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Curtis Eller's American Circus

Posted by Stev187 on Friday, June 13, 2008

Without A Net: An Evening With My Oldest Pal in the World
  • short sleeve shirt
  • trousers
  • suspenders
  • converse sneakers
  • open back banjo

Add my childhood friend Curtis to the list above, and you have Curtis Eller's American Circus. (A large crowd of people who love music and a ready supply of alcohol are also nice, but not necessary.) As I write this, The American Circus is in town; his wife and daughter stayed at our house. Earlier in the day, he showed my kids how to juggle. If a unicycle had been handy, he would have ridden it around for them. Fresh off the plane from NYC, he played with his daughter on my front lawn and was overcome with joy to realize that he he'd gotten a grass stain on his pants. I spent yesterday hanging out and talking with Curtis and finished it off by catching his act at a pizza place called Martini's in Kalamazoo.

I'm no movie maker, but I dare say that these little clips capture his act better than any of the others I've seen. Curtis' fans have posted many of these, and a few of them are really, really good. But this turned out to be a great room and a great night for Curtis, who needs plenty of space for his act. Many of the folks in this Kalamazoo crowd were there when he literally smashed through a glass window during his show at a place called Kraftbrau. This crowd knew him, and they were very receptive. And Curtis was "on" in a very big way.



Curtis is often billed as "New York City's angriest yodeling banjo player." He cites Abraham Lincoln and Elvis Presley as his two major musical influences. He brings the nineteenth century to life in a way that makes the present day seem dead. He and I have been listening to music, talking about music, and playing music together all of our lives. I really can't describe what I see when he plays these songs, when he is literally kicking and screaming and pouring his guts out. He is literally doing everything we've always hoped music could be. I think these little clips show you what I see, even if I can't seem to put adequate words to those visions.

With movements that range from an acrobatic bicycle kick to a Charlie Chaplin mustache wiggle, Curtis makes each of his dark, sentimental, and anachronistic songs a truly physical act. Curtis does have the American Circus in his blood. What amazes me about Curtis' live show, as trite as it might sound, is that he does it all without a net. There's nowhere to hide behind that gorgeous Bart Reiter banjo. And even though I have one just like it--got mine first, thank you very much--there's no way I could do what he does. But I sure love to watch.

I captured every number that evening with the exception of his closer (besides, I had to dance during at least one song). I reloaded in time to catch the encore. Enjoy these clips; and if you don't, be certain you never tell me about it. 'Cause we're talking about my oldest friend in the world, here. And I am super, super proud of him.

P.S. Be a dear and go to his website to buy something.

5 comments on “Curtis Eller's American Circus”

Sir N Says:
Friday, June 13, 2008 @8:20:13 AM

Thanks a lot for posting this. I really love the way he uses that banjo outside of the usal Scruggs or Clawhammer thinking. I got both the latest albums (only ones in Sweden?) and listen to them a lot.

DandyRandy Says:
Friday, June 13, 2008 @8:33:35 AM


brianbauer78 Says:
Friday, June 13, 2008 @10:35:36 AM


twayneking Says:
Friday, June 13, 2008 @6:55:15 PM

Strange little buckaroo....

curtiseller Says:
Monday, June 23, 2008 @12:42:54 PM

Thanks for posting this video Steve.  It sure was nice to have you out there.  Don't be a stranger!

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