "Mr. Tambourine Man"

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Norm SIegel
Date: 01 Apr 06 - 06:45 PM

Professor Art---you have done it again! Presley, Page, Rosemary and Thieme, INDEED!!!! A classic Art Thieme groaner if I have ever heard one. Obviously, while your health my not be the great3est, your mind is sharp as ever!!! You must have been up for nights thinking that one up!!!

Love ya to pieces!!!

Norm

PS BTW, I did a stint on bass with Bob Gibson at the Belmont Quiet Knight in 1970. On one night, we had the Trib "gossip" columnists, John and Abra Anderson in the audience. They had a Penthouse Apartment on top of the Drake hotel, and they always looked "Mahvelous", even in jeans and sneakers. Bob recognized them from the stage and made them take a bow! I leaned over to Bob and said: "Even in jeans and sneakers, they STILL looked like they just stepped off of a wedding cake!" It was one of the few times I saw Bob break up uncontrolably during a performance!


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,William Malloy
Date: 06 Apr 06 - 03:56 PM

Anyone,

If you know Guy Guilbert's e-mail address please forward. I'm Bill Malloy from New Wine Singers and long ago part owner of the Merlin Banjo Co.

Enjoyed reading the past.

wmalloy@adelphia.net


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 07 Apr 06 - 12:37 AM

Norm,

I sent it to Bill already.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: banjo Mick
Date: 30 May 06 - 11:23 AM

Coolhand Tom,

Just came across your comments about Luke Kelly and his merlin banjo,he taught me to play on that very instrument.
Was never able to get one for myself.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,patbanjo
Date: 21 Jun 06 - 06:29 PM

Hi to Coolhand Tom and banjoMick,
I think I know you Mick.
Well I picked up a long neck Merlin recently and had to do some work on it, but my main reason is for authenticity sake. I did meet Luke in 1981 and played his Vega Pete Seeger at that stage. Great privelage.
   Does anyone have an idea where I good get a sliding 5th string capo or maybe send me photos and I could try and get a copy fabricated. I know the story of the sprig clip type to put in the different holes in the neck.
Have a look on www.patkelleher.net "Instruments Page" and "Click for Next Page"

Pat


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Guy Guilbert
Date: 10 Sep 06 - 03:38 AM

Hi every one. I will try to answer some question above that were posted earlier this year.
Norm: Yes, I am not DEAD! Sorry to disappoint you. Ha! I had an aortic dissection three years ago and had open heart surgery to replace part of my aorta.

Frank; before I started lessons at The Old Town School Of Folk Music, in '57? 58?, my mother, one day, was strolling down North Ave. when a man came up to her and asked directions for TOTSOFM. She said, 'Follow me,' and led him down the block, in the building, and up the three flights. Seems everybody was waiting for this guy, for when he walked in the room, an audience of people stood and applauded him. He grabbed a guitar, jumped on stage, and Big Bill Bronzy started to sing. My mother was stunned. Frank, you probably remember his first performance there???

Yes Frank, I did go to some Gate hoots but never saw you there. Never saw Gibson either. I think you both were busy with other things by then. The School for one. I don't think Spanky ever went to the hoots there, but she did hang at the bar...a lot. In fact, that's where I first met her and where our torrid love affair began. Whew!

Spanky MC FARLANE now lives in Ferndale, CA, which is right below Eureka, CA. She just bought a house, sings at some open mics. In fact, I just saw her a couple of weeks ago. We played a lot of cards.

Spanky was in The Mamas And Papas for 11 or 12 years. There were MANY tours.

A important song in my song-set was, "The Rock Island Line," Lonnie Donnigan's version. Joe Klee was always putting me down for doing it. What a guy.

The Fickle Pickle: That was a big hang for Spanky, McGuinn, Ray Tate, Joe Klee, Mike Settle, Dave Brian (later Dave Blum of The Second City) me, and god knows who else. Mike Bloomfield was NEVER there when it was MY HANGOUT. He worked there later; was the doorman, seat sitter. (I produced a radio spot for Country Club Malt Liquor with Mike and Nick Gravenitus(sp). We prerecorded all the track but him. He came in listened to the tracks once, laid his guitar against the amp and created a howling feedback, yelled to start the tape recorder, and blistered a guitar passage on a spare track-IN ONE TAKE!)

