Folk Retreat Bottleneck Banjo Workshop!

I am really excited about hosting a bottleneck banjo workshop at the 2018 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat!

Will will be posting the place and time of the workshop once everybody arrives at the Retreat.

What you need to bring to the workshop:

  • Your banjo
  • A bottleneck or steel
  • An open mind and a can-do attitude!

You do not need to alter the setup of your banjo to play slide. I keep an extremely low action on all of my banjos and they all work great playing slide.

Shop around and try a few different types and styles of bottlenecks so that you can find the right slide for you and your banjo. Companies like DunlopErnie Ball and D’Addario make lots of different types and styles of slides at prices cheap enough that you could end up building a collection of different slides.

If you want a slide that doubles as a functional works of art, check out Diamond Bottlenecks, Rocky Mountain Slides or Silica Sound.

If you are playing lap-style, you may be more comfortable with a bullet slide or tone bar.

For myself, I like glass slides. When I first started playing slide banjo I used inexpensive medicine bottle replicas. Now I use an inexpensive heavy glass slide that is too big for my little finger but it sounds and feels so good to my ears . . . well, BAHA.

I really want to splurge and get myself one of those blown glass custom slides, but every time I go to order one I talk myself out of it. What I have works. Why mess with success?

Back to the workshop: in addition to a slide, you will get more out of our workshop time together if you already have a little bit of knowledge. Start out with my Frailing The Blues DVD and then work your way through the slide workshops that have been part of The Daily Frail for the past ten years or so.

I think slide is an amazing addition to any banjo player’s toolbox. While my main focus is on frailing banjo, any banjo player with a slide is welcome to take part in the workshop.

If you have any questions feel free to post in the comments, email me or call Dear Old Dad at (410) 968-3873.

I can’t wait to make music with you at the Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat!

In The Works . . .

The Daily Frail and the Patrick and Dear Old Dad Vidcast are starting a regular production schedule and our Patreon is growing day by day. This gives us time and resources to start working on new projects.

Here are just a few of the things we are working on:

Folk Guitar:
A weekly workshop with Patrick sharing insights and instruction on the techniques that come together as folk guitar.

Group Video Workshops:
We are setting up a weekly group video chat. This feature will be limited to our Patreon supporters. More information soon.

Book In Progress:
I have a new book in the works. This summer we will be making it available a chapter at a time to our Patreon supporters. In addition to reading the work first you will gain insight into the creative process behind The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo and other much-loved music books.

This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We have a lot of great stuff in the works, Your support on Patreon will go a long way towards helping us make it all happen!

Read more about our Patreon page:

Maryland Folk Retreat Instructors

Dear Old Dad here with a link to the Folk Musicians’ Retreat instructor page.
Workshops on fiddle, songwriting, dulcimer, ukulele, banjo and more.

I am really looking forward to Jared’s early banjo class. He also teaches dulcimer and ukulele. A great instructor.

Diana will host a workshop to help folks get comfortable in a jam (a lot of requests for this one). She will also lead a hootenanny on Friday evening in the dining room.

Guy and Karen will help out with country singing and jamming.
Believe me, Guy is a country music jukebox.

Joe and Rosa will lead a gospel sing-along/jam. You’ll love these folks.

Sarah is a brilliant musician and a gifted teacher. Your fiddle will thank you for spending time with her.

Pete will host workshops in songwriting and singing. You’ll love his creative and entertaining style. I hope that he will again host our Saturday evening open mike.

Lowell will be on hand to answer questions about your banjo, instrument building and woodcarving. He will also have some of his favorite builds on display.

Patrick and I will be doing our thing in groups and one on one as needed.

Call me if you have an idea for a workshop

The 2018 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat

My father and I have been hosting retreats on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for over ten years.

We first hosted the gatherings down the street from where we live in Crisfield Maryland. We loved having the event close to home, but the location was not ideal. We looked around a bit and found an amazing place for the event in Centreville, Maryland.

The Centreville location is a million times more comfortable than Crisfield. In fact, it is so comfortable that we are expanding the event for the 2018 Retreat!

The 2018 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat offers several levels of accommodation. The Riverside Retreat Center, Faith House and camping.

The Riverside Retreat Center is downright luxurious. Hotel-style rooms with big comfortable beds. Rooms are double occupancy with private bathrooms. Linens and towels are provided.

The Riverside Retreat Center also has sunrooms with 24-hour beverage service. You room is only steps away from the workshop rooms and the dining room.

Lodging at the Riverside Retreat Center also includes chef-prepared meals. The food is wonderful. We can accommodate most dietary needs.

Dear Old Dad and I will be the first to admit that the Riverside Retreat Center is a bit expensive. Faith House is a more affordable alternative. Faith House offers informal dormitory-style housing with bunk beds. There are separate bath & shower facilities and a kitchen where you can prepare your own meals. There is plenty of space to jam and you are a short walk from the workshops.

