Last April my father and I shut down the archives of our YouTube
channel. With over 650 videos and four million views it was getting
hard to create new content.

People did not like seeing the old content shut down, so we took
things a different route and made the archives available by
subscription. $25 a year is less than most lessons nowadays.

Now YouTube has abruptly cut off paid content. Subscriptions will end
January 1st, 2018.

While the situation is out of my control, I still want to do right by
our subscribers.

Effective immediately we are making the old videos free to the public.

If you are a subscriber, save your receipt. Contact us when we launch
our new project early next year and we will give the first lesson
module on the house.

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

Klown Car!

I love monster movies. They make me happy.

One of my favorite monster movies is Killer Klowns From Outer Space. It’s a movie about killer Klowns from outer space. It’s funky and weird and, as I said before, it puts a smile on my face.

A while back I mentioned Killer Klowns From Outer Space in a workshop. By some miracle of the Internet, Mike Martinez is a banjo player. Mike is also a stunt man – and he did stunt work for Killer Klowns From Outer Space!

Mike saw the workshop and sent me an autographed picture of himself on the set of Killer Klowns From Outer Space. I keep the picture over my desk as a reminder of the wonderful way random lives can intersect.

Today I found a video Mike posted showing how he did the Klown car stunt in Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

There are some other cool videos on Mike’s YouTube channel. Here is a demo of his fire stunts.

I love the way the Internet connected me with Mike. I hope I can get out to California someday and make music with him. Maybe a West Coat folk musicians retreat!


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

Carlos brought the painting to me all the way from Spain.

It is a painting of the room where Carlos practiced his banjo. In the painting you can see his banjo, chair and computer. On the computer screen is . . . me.

Painting by Carlos

A lot of people don’t know this, but I am very camera-shy. I hate working in front of a camera. I don’t even like having my picture taken. Carlos’ painting gave me some perspective from the other side of the camera. Now when I film a workshop I just talk to Carlos through the camera.

According to Google, Carlos and I live about 3,752 miles apart. We also speak different languages.

In spite of all that he is my best friend.

When Carlos comes to Crisfield we make music together and sometimes wander to Jenkins Creek or Brick Kiln. We’ll watch the Chesapeake Bay and the waterfowl enjoying comfortable silences.

When I was having surgery to install my first BAHA implant Carlos surprised me with a set of linoleum block prints he made.

My hearing loss made learning guitar difficult. In order to hear the instrument I rested my teeth on the upper bout of my guitar. Carlos caught this is blank and white.

Carlos sent the entire run of prints telling me to sell them and use the money to help cover any unexpected cost from the surgery.

Carlos Print

We don’t see each other as often as wed like, but Carlos manages to capture me with his art better than a camera.

art by Carlos

I am my parents only child. I always wanted a brother. Now Carlos is that brother .

Dear Old Dad calls Carlos his Spanish son.


Carlos is my friend. My brother.My office filled with Carlos’ artwork and I know he has a few souvenirs from Crisfield.. We have been on adventures together. Carlos has stood by me when I was at my lowest point.

Someday, the two of us are going to raise some hell with our Dobros in the guitar salons of Madrid.

Happy Thanksgiving, Carlos my brother. Thank you for being my friend.


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

She introduced me to beauty.
“Look around you,” She said,
“Everything you see was made by God,
and if you look closely there is beauty
in everything.”

She introduced me to poetry.
I loved the delicious dancing words
all dripping with longing, love or loneliness.
Dickenson. Frost. Sandberg. Poe.
I’m nobody on little cat feet you come too nevermore.

She introduced me to music.
She was always singing around the house.
A gift of a shiny harmonica with wise words
I found the major scale in her songs.
inspiration in her poetry.

The man I am today is largely built on her
insight and example.
If I have taught you anything,
I am simply following my mother’s lead.
Sharing music. Sharing insight. Sharing love.

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.

Aunt Mannie

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

Aunt MannieThe picture sits on picture on my desk. It’s ragged and worn. Cut from a larger picture by someone over the years.

This picture is the first thing I see when I start a day’s work and the last before I stop work for the night.

It is one of the few pictures I have of myself as a teenager. I am wearing my usual winter attire in those days. Flannel shirt, a World War II era navy greatcoat I got at a thrift shop for the princely sum of $5.00 and boots. I always wore square-toe engineer boots back then.

The very small lady standing with me is my Aunt Mannie.

She wasn’t my aunt. More like a distant cousin – so distant we were hardly related.

When I was growing up I got a greeting card with a few dollars tucked into the envelope on every holiday. New Years, Saint Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, my birthday, Halloween Thanksgiving and Christmas were all marked with a card from Aunt Mannie. Since I had never met her she was a mystery to me, and that made the cards wonderful because somebody out there loved me. I was so lonely with my failing hearing and lousy grades in school. Aunt Mannie was always there. In the mailbox.

When I was twelve my family moved from rural Chester County, Pennsylvania back to Philadelphia. My mom took me clear across the city to visit Aunt Mannie. We got to her house and I quickly realized that every card and every dollar she had sent me was more than she could not afford to share.

To be on the receiving end of that kind of generosity and love is insuring and empowering and at the same time humbling.

After that I went to see her whenever I could. Sometimes I would cut school and play my guitar at every station along the Market-Frankford line until I got to her place. Whenever I visited she would cook me a big meal, pack me a meal for the ride home and stuff a few dollars into my hand before I left.

I loved those visits. Sitting in the kitchen with her talking about everything and nothing. On one visit she taught me how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich – something that became a weirdly useful skill later in my life.

She gave me so much, and to this day I don’t know why. I asked her a few times and she never gave me an answer. She reached up and gently placed her cool hand on the side of my face for a moment before walking back into the kitchen to prepare more food.

The last time I saw her I could tell something was wrong. As soon as I walked in she got all excited about her new copper frying pan. I looked in the kitchen and she was making grilled cheese sandwiches on a copper dustpan.

Before you ask, yes. I ate the sandwich. I couldn’t bring myself to upset her. Sometimes loving someone requires accepting the occasional dust bunny in your sandwich.

At her wake my father walked with me to her coffin. I loved him for that. As we stood there I asked him if he knew why she did so much for me. Dad shrugged and said, “She loved you. No other reason than that”.

I keep her picture on my desk. I think of her almost every day. Her example has influenced a lot of what I do as a teacher.

Thank you, Aunt Mannie. I love you.

Interesting Times: Episode Seven

This week, Pat and Patrick are both disconcerted with the behavior of the rich, famous and powerful.

About This Podcast:
Pat and Patrick Costello are a father and son team who have been making music together for decades. They have different and sometimes opposing viewpoints on topics in the news, but they treat each other with love and respect – and that is really what this podcast is about.