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 Other Banjo-Related Topics: Clawhammer/Old-Time

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 04/22/2012:  10:13:48

I was watching some segments of Craig Evans' wonderful "Conversations With North American Banjo Builders- Vol. 1" last night.  The closing frames of the Mike Ramsey segment featured our own Zepp playing  the most beautiful, tasteful version of "Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine"  I've ever heard.  His embellishments and variations on the tune were the mark of genius in my humble opinion.  They indicated true understanding and genuine intimacy with the music and the instrument, but above all a wonderful creativity that has an even deeper source.

I've had people ask why I own so many recordings with so many of the same tunes on them.  One of the greatest pleasures I derive from Old-Time music (banjo in particular) is hearing how many ways different folks interpret the same tune.  Hearing someone take what for me is a well-known tune and do things with it that never occurred to me is both surprising, humbling, and most of all exciting.  It certainly shows me that the potential of even the simplest tunes as vehicles for musical expression is far from exhausted and likely can never be.

Zepp's interpretation really touched me.  His plumbing the depths of the tune and skill at banjoistically relating the beauty locked within it is a true gift that can only serve to inspire.  His skill as a player and teacher, his generous participation on this forum, and his advocacy for the banjo make him one of the greats of our time.

I know I am not saying anything that folks here don't already realize, but it can't be said enough.

Zepp, your skill, understanding, and taste make you a true master. You are a true gentleman and a true musician.  Thanks for everything you contribute, and for the inspiration and enjoyment you provide.



dbrooks - Posted - 04/22/2012:  10:51:50

Nice tribute, R.D. If I knew how to quote messages, I'd definitely display your comment that even though BHO members realize Zepp's virtues and contributions, we should continue to acknowledge them. Of course, this applies to other BHO valuable contributors, such as yourself.


sugarinthegourd - Posted - 04/22/2012:  11:21:57

I agree, R.D.! I am too lazy to break out my DVD and check, but I suspect this is the recording you are referring to. There are two on Zepp's mp3 page -- the one I linked to is the more iconoclastic of the two. It was recorded on a "Chuck Lee Lone Star Deluxe 12" with a "Wooden tone rim."

i am pretty sure this is the first recording I ever heard of Zepp -- probably on banjo-L -- and I still remember how it blew me away!


ponty - Posted - 04/22/2012:  11:37:33

It was from this version that I decided to learn this tune. When I was done, I asked my wife

how it sounded, compared with Zepp. She said it was OK...but lots of notes missing!

Still true today. Zepp plays this with all kinds of 'add ons' and extra flavour. I am still looking

for those notes.

shannonhearne - Posted - 04/22/2012:  11:59:13

A very enthusiastic "AMEN !!

Zepp is a treasure!

- sch

Jason Wilkerson - Posted - 04/22/2012:  12:28:11

Zepp has got to be one of the most tasteful players out there.

banjered - Posted - 04/22/2012:  13:33:43

Amen too. I steal from Zepp every chance I get but unfortunately I am not good enough to steal very much. Carry on Zepp, carry on! Banjered

RWJones1970 - Posted - 04/22/2012:  14:14:31

I once asked Zepp how to play the tune Nancy . I got a reply in my email a few days later of a video with Zepp demonstrating slowly on his beloved Ramsey Fairbanks Electric this very tune. Talk about thoughtful. He humbly took a bow to show me. This, to me, speaks volumes about his character. Zepp is such a class act human being and wonderful musician. My fellow Marine Corps brother RD couldn't have said it any better. By the way RD, your a class act yourself. The banjo community consists of some amazing people.

R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 04/22/2012:  21:08:24

RW: S.F. my young brother !!!

John: I don't believe it is either of the linked versions you posted though they are similar masterpieces. I'm thinking since Zepp's playing was featured on the Ramsey clip,
he was no doubt playing one of Mike's banjos. All that aside, thanks for posting links to more
great playing by the Z-Man.

Paul R - Posted - 04/23/2012:  05:29:21

A well deserved and well written tribute, R.D. Don Zepp is a master who displays his skills in a way that isn't just showing off. His attitude, as shown here on BHO, is constructive and creative. And he puts things in perspective. "It's just a banjo!"

Your contributions are well thought out and constructive, too, R.D. Your thoughts expressed here on BHO are always a "must read".

ZEPP - Posted - 04/23/2012:  06:26:04

Wow!  What a way to wake up this morning!  Even better than coffee!  

To know that this thread was begun by someone of R.D.'s stature is truly humbling.  To say that I am grateful for the remarkably kind words of each of you would be gross understatement.  And to say I am flattered by the comments of those  whom I respect so much would only begin to express how I truly feel.  

Thus, there is little I can say other than to offer a resounding "Thank you!" to each and every one of you.  

Wait--there is something mundane I can add:  The recording in question was done specifically for the DVD (I intentionally played it faster than I usually do to ward off losing listeners to the "arms of Morpheus"), and it was, in fact, played on the "Fairbanks Electric" prototype that Mike made me.  I forgot about it after sending it to Craig, so I don't think I've posted it anywhere, but reckon now I should...

