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Playing Since: 1974
Experience Level: Purty Good

[Jamming] [Socializing]

Occupation: Superintendent of Schools

Gender: Male
Age: 59

My Instruments:
1977 Gibson RB-250 Banjo. 1988
staghorn. I also play piano and a little guitar

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Alan Munde, Jens Kruger, J.D. Crowe, Ben Eldridge, Tony Rice, Hot Rize, Country Gazette, I'm enjoying as of late "The Grascals and The Farewell Drifters, "

Classified Rating: not rated
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Profile Info:
Visible to: Public
Created 6/5/2010
Last Visit 8/10/2018

The Banjo Saved My Life Back in 1974, I was 12 years old and living in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a time of hippies, drugs, and counter culture. Most parents had not experienced anything like it in their youth and were very trusting and gave their children more freedom that kids have today. Unfortunately, many of us chose to experiment with drugs and alcohol with all of our free time. I was twelve years old and started smoking cigarettes and pot, drinking, and even took a few pills. I was also cutting a lot days from school and signing my own notes. The school finally took a good look at one of the notes and decided to call my mom. Of course, I hadn't been sick and she came down to the school to discover that I had missed 10 or more days. While sitting in the principal's office, she noticed an empty bottle of wine and asked the principal if he knew Joe Geronimo (My Godfather) because he had a bottle of his private label wine in his office. He told my mom that he had found the bottle at the school. Of all the bottles to steal, I had taken my Godfather's private label that was only given out to certain people. The bottles at our house were being saved for wedding days in the future. I was called in and confronted with the notes and was asked if I was drinking, doing drugs, etc. To all questions I resounded with a big NO. While I was digging my hole, the principal slowly picked up the bottle from behind his desk and set it nonchalantly on his desk. From there, I melted and it all came out. My parents didn't yell or even freak out as much as I would today. They sat me down later that night and they simply asked me what I wanted from them to stop doing drugs and drinking. I thought for a moment and said "I want to play the banjo." Now many friends have noted that this was proof enough that I was high and on drugs, but it came from a sincere and passionate place in my heart. I had been listening to my parents Roy Clark and Buck Trent albums and there was something about the sound of the banjo that struck a chord :-) My parents bought me a Honer banjo with very frilly metal work for about $200 dollars and got me lessons from this crazy guy named Leon who wore a horrible hair piece and suit, and played tenor banjo like you have never heard. He taught me 5 string from the Mel Bay book and I originally learned by reading notes, not tab. I became obsessed and soon outgrew Leon's experience with bluegrass. I was playing about 4 to 6 hours a day. I would put my banjo and a guitar on a stand and look at them as I went to sleep and would jump up and grab them when I woke up. My parents started sending me on BART into the 5th string in San Francisco every Wednesday night to take lessons from Richard. This place was like going to church every week for me. Eventually, we moved to the Sierra Foothills and I continued playing on my own. I never dabbled in drugs or cigarettes again and am a responsible adult drinker and that's why I say that the banjo saved my life. When it came time to go to college, I had to decide between a school where some friends were going and a regular degree, A school in Texas with with a degree in banjo, or a culinary school which was another one of my passions. I chose the regular degree path and don't regret it, but often wonder "what if?" Unfortunately, my banjo has stayed in it's case more than not over the last 20 years, until recently. My son asked me why I made him practice everyday, but didn't play my banjo. At about the same time I saw Lori Lewis play and the two events lit a fire that I haven't felt in years. I'm playing about an hour or more a day again and 3 to 4 during the summer months (I'm a principal and have free summer time.) I've joined jam groups and am relearning songs I used to know and learning lot's of new ones. The muscle memory has come back and it feels amazing to play again. One of the reasons that I think I stopped playing is that I didn't get involved in jamming. If you are a new banjo player (and have read this far) I encourage you to start playing at as many jams as you can. Your playing will improve quickly and you will never have a reason to put the banjo down. I'm still playing a Gibson RB-250 that my parents bought me in the 70's. It's a nice banjo that I will always keep, but I'm looking to add a Stelling Staghorn. I have wanted one since I saw my first one around 1976 and plan to get one when the right one comes along. I really appreciate the banjo community on here and if you are still reading, Thank you for taking the time to listen and all the great advice I get from this sight almost daily.

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