MUSICAL ENDEAVORS

Bluegrass

I've been playing bluegrass banjo since about 1962, and have played with a number of semi-professional groups over the years.  Influences include Scruggs and Reno, of course, as well as Bill Keith, Bobby Thompson, Don Stover, and a variety of other pickers.  Currently I pick a lot at local jam sessions, and have occasional jobs with a Carlisle, PA, based band, Country Bob and the Barbeque Boys.  For performing I play a 2004 Huber Lexington banjo and a 1978 Gold Star HF-100. I also own an old Gibson RB-3 flathead conversion (circa 1936) with a wreath pattern repro neck (made for me in 1970 by Randy Wood of Nashville.)  For old-time I play a A.E. Smith Shelbourne banjo, and I've also been playing around with an old Orpheum Brass Band, an original 5-string with an oversize (13-inch) pot, which I've set up with extra-heavy strings so I can tune it down a 5th and play clunky tunes.   A sampling of pictures is below, with brief comments.

SOUND FILES

Jamming at Phil Zimmermanís, Cromwell, CT, December 17, 2011:  A fun session with old friends Phil Zimmerman on Mandolin and Guitar and Peter Craig, lead guitar and mandolin; Stacy Phillips, Fiddle, Pete Kelly, Bass, John Ayer, Guitar, and me on banjo. Recorded on a Zoom H4n placed in the middle of the living room. Very informal.

 

Bean Blossom Banjo Contest, 1969! A remarkable find, recorded by Ken Landreth, June 19, 1969, and posted on Fred Robbins' nice site---I'm in the semi-finals of the Bean Blossom banjo contest, introduced by Bill Monroe and Roger Sprung, and competing against Alan Munde, Butch Robbins, and Dick Smith, among others. Check it out at:

http://frobbi.org/audio/landreth/BeanBlossom1969/BB69BanjoContest.html

Yonder City, Pennsylvania Bluegrass, 1973 Another rare tape, courtesy of Carroll Swam. I played banjo in Dick Staber's band near Brodbecks, PA, for several years in the early 70's. This performance features Dick on mandolin, Chip Masemer on guitar, and DeeDee Denlinger on bass. Other members of the band during the same period (but not on this tape) included Tracy Schwartz, fiddle and Jerry McCoury on bass.


Jamming at the Arrowhorse, Gettysburg's Bluegrass Store, November 3, 2010:  A group of fine pickers including Larry Noel, Guitar; Wendy Hamer, Bass; Johnny Brown, Dobro; Denny Kopp, Guitar and Mandolin; Phil Zimmerman, Mandolin; George Sneed, Mandolin; Glenn Carson, Fiddle and Clawhammer Banjo; Russ Carson, guitar; Patrick McAvinue, Fiddle; and Larry Marschall, Banjo. This was a very nice session despite being recorded on a small Zoom H4n recorder! (each file about 3-4 Meg;  mp3 format)

 

Classical Banjo with Bob Winans , 1993 For many years,  banjo master Bob Winans and I played together as the Greater  Gettysburg Banjo Society. There's a couple of videos of us playing toghether at Bob's site and on Youtube. Here's one of us playing Somewhere in Dixie by George Lansing. Check it out at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmIJRnuTPjM


Jamming at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, late night August 17, 2010:  A nice group including Mark Albert, guitar (he did the recording), Mark Lynch and Mike Lose on Mandolins, Scott Seidel, Bass, and me on the banjo. Listen for the crickets in the background.  Some very lively numbers! (each file about 3-4 Meg;  mp3 format)

 

Video: Bluegrass in the UK! A short clip of me playing with Brian, Christine, Chris, and all the other great people at the Whitefield Pick---in the Snug at the Frigate, near Manchester UK, 28 November, 2008.  Thanks to Dave Bresnen for loaning me a lovely Stelling Superstar banjo during my autumn in the UK. I Wonder Where You Are Tonight.

Video: Triple Banjos! A short clip of me playing with Phil Zimmerman (Left) and Bruce Stockwell (middle) at the 2008 Gray Fox Bluegrass Festival in New York State---the piece is Sonny Osborneís great instrumental, Big Ben.  I think Iím playing the middle part.  Click here for the Youtube of Big Ben.

Indian Neck Folk Festival, 2005:

Phil Zimmerman, Mandolin and Lead Vocal (Tenor on Chorus), Larry Marschall, Banjo and Lead Vocal on Chorus, Mark Greenberg, Guitar.

The Four Larry's----Fooling Around at Hank Janney's Arrow Horse, 2005

Indian Neck Folk Festival, 2007:

Phil Zimmerman, Mandolin and Tenor Vocal, Larry Marschall, Banjo and Lead Vocal, Mark Greenberg, Guitar, Neil Rossi, Fiddle, Frank Stettner, Bass.

Old Time Music----From The West Orrtanna String Band, First Recording, 1976

 

From the Personal Archives

BUFFALO, NY, 1963 ----Peter Ranov (now Peter Craig) and I pose for a formal picture. I'm playing my first Mastertone, an old Granada ball-bearing with a new neck made by the Folklore Center in NYC.  

ROANOKE, 1965----The very first full-weekend bluegrass festival at Cantrell's Horse Farm near Fincastle, VA, promoted by Carleton Haney. I'm third from the left, and Tony Trischka, who at the time was the only other banjo player (as far as I knew) between Buffalo, my home town, and New York City, is fourth from the left. Andy Sacher, a mandolin player now in Vermont is at the far left, and Harry Gilmore, a mandolin player with Tony's band, the Down City Ramblers, is fifth from left.