I played at the Pickle with The Frets several times, with the late, great John Carbo and Lou MacDonald. This was right after I took McGuinn's place in the group. Great times. Would all go to a pancake house after hours and meet up with the likes of the Clancy Brother and that ilk. Goggies-right down the street. Does anybody remember the Goggie-burger? Mmmm.

Here's a story: Ray Tate calls me and says we have a gig playing behind the Clancys because Tommy Makem(sp) had hurt his hand and couldn't play banjo. Ray was playing banjo and I bass. This was at the Roosevelt Auditorium. I take a cab to the gig, get out, and enter the place. Later, I'm on stage with everyone, plunking away. The Clancys are singing it up big. All of a sudden, my bass strings are soft, spaghetti. I look down and my bridge had collapsed 90 degrees. Flat. Nothing. Flop, flop. Bonnie Kolac was in the house and swears I said, 'Oh, fuck!' Anyway, the audience in the first row saw it, started laughing, second row starts laughing, and like dominos, each row picks up on it. I'm standing there mugging, of course. The Clancys know nothing except for the laughter, and not the reason why. FINALLY they turn and see me, shrugging. The place went up for grabs. I slink off stage, and realizing I can't fix the bridge (it takes a special tool to put it back on), grab a guitar and return to the stage to huge applause. Apparently I had knocked the bridge goofy when getting out of the cab. Duh.

Bruce Langhorn lives here in LA. I saw him about 4 years ago at a gig with Peter Elbling. He's looking good. I did an album in '62 in NY with him backing Inman & Ira. He doesn't remember. Oh, well. Later, gUy


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 10 Sep 06 - 08:42 PM

refresh for those who might not have caught Guy's post!


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 11 Sep 06 - 08:00 PM

Guy,

It's pretty amazing reading your doings back in them other times. You've got me thinking of the group THE FRETS. You, with that group, opened for Frank Hamilton when we brought him in to play at the University Of Illinois-Navy Pier 2-year branch back in 1961 I think. --- It's making my brain smoke to think that far back. All those reel-to-reel tapes I made of that concert have crumbled. I still have a couple of songs from it on cassette---Singin' In The Country by Frank--a song he taught in the one class I caught him teaching before he joined The Weavers. I never sat in on another lesson after that. He also did "Meadowlands"---the Russian equivalent of "America The Beautiful". I sort of learned it from that tape--and got a ton of mileage out of it over the years. A beautiful song!-----Anyhow, I did manage to save that song as done by Frank that night on a cassette. Still have it.

Fascinating times...

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art again
Date: 11 Sep 06 - 08:02 PM

I hope I hadn't already recounted that stuff in this thread! Well, whatever.

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Guy Guilbert
Date: 12 Sep 06 - 07:28 PM

Oh, yeah...Fred Kaz lives on his boat, here in Marina Del Ray. He occasionally plays piano with The Second City Alumni, but arthritus has severely claimed his hands. I play for the alumni when he doesn't.

I also heard, don't know if it's true, but I think it is, Herb Brown was murdered in New York.

Ira Sullivan: I knew he moved to the San Fransico area in the mid-late '60's. Don't know where he is now.

Willie Write: Willie died in the early seventies from a gangrene infection he got from dropping a bucket of paint on his toe and ignoring it. There was a benefit in '74 at The Second City. Gibson & Camp performed amoung others.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 12 Sep 06 - 10:34 PM

Here is an aside addendum:

Ira Sullivan played at the original Gate Of Horn (at Chicago and Dearborn streets) on Monday nights -- the only night that wasn't folk music. This was 1959. --- More recently, in the 1990s, Ira Sullivan teamed up with RED RODNEY, also a trumpet player. Sooo, Ira taught himself to play saxophone. They made some fine albums---one of which I have. Mostly be-bop in style.

