This was originally called “the banjo project,” so I’ve been looking forward to this for some time.
Happy Birthday, Nat Hentoff!
It was rare for the old guard of any musical genre to embrace Dylan’s work in the 1960s. Flatt & Scruggs—the most famous of all bluegrass duos—broke-up their act because of Earl Scruggs’ fascination with Dylan’s songs. This may sound like an over-statement, but if Dylan’s music was not the cause for the split, it certainly embodied the different paths the two wanted to take. On their later albums, guitarist Lester Flatt and banjo master Earl Scruggs recorded enough Bob Dylan songs to fill a 60-minute tape. I know; I compiled one. Earl loved the new directions; Lester couldn’t relate. They parted.
Arthur Penn directed two movies I loved, “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Penn and Teller Get Killed.” One featured the music of Flatt and Scruggs, thus extending their popular impact and inspiring many a banjo player. The other featured the music of the Velvet Underground, which probably had no impact because no one saw “Penn and Teller Get Killed.”
It’s nice to hear someone as esteemed as Pete Seeger say this:
Earl Scruggs. He’s the one who brought back the banjo.
And Steve Martin:
The only comparable person was Monet, to me. Monet invented a style and he fulfilled it beautifully and perfectly. And so did Earl Scruggs.
The Banjo Project is coming:
The Banjo Project is a cross-media cultural odyssey: a major television documentary, a live stage/multi-media performance, and a website that chronicle the journey of America’s quintessential instrument—the banjo—from its African roots to the 21st century. It’s a collaboration between Emmy-winning writer-producer Marc Fields and banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka (the Project’s Music Director), one of the most acclaimed acoustic musicians of his generation.
The Banjo Project television documentary brings together contemporary players in all styles—Earl Scruggs, Pete Seeger, Bela Fleck, Taj Mahal, Don Vappie, Cynthia Sayer, Steve Martin, among many others—with folklorists, historians, instrument makers and passionate amateurs to tell the story of America’s instrument in all its richness and diversity.
I can’t wait.