I got a gig for Friday night! Here’s how it happened.
After Banjo the Dog and I did our regular 47-minute practice session today in the OPS (‘outdoor practice studio,’ see below), he was so groggy and pooped that I dropped him at the house and went out on my own. I ended up downtown (Montgomery), found a bench right near the Court Square fountain and, having nothing else to do really, I grabbed the banjo and played for awhile there.
As I was playing, a woman walked by and smiled and nodded. Then after a while, she came back and asked me who I was and what I was doing. We chatted for a moment, and then she asked how much I would charge to perform at her cafe–just around the corner–on Friday night.
I know that cafe, although I’ve never been there. I asked her what she had in mind, and she said she’d be happy to have me on Friday night from 7:00 to 7:30 pm.
I told her that I could do that, and no charge for the first time. We agreed that I’d be on hand by 6:30, she’d feed me dinner, and then I’d play for 30 minutes. If it went well and customers seemed to like it, then maybe we could do it some other time too.
I agreed, and she took down my details.
Gulp! Now what do I do?
I worked up a little playlist and a few words to say (see below). I can pretty much play the songs there somewhat reliably. I’ll be working on them the rest of the week and then give it a try.
Full report to follow. It’s the D’Road Cafe in downtown Montgomery.
PLAYLIST for 30-Minute Gig at D’Road Cafe
Spoken Intro: Well, good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to D’Road Cafe. I’m Wayne Bartlett, performing as Top Hat Banjo, and I’ll be playing a few banjo tunes for you tonight.
I’d like to start with a tune that has lyrics, although I won’t sing them. The lyrics of this one tell of a desperate little man in the West Virginia hills who nearly gets away with murder. This is John Hardy.
Thank you. This next tune is one that I’ve warmed up to a good deal now that I’ve retired from my second career as a high school English teacher. This is Rollin’ in my Sweet Baby’s Arms.
[Rollin’ in my Sweet Baby’s Arms]
This next tune is an old Grandpa Jones standard, you may remember Grandpa Jones from the show ‘Hee Haw’ in the 1970s. It’s called Eight More Miles to Louisville.
[Eight More Miles to Louisville (Melodic and then Scruggsy)]
Thank you. The banjo is a great instrument for campfire tunes that we all know and love. Here’s a medley of tunes that you’ll recognize from your own campfire days.
[Camptown Ladies, You Are My Sunshine, O Susannah medley]
Thank you. It’s been said that you just can’t play a sad song when you’re playing the banjo, and that’s been my experience. The lyrics sometimes deal with sad or unhappy things, but the music always sounds upbeat as the banjo looks for the silver lining that can always be found behind the cloud.
This song celebrates the coming of spring after the long winter when you first start to see cardinals around. It’s called Redwing.
Thank you. As the rural areas of our country were settled, the first musical instrument that was used was typically the fiddle, which would have been brought over from the old country. The banjo, brought from Africa by slaves, was often the second. It became common to adapt old fiddle tune standards for the banjo, and I’d like to play some of those for you now. You’ll probably recognize these tunes. Hardly anyone ever knows the names. I’ll start with Turkey in the Straw, then Devil’s Dream, and finish up with the Sailor’s Hornpipe.
[Turkey in the Straw, Devil’s Dream, Sailor’s Hornpipe medley]
When the soldiers returned from World War II, it seemed like everyone in the country got married, bought a house, and started having babies. Television changed too. One of the most popular shows on TV was the Flatt and Scruggs Grand Old Opry show, featuring the undisputed king of the five-string, the one and only Mr. Earl Scruggs. Earl performed many of the banjo standards that America heard on television right up into the 1970s. Including this tune.
[Ballad of Jed Clampett]
That was ‘The Ballad of Jed Clampett’ from ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’ Thank you.
Time for one more tune. This one is one I hope you’ll recognize. It can be a challenge to recognize tunes when I play them, but I think you’ll know this one. This is an Earl tune, called Foggy Mountain Breakdown
[FMB with High Break]
Thank you. I’m on Instagram and Twitter as tophatbanjo, and I invite you to follow me there. Thank you and good night.