RED RODNEY, who was white, played trumpet with the amazing Charlie Parker when he was young. They had several gigs to play in the south---where black and white musicians were NOT then allowed to play together--let alone hang out together. The story Parker told the sheriff when he came around was that Red was not white---he was a mulatto! ------ I guess it worked!!!

This episode is featured in Clint Eastwood's film bio of Charlie Parker called BYRD-----a fine film starring Forrest Whittaker as Parker.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,art thieme (sheepishly)
Date: 12 Sep 06 - 10:37 PM

Of course, that should be BIRD!


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 16 Oct 08 - 01:11 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 17 Oct 08 - 11:51 AM

Getting back to the Merlin; here's an old ad from Sing Out!

http://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/photos2.asp?id=17973&photoID=35191&albumid=1828


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 17 Oct 08 - 11:53 AM

Left click on the photo above for a larger view.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Feb 09 - 12:21 AM

A bit down the thread (about 3 years back) my old friend Guy Gilbert mentioned that he didn't know what became of Ira Sullivan.
Ira has been living in the Miami, Florida area since at least the early 1970s if not earlier.
I've met him several times over the years and got together with him last Fall when he dedicated a night of his playing to my late uncle, Conti Milano a bass player who Ira knew for many years.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Soren Midtgaard
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 03:41 PM

Hi

I am looking to buy a Merlin Banjo. If one of you guys have a lead I would appreciate it.

My email is soren_roi@yahoo.dk


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Stringsinger
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:01 PM

Hi Art and Guy,

I jammed with Ira and Bob Dorough at the old Gate in 57 or so. I was saddened to hear
about Herb Brown who backed a lot of the folkies at the Gate. Wilbur Ware and Bill Lee
also.

The word on Eastwood's flick is that he probably picked the worst day in Bird's life to
put on film. Bird was a pretty happy-go-lucky guy from those who knew him,
notably a man deceased now named Buddy Jones who worshipped him.

Ware was sad. He used to ask for pennies to feed his habit.

The Second City crowd mixed with the Gate crowd. I knew Alan Arkin, Paul Sand (nee Sanchez), and met Severign Darden a couple of times. Barbara Harris told me about her
sojourn in Hollywood. She was married to Paul Sills at the time.

When I played at the Gate, there was a little-known comic who did a telephone sketch
for a very small audience. He had studied acting in California. His name was Shelly Berman.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Irwin Liebman
Date: 28 Apr 09 - 08:17 AM

Back in the early 70's Fleming Brown sold me a Merlin Banjo for a hundred bucks and he threw in 2 kittens(one sick) as a bonus. I think he got a kick out of that deal.I remember that it was really loud and heavy. I sold it to my then father in-law but dearly remember the sick kitten (with pneumenitis) who sneezed all over my carpets and curtains for a year.
Irwin Liebman
iliebman@netzero.com


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Scott Newell
Date: 19 May 09 - 11:27 PM

In the early 70's, I bought a Merlin banjo from a fellow music teacher at Hewitt's Music in Dearborn, Michigan. Later went on to tour with it with the New Christy Minstrels. Here's a link to a picture of an album the group made in Japan:

http://www.thenewchristyminstrels.com/images/7306-NCMKeepJapanBeautiful-100.jpg

While traveling with that banjo, the resonator got very banged up, even though it was inside a hard case. The metal of the resonator was so soft, every time we'd fly, just the movement of the instrument inside the case would enlarge the holes where the screws went through. Was lucky enough to get a new resonator before the Merlin company went out of business, so the banjo is in great shape. It was very good for concerts--hardly needed a microphone. And boy, did it stay in tune with those high ratio tuning keys.

