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Another Life Squandered: The Road to Banjo Hell

Posted by FretlessinTexas on Friday, January 7, 2011


So I warned the young man who telephoned me earlier this week and asked for lessons.

After a few minutes of chatting about how he became interested in clawhammer banjo, I told him that  I would be willing teach him. But I warned him that  we would not be using tab. Rather, we would sit beside each other and do a form of  "call and response" with a goal of him learning to play by ear.

I used that technique last year with a student who became a close friend when I was living in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Mark drove 40 miles one way once a week to see me for lessons. Over time, his playing appreciably improved by playing by ear rather than by tab. He learned not just from me, but by accompanying me to jam sessions and festivals, where I would purposely have him sit beside other experienced banjo players, dregs of society who were friends of mine.

I suspect Mark now will be a banjo player for the rest of his life. Pity, such a fine life squandered away.

Mind you, I warned Mark from the outset that it was not too late -- that he could become a bonafide musician and learn to play an instrument other than the banjo. Consider the tuba. But he insisted, and so I am guilty of leading him down this path of utter destruction.

Forgive me, Mark. Please forgive me.

Maybe I should forewarn this latest pilgrim. "Son, do yourself a favor and swear off this banjo thing before it's too late, because it will form as a habit and seep in your bones."

Yes, I will try to dissuade him. It is the only right thing to do. And if that fails, I will take yet another soul down the road to Banjo Hell.




9 comments on “Another Life Squandered: The Road to Banjo Hell”

kc8tby Says:
Saturday, January 8, 2011 @3:23:27 AM

LOL! I love it!!

Karen Kruske Says:
Saturday, January 8, 2011 @5:04:12 AM

Yep, it seems to just "seep into your bones". What a ride it is to Banjo Hell!

Jane C Says:
Saturday, January 8, 2011 @7:22:56 AM

Great story. I bet Mark doesn't regret his folly one bit.

billy stewart Says:
Saturday, January 8, 2011 @7:51:23 AM

yep!! banjos banjos banjos!!

RWJonesy Says:
Saturday, January 8, 2011 @7:54:54 AM

*** Brother Dean, your such a wonderful person, you have done well good and faithful servant. Come and enter the kingdom which has been prepared for you! Lol!

jamesd Says:
Saturday, January 8, 2011 @8:10:19 AM

Well Dean, I sure wish someone had warned me a few years back. I would have saved a whole lot of money......

Banjosnob Says:
Saturday, January 8, 2011 @9:48:40 AM

Couldn't someone pen a song (in a minor key) about "The road to banjo Hell"?

HicksvilleBanjo Says:
Saturday, January 8, 2011 @6:38:04 PM

Thanks Dean, I can't think of any better traveling companion for this "Road"

NickC Says:
Tuesday, January 11, 2011 @7:06:58 AM

enjoyed that.. good writing!

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