Friday, November 25, 2011

Beatles on the Banjo

A happy Banjo Friday, friends!  If you’re one of our Stateside readers, sure hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving day—I can attest that I certainly did, with lots of good food topped off by the best jam of all: a music jam, & one that included some banjo playing by yours truly along with the standard guitar fare.

This month we’ve been listening to the banjo in unusual musical environments, & today’s video is no exception.  When I heard Tony Trischka medley “Ticket To Ride,” “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” “Drive My Car” & “Lady Madonna,” I knew this would be a fun way to wrap up the month, & a nice light-hearted post to come down off the Thanksgiving holiday.

If you’re not familiar with Tony Trischka’s work, it must be said that he is one of the best five-string banjo players going, & has also been influential as a teacher—Béla Fleck was one of his students!—who has produced a lot of instructional material, in both book & dvd form, & who now heads up the online Tony Trischka School of Banjo.  But Trischka also has had a long & successful performing & recording career as a session player, solo artist & performer with bands like Country Cooking, Country Granola & Skyline.  He has also been involved as a producer, & in fact was in charge of production of Rounder’s fun & successful 2011 Rare Bird Alert album featuring Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin, who can play some banjo!) & the Steep Canyon Rangers.  Coincidentally, you can read an excellent review of Rare Bird Alert by  Robert Frost’s Banjo’s Rockstar Poet, Barbie Dockstader Angell, here.  

Trischka’s playing style is based on bluegrass techniques, but like Bill Keith & Fleck, he takes these techniques to whole new places.  As an aside, I was fascinated to learn that Trischka first became interested in playing the banjo not by listening to Earl Scruggs or Ralph Stanley, but by hearing the Kingston Trio play “Charlie on the MTA!”  The song does have a fun banjo part!

OK, folks: it’s late on Thursday evening, & my computer has already crashed once, taking much of the original version of this post with it.  So let’s say: hope you enjoy the music—I know you will!


  1. Ahhhh! That was great! I've been listening to Tony Trischka for decades now, and I was wondering if you'd get around to him.

  2. Wow! That WAS fun! I certainly never expected to hear the Beatles on a banjo, but if I was going to hear it anywhere, it would be here!

    I like the way he paused the playing to make silent gestures in all the right places.

    Thanks for a perky pick-up to my morning, John.

    Glad you had a great Thanksgiving!


  3. Hi Roy & Kat

    Roy: Thanks--definitely not my best post in terms of the writing, but I was insanely tired when I wrote it. But the music more than makes up for that!

    Kat: Yes, it's great fun isn't it? So glad you liked it, & thanks!

  4. thanks for the mention john. :) Tony is amazing. Steep Canyon Rangers were so thrilled with his work on their album with Steve Martin that they asked him to do their new album too. it was just recorded at Echo Mountain Studios in asheville last month and is due out in march. :)

  5. Hi Barbie: You are very welcome--& thanks so much for the additional background. That's exciting to hear about the new Steep Canyon Rangers album!


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