I'm now a freelance television producer and recently helped produce a program on a medical subject. Without knowing beforehand his Merlin connection, one of the people we featured was Bill Malloy who worked in the Merlin factory. I spoke at length with his wife and found out many things about Bill and that banjo. It is remarkable that our paths would cross under those circumstances and after all these years.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Drew
Date: 25 Jun 09 - 06:03 PM

Does anyone know where i can find the tuning peg apparatus that merlin banjos have? I own a 4 string merlin banjo that is missing this crucial part. any info helps. thanks. my email is aadavis80@yahoo.com.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Judi Nowak-Hendrick
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 12:00 PM

Hi Guy!
Look me up on Facebook, we need to do a lot of catching up!
Judi - Smiles


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 05 May 10 - 10:09 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Bobert
Date: 30 May 10 - 01:23 PM

I enjoyed very much reading all of the comments about Merlin Banjo. Also, I especially enjoyed the comment about "It's Here" and sitting on the floor. Now the question of the hour is - does anyone out there remember Jimmy Carter or The Rum Runners who use to sing there - what ever became of them? If so email Bob at ndahl1@cox.net.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Fantome
Date: 24 Nov 10 - 09:00 AM

I do remember the Rum Runners from shows at It's Here on Sheridan Road. I had a new Merlin long neck 5-string and wanted to learn how to play it so I took lessons from their banjo player up in Evanston. Can't remember his name and I still can't play the thing very well. But the Merlin has survived nicely all these years as well as the Guild D 40 I bought while teaching guitar in 1964 at Wilmette Music near the 4th & Linden terminal of the CTA. I lived just behind Silver Sid Warner's shop on Armitage & North Avenue. He made a truss rod cover in sterling with my initials on it. Still have that on my D 40. And thanks to everyone for all the stories from those days. I was only 18 and a little late on the scene but my brother Roy played drums with Mike Bloomfield back when they were at New Trier High School and one afternoon at our house in Wilmette Bloomfield taught me how to play a couple of chords. I was 13 but it got me going. I still enjoy playing whenever I can get a few locals together up here in midcoast Maine.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,fantome
Date: 24 Nov 10 - 03:36 PM

I mean Sedgewick Ave. and North. Old Age ...


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Paul Petraitis "Closer To The Blues"
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 01:01 PM

Enjoying the Gate?pickle?Old Town tidbits Am writing a book on the 60's Blues Boom in Chicago who's FANTOME whose bro played drums with Mike Bloomfield?


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 21 May 11 - 06:42 PM

I was gonna say it was Sedgwick and North Ave. But you corrected yourself. I never knew Silver Sid's last name! Thanks for filling that in for me.------- Also at that intersection was Alderman Paddy Bauler's bar / office. He was the main man in the Forty-Third ward. His buddy, Win Stracke was a founder of the Old Town School of Folk Music--with Dawn Greening and Gert Soltker and Mudcatter Frank Hamilton.

I remember opening up the Old Town Folklore Center that dat; everything looked normal at first. --The Folklore Center was also right near that intersection--at 343 W. North Ave-- Pretty quickly it was obvious that we'd been robbed over night. Several guitars, banjos ad very heavy Roberts reel-to-reel tape decks were just gone. And there was no sign of a break-in -- anywhere. After hours of searching and scratching our chins, I went down into the basement and found one wall kicked in!!! The thieves had gone underground after lifting a manhole cover----then crawled under the hollow area under the sidewalk---got to the perfect spot---and kicked in the dam basement wall. They gathered whatever they wanted, and took it out of the store the same way they'd come in. Never used the door!

Win Stracke went to have a beer with Alderman Bauler that day and told him what had gone down. Bauler said he'd check with the neighborhood fence that night.

As it turned out, the fence had all our merchandise! The thieves were junkies who needed cash quick. Bottom line was that we had to pay the fence's price to get our stuff back.----------So we did that---without a word to the police.

I do recall a short neck Merlin banjo being in that load of contraband.------- Folks Paddy Bauler was the Chicago Alderman who first said, "Chicagah ain't ready for reform!" ---

As I mentioned in this thread up top---John Carbo was the manager of the store. And in 1965--'66-- and into '67 I served as assistant manager. --- The late folksinger,Fred Holstein, worked there part time. So did Ed Holstein for a while.