BERRYVILLE, 1967 ---  Here I am playing banjo with Bob Hoban at the successor to Haney's Fincastle festival. Bob and I played together for four years in the Lake Country String Band, Chicago's premier (and perhaps only) bluegrass band in the late '60's.   Bob went on to scale the heights of bluegrass and country music with his fiddle and piano wizardry, and recorded for many years with Vassar Clements. 

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO FOLK FESTIVAL, 1968 ---  A jam session with me on banjo, Andy Sacher to my left on mandolin, and Bob Hoban singing and playing fiddle. Anyone recognize any of the other pickers? Courtesy of Mark Greenberg.

CHICAGO, 1968 --- Here's a promotional photo of the Lake Country String Band, which played many concerts and bars around Chicago and the environs between about 1967 and 1970.   Our regular gig was at the Harper Theater in Hyde Park, where we shared the bill with the Baroque Compass players.  Mark Greenberg is to my left on guitar, then Andy Sacher on mandolin, Bob Stoltenberg on bass, and Bob Hoban, in front, on the fiddle.

CHICAGO, 1970 --- A promotional picture of the Lake Country String Band made just about the time we recorded our test pressing at the Chess Studios, in the same studio as the Dells'! (not at the same time, tho').  From left to right, me, Mark Greenberg, Pete McGrath, our lead singer, guitar player, and writer of some of our best original numbers, Clyde Stats, bass (a great jazz musician), Andy Sacher, and Bob Hoban.

GETTYSBURG, 1979 (?) --- Not your usual gig.  During a visit of Alan Ginsberg to the Gettysburg College Campus, I had the opportunity to accompany him on the banjo.  Ginsberg was playing the harmonium.  As far as I know, no recordings of this epochal meeting exist.

GARDNERS, PA 1998 (?) --- With Hazel and Alice!  This is a pickup band, playing at a summer party in Dave Tracy's barn.  Hazel Dickens is singing, accompanied by Alice Gerrard. Don Cassell of the Dismembered Tennesseans is on mandolin. I think that's Danny Gammon on Fiddle, but I don't recall the bass player.

ROANOKE, 2005 --- At the 40th anniversary of Carleton Haney's 1965 Fincastle festival, I'm playing with two other veterans of that event: Phil Zimmerman, versatile multi-instrumentalist on mandolin and Butch Robbins, a veteran of Monroe's band, on the banjo.  Phil and I have played together at festivals for decades, and he is currently playing actively with several bands in Connecticut, most notably the Last Fair Deal.

CARLISLE, PA, 2005 ---  Country Bob and the Barbecue boys have been playing occasional gigs in South Central PA for over a decade. Here's our core lineup: Bobby Arbogast on bass, Dave Tracy, guitar, Brad Bell, bass, guitar, and dobro, George Sneed, mandolin, and me.

 

INDIAN NECK FOLK FESTIVAL, MAY, 2007: An annual performers' festival held every Mother's Day in northwest Connecticut. Here I am singing The Sunny Side of Life (the Blue Sky Boys version) with friends Mark Greenberg (guitar) and Phil Zimmerman (Mandolin).  Neil Rossi is on fiddle and Frank Stettner is on bass.

BANJO CAMP NORTH, FALL EDITION, 2011: Cathy Hatch sings in the Saturday Night Concert, with Pete Kelly on Bass and me on Banjo.

OLD TTIME MOUNTAIN MUSIC

ORRTANNA, 1976 --- For about 10 years, starting in 1972, I played banjo and guitar with the old-time mountain string band The West Orrtanna String Band, a group of my neighbors on South Mountain near Gettysburg.  We recorded three lps, two of which were released (The West Orrtanna String Band and An Orrtanna Home Companion), and played at local bars and festivals around the east coast, including an appearance at the Fox Hollow festival and the Carter Family Fold.  All of us are still playing and in 2005 a release of all of our old recordings was produced on CD under a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts for distribution to libraries and schools. From left, Tom Jolin, bass, guitar, banjo, hammered dulcimer, and button accordion, Nora Helgeson, fiddle, John Winship, fiddle and guitar, Catherine Roth, mountain dulcimer, guitar and autoharp, Mark Motich, guitar and mandolin, and me on guitar and banjo.

I'm playing the banjo here at at workshop at the Central Pennsylvania Folk Festival, Wilson College, probably in 1982.  Watching (presumably in amusement) are fellow workshop participants Debby McClatchy and Ken Perlman.

Here's a concert at Green Bank, West Virginia, in June 2006, where I'm sitting in with a great local Pocohantas County Band, The Brownbaggers.   Jay Lockman, on the banjo at the right, is also a noted radio astronomer. Mike Bing, a superb singer and mandolin player is in the middle, and the incomparable Norris Long is on the bass. All a bunch of great musicians.

I'm sitting in here with old friends and neighbors Tom Jolin, hammered dulcimer, and Slim Harrison, Fiddle in the middle, at the Frederick Cellars Winery in Maryland, December 2006.  We're celebrating the release of Tom and Slim's new CD as The Barnstormers: PROMENADE HOME. I'm playing one of Slim's homemade banjos, and I think the song is "Midnight on the Water".