Another alternative is the campground. Bring your family, set up your tent and make yourself at home. Camping is close to the Retreat Center, so you won’t miss out on any of the fun. Bath facilities are nearby.

If you are staying at Faith House or camping you have the option of purchasing a ticket for meals in the dining room.

All accommodations include access to every jam and workshop.

We recruit instructors who are passionate about teaching. This event is about the music you make. Nobody will talk down to you or be condescending. This is not a banjo camp. There are no celebrities. This is a musician’s retreat. We are gathering together in fellowship to make music in a beautiful setting.

People contact us saying they feel that they are not playing at a high enough level to take part. I always tell them to stop worrying and come to the Retreat. If you have never been to a jam session the Retreat is a great place to start. If you have been playing for years you will find something to challenge and inspire you.

The Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat. A wonderful weekend of music and fellowship accessible to all skill levels and budgets. Register today at http:/ or call (410) 968-3873. We can’t wait to make music with you!


The Dobro33H YouTube channel is 100% free again.

YouTube ending paid subscriptions so quickly was not cool, but for the time being this is the only viable video platform for a channel as large as ours.

YouTube only pays attention to the number of subscribers a channel has. You can help us grow by clicking on the free subscribe button on our channel. It’s free and it will help us grow. After you click on the subscribe button encourage other people to do so. It’s the only tool we have to show YouTube that you care about the kind of content we provide.

In related news, I will be interviewed on Jack Scrimshaw’s Route 66 show on The show airs every Thursday 2:00 to 4:00 PM Eastern time. Jack plays a great mix of mix of Americana, country, blues, bluegrass and old time music.

Sing the banjo! will return after the holidays.

God bless,

2018 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat

Help us spread the word about the 2018 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat!

Download and print out these full page and half page flyers and hand it out at jam sessions and other musical gatherings.

The Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat features workshops with skilled and compassionate instructors. There is ample time for jamming, socializing or just taking some time to be by yourself in a beautiful setting away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday world.

You can learn more about the 2018 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat at and/or by calling (410) 968-3873.

Retreat flyer – full page
Retreat Flyer – half page

2018 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat fler

Dobro 33H

With Thanksgiving fast approaching I thought it would be fun to write about the people and things I am thankful for.

I dreamed of being a guitar player. I longed for adventures like Jake and Elwood Blues. Most of all, I wanted to be cool.

My father did not see things my way. After a failed attempt to join the school band (dad even rented a saxophone for me!) ended at the beginning of my first lesson.

It went like this:

Scene: A small room full of kids and one teacher. Smelled like pee and mimeograph ink.

Music Teacher: (hands me a bit of sheet music) “Play this.”

Patrick: “How? This is my first lesson.”

Music Teacher: “You can’t read music? Why are you even here!”

Patrick: “I thought this was going to be my first lesson!”

Things went downhill after that. It ended with my applying some sophisticated swearing – using words I had learned from my dad, my grandfather and my uncle Tom.

After the expensive wasted saxophone rental my dad didn’t want to hear any nonsense about playing the guitar. Guitars are difficult instruments and I did not have what it takes.

Years later I wound up making a bet with my dad that I could teach myself to play the banjo. I won that bet and I had a shiny new banjo – but I still dreamed of playing the guitar.

I figured that if I was supposed to play the guitar and instrument would find its way into my hands. I played my banjo and I waited.

It took a while, but eventually I saw a chance to have a guitar. I was walking home from school and I spotted a guitar neck sticking out of the trash. It was a cheap classical guitar that somebody had smashed. The entire lower bout was crushed.

It was destroyed. It stank to high heaven – but it was a guitar.

Question: How is duct tape like The Force?

Answer: It has a light side, a dark side and it binds the universe together.

 I patched the guitar together with duct tape, restrung the instrument and I had . . . well, technically it was a guitar.

Right about this time my father and I started going to festivals playing our banjos on the open stages and jamming out in the fields. We met a lot of wonderful musicians, including Tiny – the cigar smoking guitar player I wrote about in The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo.

Tiny was a big man who smoked cheap cigars. He played a battered National guitar from 1928. It was made of steel and nickel-plated. He said there was a cone under the strings and when he strummed across the strings it rang for days. The plating had worn off in some spots and had dulled in others. Rusty spots on the cover plate matched the age spots on Tiny’s hands.

Tiny said he got the guitar when it was new.

I thought he was cooler than week old penguin poop.

Then life threw me another curveball. A year earlier my father and I had been in a pretty bad car accident. I had taken a bad blow to the head, but we all thought I was fine. Then I had my first grand mal seizure.