I do miss Chicago... It's just the way things were. Par for da course!!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Stringsinger
Date: 22 May 11 - 11:57 AM

Joe Siegel, former manager for Louis Armstrong, booked the Monday Night jazz sessions at the Gate of Horn with Sullivan, Kaz et. al. I tried to sit in one night but couldn't cut it.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 22 May 11 - 05:06 PM

Frank,
I heard Ira Sullivan on several of those Monday Nights at the Gate.
In recent years, Ira Sullivan formed a bebop group with Red Rodney. Do you remember Red Rodney? He was a white guy who played trumpet with Charlie Parker early on. When the combo was touring in the south, it posed a problem. Whites and blacks weren't allowed to perform together back then. So they passed Red Rodney off as an ALBINO! -- and it worked.

Red and Ira Sullivan both played the trumpet--and that was a problem. So Ira Sullivan taught himself on the spur of the moment to play saxophone. And he was great at it. They might still be playing together---I don't know.

There are several CDs of the two of them out as we speak. (made after 2000 or so)


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Stringsinger
Date: 23 May 11 - 02:57 PM

Hi Art,

I jammed once with Ira, Bob Dorough on piano and Fred Kaz was there too.
They were very nice to me, not like some of the other musicians in the area who thought they were so hot. Ira, Bob, Fred....great musicians......nice people.

The famous story about Rodney is that he got hooked because Bird did it. Bird said to him, don't do that because I did it.

Rodney was represented in the rather peculiar movie by Clint Eastwood showing a scene between Red Rodney and Bird. Red was able to get the Jewish wedding gigs in which he helped Bird get some money.

An acquaintance of Bird for many years said that Eastwood got Bird on a bad day. Bird was pretty happy playing with Diz and not such a morose individual as Clint suggested.

I think that the jazz musician as survivor (Art Pepper style) is exaggerated. These musicians had a good time playing.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Stringsinger
Date: 23 May 11 - 03:02 PM

I was really sorry to hear what happened to Herb Brown. I felt badly for Wilbur Ware, too.

There were four bass players used at the Gate of Horn.
Herb Brown
Bill Lee (Spike Lee's father)
Wilbur Ware
Buckwheat (with Bud and Travis)
They all played acoustic bass.

These were the regulars. Bill recorded with Odetta on Tradition Records and with me on banjo, and Bruce Langhorne (a great guitarist) on "Hearty and Hellish"/ the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem at the Gate of Horn.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 23 May 11 - 10:12 PM

This old thread just keeps on keepin' on. Thanks for the tales, Frank.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Stringsinger
Date: 24 May 11 - 02:49 PM

Peter Paul and Mary came out of this, Art, as you know. About that time Al Grossman who ran the Gate decided he would put together this folk trio, I think the story was in his words, "Two rabbis and a hooker". I was during that time that Al auditioned and presented them at the Gate and gave them the names, Paul was Noel Stookey and Peter was a modestly successful act as a single. Everybody knew Mary, the Amazon Queen of Washington Square.

I think one of the bass players worked with them at the time. I was accompanying Shoshana Damari, the legendary Yemenite singer at the time.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Stringsinger
Date: 24 May 11 - 02:55 PM

Art, I had one of Paddy Bauler's famous free haircuts across the street at a small barber shop on North and Sedgewick. I think Win arranged it.

I had a trio Monday nights at Mike Bloomfield's "Fickle Pickle" playing pop folk stuff ala Mighty Wind. At the time, Dick Gregory would come down and do a guest set after his stint at Robert's Show Lounge on the South Side. My co-horts were Bob Rose, Bernie "Cheyanne" Schatz and we had Bob Gibson as a visitor from time to time.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 24 May 11 - 10:09 PM

Frank,
I took one group lesson from you. Tune you taught that day was Pete's 'Singing In The Country' or 'Living In The Country' --- Key of D I think. It was the first time I'd ever tried to play and pick further up the neck than the first 3 frets.
Then you left to Join the Weavers and I never took another formal lesson again---but I sure did learn from folks I ran into all over. One time at the Gate Paul Clayton guested at one of those Sunday afternoon hoots that went on for several years.

