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Can a banjo picker play Johnny Cash music??

Posted by John Herrington on Friday, May 8, 2009

"Do that again!" My guitar picking friend exclaimed these words with a look of wonder in his eyes..."I like it!" We had been playing each Tuesday for several weeks. "Together" would be a rather loose word applied to our joint efforts. We really hadn't clicked but felt sort of bound together for no one else was interested in playing with either one of us.

My friend, Tom, was thoroughly wrapped up with the music of the late great Johnny Cash. He knew every song ol' John ever played...by heart. He would sing with a deep gravelly voice similar to J. C.'s after a night after, and then he would pause for a moment for one of those grand bass runs of Luther Perkins. Time meant nothing to Tom, just get that guitar run in. Like me he didn't know music, just the songs of John Cash, and these he "rearranged" with his attempts to work in the runs of ol' Luther.

I don't suppose I have to tell you that a pretty new banjo picker, though thoroughly familar with Cash music, was left in the woods with the vagrancies of Tom's timing, or left out on the limb while he piddled with the familiar runs.

Then one day we clicked. Tom broke out with the "I hear a train a coming..." line of "Folsom Prison Blues" when he noticed the train sounds of my banjo. He didn't know it but I had been working on "special effects" with my Gold Tone. I had the galluping sounds of that old steamer. One could picture it and hear the movements of the connecting rods and the clanging of its bell, as I slapped that 5th string with my trusty thumb while doing an assortment of pull offs and hammer ons in and around the 2nd fret. When we wrapped the thing up, Tom had a new admiration in his eye. "Let's do that again, John," he said. Well after an evening of "The Wreck of the ol' Ninety Seven" and "Wabash Cannon Ball," we were clicking together. 

Can a banjo picker play that ol' Johnny Cash music? Probably not...unless he throws out some of the nonsense he has been taught and learns them train songs. And don't forget the 5th string, men...whang it a lot...in time of course!

"Hear that train a coming??"

Old John Up Here on the Big Horn River



2 comments on “Can a banjo picker play Johnny Cash music??”

bsa Says:
Friday, May 8, 2009 @4:02:16 PM

I hear it  John!

Happy pickin'

Dave

oly Says:
Wednesday, June 3, 2009 @7:12:28 AM

That sounds great John, it's always nice when things click, or you get that "wow" moment

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