The seizure and what happened to me in the hospital is another story, but I got back home even more determined to be a guitar player.

I started skipping school to practice my trash guitar. My grades were slipping, and I was making little progress with the duct-taped guitar.

Then it happened. My folks were mad about my grades, so I crept outside to sit on the back steps with my guitar. I was trying as hard as I could, but I was terrible.

Then I realized that my dad was standing behind me. Eating an apple.

“What are you doing?” He asked me.

“I’m playing the blues, dad!”

He took a bite of apple and chewed it slowly. “That’s not the blues, son. That’s shit.”

He laughed and went back inside.

I was desolate. With my hearing and desperately wanting to play the guitar everything seemed hopeless. I was never going to do this.

The next day my father woke me up early. We got in his pickup truck and we started driving. When I asked him where we were going he said, “Mandolin Brothers”.

It’s gone now, but Mandolin Brothers was one of the greatest music stores on the planet. They sold everything from priceless vintage Martin and Gibson guitars to modern handmade instruments.

We got to Staten Island before the store was open. We sat in truck listening to Doc Watson on the radio.

The store opened. Stan Jay greeted us at the door the way he always did and said that we were free to pick up any instrument we wished.

My father pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. Opened it and drew out his credit card.

“Son, pick your guitar.”

I knew we didn’t have a lot of money and the guitars at Mandolin Brothers went from expensive to oh my sweet Jesus. I wandered around the store afraid to touch anything – and then I saw it.

It hung on the wall shining brightly in the early morning sunshine. A Dobro guitar. Fashioned from metal like Tiny’s, but this was bright and new.

I rushed towards the guitar and looked at the price tag. $1200.00.

Holy crap.

I nearly had an anxiety attack.

There was no way we could afford that.

I backed away from the Dobro and went off I search of something cheap.

I thought I had found a reasonable alternative in a much lower price range. My dad just shook his head.

“You will never learn on that cheap piece of junk.” Dad said with comic bluntness. “Let’s go back to that Dobro you were looking at.”

We went back to the Dobro. Dad got somebody to take it down from the wall for me.

I sat with the guitar in my lap. It was heavier that I expected. The neck was so big and heavy I thought it might have been a telephone pole.

I did the one thing I had managed to teach myself with the trashcan guitar. I strummed a C chord.

Stan Jay came around and asked me if I could play the guitar.

I told him I could play the hell out of a C chord.

That must have been the wrong answer because Stan and his employees tried like hell to talk me out of the Dobro. They brought out some really nice Martins and Gibson’s, but none of them appealed to me.

I finally told my dad that we should just go. The guitar I wanted was too expensive.

My dad said that I was being silly and to go get the Dobro off the wall again.

I sat with the guitar, slightly shocked by its massive size and weight. I strummed the C chord and I felt the ringing from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.

“This is a guitar that you can learn on” my father said.

It was a bronze guitar with chrome plating. Inside the instrument was a massive 10 ½ inch aluminum cone. The strings ran over a maple biscuit on top of the cone. The round maple neck and rosewood fretboard were unadorned apart from dot inlays and the Dobro shield sticker on the headstock. The body of the guitar – front and back – were decorated with sandblasted scenes of Hawaii.

I was in love, but it was just too expensive. With my hearing I might not be able to play it. I couldn’t saddle my dad with a price tag like this on a maybe.

I went to put the guitar back, but dad stopped me. He said that we couldn’t buy me a car now that I was diagnosed with epilepsy, but he could do this for me. This was a guitar that I could learn on and play for the rest of my life.

He went and told Stan we were buying the Dobro, and once again Stan tried to talk me out of it. There were lost of other cool guitars that would be easier to play than this Dobro.

I asked Stan if he wanted to sell the guitar or not. Dad laughed as he went to pay the bill.

At the last-minute dad saw a vintage National tenor guitar. “In for a penny, in for a pound” he said, and we wound up going home with two guitars.

Now, you probably read all of this thinking that I am thankful for my Dobro 33H guitar – and I am, but what I am most thankful for is my father. My dad. My old man. Dear Old Dad.

The God Knows We Tried String Band

A guitar is just a thing made of wood and wire. A musical instrument that I went on to play pretty well. Life being fond of practical jokes I became better known as a banjo player and teacher and that’s okay.

I was far from being a perfect kid. I got into so much trouble in school that I practically drove my folks crazy, but even when I made him angry my dad had my back.

My father did not just support my dream by buying me a guitar, he became part of that dream. Through the language of music, we got to know each other so well we can have whole conversations without saying a word.

Over the years we have been Philadelphia Mummers, performers, Disc Jockeys, music teachers, publishers and best friends. I am reminded of this every time I pick up my guitar and every time I sing a song.

I love you, Pop. Thanks for the guitar, and thank you for being my friend.