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Book on Dan Levenson - coming by early Spring 2023

Posted by Brooklynbanjoboy on Monday, January 16, 2023

The publisher has placed the book that David Brooks and I wrote about DAN LEVENSON in their catalogue for Spring 2023 releases.


We still have to get the production proofs, proofread those, and build an index – I’m guessing that once McFarland finishes the last bit of their production proof process – perhaps by late January – David and I might be able to complete our proof reading/index building work by late February.  So, my best guess is that the book production process could be finished by early or mid-March. 


And that has prompted me to indulge in a bit of reminiscing about this whole drill. 


Co-author David Brooks and I "met" on BHO, probably about 2012 or so, and he proved himself a willing and capable critical editor upon whom I came to depend for a frank and careful scrutinization of article-length manuscripts and book projects old-time musicians before those writings went to press. 


When I finished the manuscript on Jim Scancarelli in 2021, I asked David for his view who I might look at next as the subject for a writing project. 


I had tried to confine my writing work to musicians who could not or would not write about their creative trajectories themselves.  Dwight Diller did not have the focus or inclination to do a book on his life as an old-time musician.  Tommy Thompson was long gone, and friends and fellow musicians who knew, and played music with Tommy, who had their own interest in writing about him never mobilized in a way that would have enabled them to tackle the challenge.  Jim Scancarelli should have been able to cobble together a story of his life in music - and cartooning - but he did not sense that his story would have much to offer of interest beyond his occasional interviews and articles.  And the North Carolinian bluegrass fiddler Tommy Malboeuf was a basically forgotten name - except among devoted fiddlers who harked back to Union Grove in the sixties, and remembered his robust, unique fiddling efforts. 


David Brooks brought up Dan Levenson's name.  I suggested that Dan had the capacity to write his own story, but I seized on two aspects of the potential project as attractive enough to make me say "yes." 


The first was Dan's offer to place about 8 or so feet of his personal archives in my hands for as long as necessary.  I must confess that a good archival challenge intrigued me. 


The second was my suggestion that I'd work a book project on Dan Levenson if David Brooks would sign on as a co-author.  I'd never really paired with a co-author on a writing project - except for one or two articles on Cambodia and Burma years ago that were more projects in which the labor was divided evenly, and the authors brought their separate products together to make an article.  Not quite the same vision of "co-authorship" that struck me as a potentially interesting challenge. 


I had probably started the process of conscripting David Brooks as a co-author sometime in 2021.  He’s a good friend -  via Banjo Hangout and email and occasional ZOOM chats. -  and a good editor, a real musician with a performing and recording capability (and at least one CD to his name) and a former student of Dan Levenson’s, so joining forces with David on such a writing venture made sense to me. 


I'm sure that when David Brooks and I have a final product in hand, David will change his email address, go to an unlisted phone number, and do anything else that might possibly prevent him from having to deal with me again.  I've suggested that he wait at least a year after the book appears before he writes his own "tell-all" story of signing up to be a co-author with me, but I now have the suspicion that he already has his own confessional book on our collaboration in a first draft already. 


Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 





Lew Stern

Durham, North Carolina

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