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Banjos are Walking Sticks

Posted by Don Lewers on Tuesday, March 27, 2012

 My Dad ,'Jack', started teaching my elder brother 'John' and 'I' the banjo in the mid 50's.' John' learnt Plectrum,and"I "Tenor banjo,and we seemed to pick it up in no time flat. We'd all have heaps of fun  rattlin' off all those great tunes, around back then, sometimes we'd have to sort a chord or two out, fix it, and carry on regardless. " The Old Man,"  as we affectionately  referred to him , in a quiet moment, as fathers would do , after a few rums, would say "Boys playing music on your banjos may never  come to much in making money and fame, but it will be a great walking stick for you both, in  the years down the track in your lives. " How true it turned out. In 1962 my Dad started a "Sunday Morning Session ," at our home. Musicians would roll up for a bash, the pubs couldn't open on a Sunday back then, so as well as bringing an instrument of some sort, you had to knock on our door with your elbows- so you would'nt drop the booze! they were great days.

              Banjo records were very rare back then in  Aust. if you were lucky, you could pick up a " Freddy Morgan or  an Eddie Peabody" L.P. and learn a bit from those  blokes.  We'd never heard of a 5 string Banjo- it wasn't until 1962 we heard "Buck Trent  " on a L.P. record, for the first time, and were gob smacked. I learnt all the songs on that record playing mainly under the top string, duo style, and keeping the rhythm going  at the same time. 

             In the early 60's, I first heard " Chet Atkins " and he was a huge influence on my playing style direction. Just 3 years ago, I decided to actually try and use my last 3 fingers, of the right hand, and interact with a plectrum." Chet," used a thumb pick and 3 fingers. "Chet "  had 6 strings  - I've got 4 on the plectrum banjo. Does this mean I could get  4/6 ths. as good. I wish it  was that simple.  

              " Louis Armstrong " tops the charts with "Hello Dolly, "  in the 60s. From that moment I was hooked. Jazz and Country Music, are my bag and are so similar  in a lot of ways. I've learnt so much from both " Louis " and " Chet " and god bless "m.  

                  The, " Walking Stick " my  Dad  talked about has no boundaries---- A fiddle player from The Netherlands--- A Trombone Player from Memphis--- A  Didgirydoo  Player from Darwin, or a Trumpet Player from New Orleans-- A 5 string player Germany. It'll always be with you forever and a day  .- Good Luck,  Don.

12 comments on “Banjos are Walking Sticks”

Andyincov Says:
Wednesday, May 2, 2012 @2:46:39 AM

sound like happy days!

Laurence Diehl Says:
Monday, July 16, 2012 @2:14:05 PM

Don, I enjoyed your blog. Here's good luck to ya and many more happy days playing the banjo!

richardnapier Says:
Saturday, September 22, 2012 @9:02:46 PM

Hello Don. Great talking to you. I was just thinking about those old days when we'd wag school and play banjo, guitar and piano, roll a smoke and make great music in your back room. (We thought it was anyway) Remember Tiger Rag and Bill Bailey with our own words!! I'll be in touch. All the best.

cnsayer Says:
Saturday, November 17, 2012 @10:37:18 AM

HI Don, really loved reading your blog. A great example of the joy of music, and without boundaries.

Wills Creek Says:
Wednesday, January 16, 2013 @8:04:42 AM

Hello Don,
I was going to comment on your video with your playing in the backyard with the dog when I happened to read your bio about learning to play banjo. it reminded me of when I started out playing as a boy. The only people that were a round my town that knew the banjo were plectrum style banjo, (thats why I enjoy your playing so much) I learned an old fellow that lived a couple blocks away He had played on Wheeling radio as a backup player for various performers who played WWVA back in the late 30's and 40's up untill Country music took it's claim to fame. I was able to find a three finger style banjo player to teach me so when I reached the age of 16 I kinda lost interest in the banjo and didn't anything with it. Henc e I got married (first time around) Couple kids and layed off from the strip mines and nothing to do. I seen afriend one day ask if had an old banjo that might be for sale , The next day he comes along with an old junk banjo with a plastic resonator on it. So with my sister buying the Old Scruugs book for me for either my birthday or Christmas I started out my three finger style journey. Iv'e struggled with it for along time and after many long years of practice and self taught learning I think I've finally coming around to acually playing fair. I had started going to jam over in Wheeling Wva. about 16 -17 years ago taking my banjo along to learn what I could at the sessions when some handed me a guitar and said sing a song Frank well I had learned a song or two over first year or two of going to jams and one in particular which was Fair and Tender Ladies of the Seldom Scene version I sand all three parts as I heard it on the CD. Well Needles to say that ened my banjo playing in the jams and also in a band stiuation. I moved to learning more and more bluegrass tunes. after a divorce I met Cathy she was the second part and it's been that way ever since, we have become quite the noted ones in Southeastern Ohio for our singing and harmonies, Some of the regions best players in bluegrass have joined us in our little band and wev'e enjoyed some great music over the last severla years. The picture on my blog site is that of my dad who proded me along in this music He passed a wy few years back. Ileave that up therto honor him for bringing me to this music . So your life with playing in the backyard with your dogs and picking the banjo has touched me with memeories of good times too. I hope you have lot more good days Don and thanks for being a Hangout friend.


Don Lewers Says:
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 @2:55:14 PM

The joy music brings us in our lives, seems to be ongoing, and it can't get much better, than meeting new banjo playin' friends like yourselves, on Banjo Hangout. Thanks for your imput into this blog, and all the best, of banjo world luck. Don.

mipake Says:
Saturday, August 9, 2014 @4:39:58 AM

Don really loved reading your blog. The walking stick analogy your dad used is perfect.

thelostchord Says:
Thursday, September 25, 2014 @12:57:43 AM

what lovely sentiments Don. My family gave me the opportunity to play music with them too and although my Dad was not a rich guy in the monetary sense, both my Ma and Dad gave me a priceless gift that has been invaluable in my life. I enjoy your playing. Sean.

Dogface Says:
Saturday, November 8, 2014 @8:03:37 AM

Your Bio is very well written and so interesting.. I, unfortunately, had no music in my younger days and it's made it hard to learn. I envy all you guys who had music around you when you were kids... I play mostly for myself and my dog...but it makes me happy and that's what really counts... ;)

Don Lewers Says:
Saturday, November 8, 2014 @6:48:04 PM

Many thanks, Michael, Sean, and Mark - - - I've really enjoyed reading your feedback on this blog. I think everybody's got their own story to tell, about how they got started, playin' banjo, and havin' there own walking stick!. All the best fellas, and it's good hearing from you all. Don.

jmcglade Says:
Tuesday, May 31, 2016 @2:10:06 PM

Hi Don, Great job on Jeepers Creepers, I really enjoy those old time songs and you really have the knack with them. All the best, John

Don Lewers Says:
Thursday, June 2, 2016 @12:48:45 AM

John, hearing that somebody like yourself enjoys my video help lessons, is always welcome news to hear. Thanks, and good onya' .... Don.

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