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Banjo-related birthday present: Bela Fleck signs my T-shirt

Posted by Kevin G on Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My wife bought tickets to Bela Fleck's Melody of Rhythm concert at a local college, hoping to surprise me with an early birthday present. She's the one who got me going on the banjo adventure anyway, and when she saw that Bela, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain would be coming to Goshen College, she immediately called and got tickets. She was very coy about the whole thing, and wouldn't tell me anything other than that I should keep that Friday evening open. (Like I plan stuff without her...) Well... You know how it is when you want to surprise someone. A friend of mine at work saw the announcement in  the local paper and called me to make sure I knew about it: surprise blown.

But: Friends, this was one phenomenal concert! I don't know how many Bela Fleck fans there are here on the BHO, but he's taken the banjo into unknown territory once again. The blending of banjo riffs, concert base and tablas was absolutely phenomenal. Everyone in the building knew that they were witnessing something special. I had never seen Bela in concert before, but I will again, I can tell you that. The three of these guys had a special rapport, musically, intellectually and personally, and it came through in the music, and in their interactions with each other and the audience. Of course I bought the CD, and stuck around a little while after the concert was over because they said that they'd be out in the lobby afterwards "signing stuff", as Bela said.

I was fourth in line, and the guy two people ahead of me asked Bela to sign his shirt, which he did. And then I remembered that I was wearing my BHO players union T-shirt from 2007 under my sweater. So when it was my turn, I asked Bela if he'd sign my T-shirt. I lifted my sweater, and he started looking for a good open spot to sign. And then he read the shirt, stepped back for a second, and said: "Oh, you're one of US! Or maybe, I'm one of YOU." Then he signed my BHO T-shirt. I'll post a photo of me wearing it later, but this just made my night. And it wasn't even my birthday yet.

These guys had played their hearts out for three hours, and they were willing to hang around for what had to be at least another hour or two to "sign stuff." Heck, I was drained by the performance it was so full-on. I was astonished how humble, personable, and human Bela, Edgar and Zakir were. Each of them has won Grammy awards. The fact that they'd hang out (ahem) and rub elbows with the rest of us reinstated my faith in humanity. And maybe that was the best birthday gift of all.

My best to all of you.


5 comments on “Banjo-related birthday present: Bela Fleck signs my T-shirt”

Kevin G Says:
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 @4:53:22 PM

Um, that would be "bass." Sorry about that. I'm still excited from the whole experience. (KG)

jimbowe Says:
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 @7:21:21 PM


I saw the same show in Richmond, VA a couple of weeks ago. Man was it fun!

Happy Birthday!

TopCat Says:
Thursday, October 22, 2009 @5:20:49 AM

Very nice blog, Kevin. Thanks for writing it up for us. This was my favourite bit:

"Oh, you're one of US! Or maybe, I'm one of YOU."

Jane C Says:
Sunday, October 25, 2009 @4:48:48 PM

Wow, you lucky man, a great night out and a signed shirt. I bet that's one less item for the laundry basket, better get it framed, unless the ink is indelible.

Kevin G Says:
Sunday, October 25, 2009 @7:24:34 PM

He signed with a permanent Sharpie, but my plan is to limit the use of this shirt from now on. I posted a few photos of it here on the Hangout. Now that I think about it, celebrating a signature seems a little goofy, but it's more a reason to remember how human these guys were after playing their hearts out for three hours. It was a great night.

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