Do you remember that strange section at the Gate--it was sort of a peanut gallery -- set aside for teens who couldn't drink yet.-- Just Coke was served there.------Wow, almost forgot that.

that reminds me of a night at the bar at the original Second City--on Clark Street right near Wisconsin St.   I was under-aged but loved to hang out there and just listen to the talk. Very cool. Nelson Algren hung out there too. He was piqued because I only ordered Coke. Once Mr. Algren shoved his own beer down the bar to me--to the consternation of the bartender.---------- My MS sure screws up my recent memory, but the olden golden times seem to be with me still. --- All the best to you and Mary! I do hope you both are well. ----- Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,from tokyo
Date: 24 May 11 - 10:59 PM

Thanks,Art & Frank

Yesterday쳌@I listen to the Radio Album,
Studs Terkel's Weekly Almanac Radio Programme,No 4:
Folk Music & Blues at internet.

Beautiful!

Kiyohide Kunizaki at Tokyo Folklore Center


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Leadfingers
Date: 25 May 11 - 05:16 AM

100


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Sharon McCabe
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 08:52 PM

Not sure why but I decided to google Merlin banjo. My dad made them - Lennard (not Leonard) back in Chicago when I was young. I think I still have one.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 11:56 PM

Wasn't there a McCabes Music Store in Chicago for a long time??

Art


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Sharon McCabe
Date: 07 Jul 11 - 12:23 AM

I do not remember a McCabe's music store back in the day. Wasn't connected to my family


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Mark Ross
Date: 07 Jul 11 - 02:05 AM

McCabes is in Santa Monica California Art.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Ron L
Date: 14 Jul 11 - 04:33 PM

I worked at the Merlin factory on Clark St one summer while I was in high school. I have a long neck with a prototype sliding 5th string capo.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Oct 11 - 08:50 PM

I only played banjo once (played slide on one tuned to DGDG, but I am a musician and historian and am fascinated by the banjo community and the many scenes you folks flowed in and out of...I'm interested in how mixed blues bands started playing to mixed audiences here in Chicago...the integrated Blue Note (closed in 1960) brought mixed couples to the Loop...black and whites were seated at separate tables at Chez Paree at that time...mixed folk groups and Dizieland Bands are part of this too...New York's famous jazz scene was real Jim Crow for years...I'll be talking to Earl P and his partner Chris about their years at the Old Town Gate (1529 Wells I think next to Chances R sez Earl)"Dixieland 8 Nights a week" the billboards said!It sure seems like Mike Bloomfield was not part of this banjo clique, he started on acoustic because his wife Susan was a fol;kie...like Dylan Mike started on electric and then went acoustic! I'm also real interested in The Fret Shop in Hyde Park.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 24 Oct 11 - 08:04 PM

Refreshing, for yesterday's GUEST.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: wordfella
Date: 29 Dec 11 - 12:25 PM

Refreshing, because the thread deserves it.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Scott Newell
Date: 10 Mar 12 - 12:43 PM

Bill Malloy, one of the inventors of the Merlin banjo and a member of the New Wine Singers, died February 3, 2012, near Cleveland, OH.


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Jul 12 - 06:27 PM

Hello Art, really enjoy your posts, especially those dealing with the New Wine Singers, of which I was a founding member. Stay well, Bob Connelly


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Feb 13 - 10:49 PM

Does anyone remember seeing Tommy Makem at the Quiet Knight in about 1972? He was alone without the Clancy Brothers.
O


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Subject: RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene)
From: GUEST,Adam Cochran
Date: 12 Jun 13 - 12:53 AM

I found this site by accident, and remember so many of the people mentioned. John Brown, John Carbo, Guy Guilbert, Art Theime, and after working at Mother Blues with the Eastgate Singers (5-string banjo and guitar) I worked at the Merlin Banjo Company stamping parts and assemling banjos before starting at the Red Garter and working there on 4-string for many years before finishing law school. I am now Associate General Counsel at Caltech in Pasadena. I miss those days in Old Town.

Adam.cochran@caltech.edu


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