Thanks folks!


Edited by - ZEPP on 04/23/2012 06:26:52

pjxndvm - Posted - 04/23/2012:  06:37:02

I previously posted such sentiments about Zepp's tunes. I would much rather listen to his YouTube videos than professionally made CD's. So, so enjoyable...

Mark Johnson - Posted - 04/23/2012:  08:16:29

Hear, hear.

I owe Zepp an unpayable debt for years of learning.  I've stolen so many tunes, tips and tricks from him both in person and online that I can't even begin to count them.  In addition, the wonderful opportunities I had hanging out at his shop (eventually working a bit and teaching a bit) were huge boosts to my confidence and a real watershed moment in my playing.  Which is all to say that he has been a great mentor to me as he has to many of you.

And yes, his playing is amazing.  Really really amazing.  

GSCarson - Posted - 04/23/2012:  08:40:07

Zepp's playing is fantastic.   A couple years ago at Clifftop I stumbled onto a one on one session he and Mark Johnson were having in the evening by Zepp's stand.  Sitting there in the darkness playing D tunes and trading some really interesting, subtle intricate licks back and forth, the more I really listened, the more I started to understand how truly neat what I was hearing really was, unforgettable.  

pjxndvm - Posted - 04/23/2012:  09:49:13


I wish I had your fortune to be under Zepp's tutilage... his students are very fortunate...

Castania - Posted - 04/23/2012:  10:57:31

I'm not overstating when I say, "I wouldn't be here, on this forum, if it weren't for Zepp."  

While not the first clawhammer player I'd ever heard, he was among the first three, and the only one whose playing invited me to give it a try.

In addition, he's a top notch teacher (of many subjects) and a real human "bean."  (Please check out Zepp's charity work:  His encouragement and willingness to share were the best lessons I ever received.  Clawhammer banjo has kept me calm and sane through some difficult times, and certainly made the good times all the more enjoyable.  I could never repay the debt I owe him for that.

Thanks, Zepp!



Edited by - Castania on 04/23/2012 10:58:50

frailin - Posted - 04/23/2012:  11:04:54

You rock, Donald.  big

ceemonster - Posted - 04/23/2012:  15:18:39

ha, after not doing in-depth banjo-clip listening/watching for a while, about four days ago i just put in one of those hour-plus idylls with the zepp sound and video files which i wallow in from time to time only to emerge, dizzy and besotted with bliss....

RG - Posted - 04/23/2012:  16:21:39

Zepp is the man no doubt!

rubicon - Posted - 04/23/2012:  19:45:44

Zepp I  have enjoyed countless hrs playing your you tube videos ,they are in my opinion one of the greatest sources of old time music available . You have made an incredible contribution to those of us learning to play clawhammer and after reading this thread it appears those already skilled have learned a thing or two as well , Thank you for sharing your wonderful tunes  with us !

Edited by - rubicon on 04/23/2012 19:56:34

J-Walk - Posted - 04/23/2012:  21:05:34

Whew! For a moment, I thought Zepp was dead!

Glad you're still among the living.

dewbanjo - Posted - 04/24/2012:  09:42:05

"Almost heaven" is not WV....tis Zepp's Music store in Wendell, NC...going down there again in a couple of weeks, 1st weekend in May.

ZEPP - Posted - 04/24/2012:  09:49:30


Originally posted by J-Walk

Whew! For a moment, I thought Zepp was dead!

Glad you're still among the living.

Not yet, John.

Thanks for the latter thought:  I, too, am glad still to be numbered among the living, especially as I am constantly put in mind of Porky Pine's admonition "Don't take life so serious, son, it ain't nohow permanent." smiley



sugarinthegourd - Posted - 04/24/2012:  12:10:03

It's nice when we give these eulogies while folks are still alive to hear them!

pernicketylad - Posted - 04/24/2012:  13:17:01

I'd highly recommend Zepp Country Music. Donald are Marc are fantastic to deal with.

Dexter - Posted - 04/25/2012:  22:25:58

It's hard to add anything to the thoughtful and deserved comments that have already  been made ....except to say that I can't think of any other community where people of Zepp's stature as well as the OP and others are willing to share what they know with rookies like me. The banjo world is a great place and I'm glad I'm part of it. 

ceemonster - Posted - 04/26/2012:  14:20:34

is that Chuck Lee Dobson going to do a screen test before it flies away?.....:)

ZEPP - Posted - 04/27/2012:  09:33:10


Originally posted by ceemonster

is that Chuck Lee Dobson going to do a screen test before it flies away?.....:)

Sorry, it's gone... 



orangikan - Posted - 04/27/2012:  14:26:08

A couple of years ago when clawhammer fever had just hit me hard, Zepp's online video's and tutorials were some of the first things I found. Not only was I blown away by the great playing and the high pedagogical quality of the (free!) learning materials, it was my first inkling that a lot of banjo players are extraordinarily nice people. And my idea of paradise looks a lot like Zepp's store.

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