Mystery Solved

When I was a kid, I went through a hat phase. I had a bunch of them and I wore them everywhere. The jewel of my collection was an antique wool felt derby hat that was made with a wider and flatter brim than you see Laurel & Hardy or John Hartford wearing.

My parents were not photographers, so there are not many pictures of me in my favorite hat, but mom does have a silhouette made of me wearing my chapeau during our visit to Disney World.

I loved this hat until it fell apart. I still have the brass ring that kept the brim stiff.

As I said, this old derby had an unusual design. And since mine fell apart back in 1982, I have looked and inquired everywhere trying to find something with a similar design.

Today, on a lark, I thought I would look around one more time for this particular design and I found one!

It turns out my hat was made, like most good things in this world, in Philadelphia! Frank Schobel and Company made hats on 10th and Oxford streets. My crazy old hat was what Schobel called a Philadelphia Derby.

It’s cheap felt with a rough leather sweatband and a gold leaf stamp on the crown. The hat has pinholes at the top of the crown to keep your head from getting too sweaty. I loved the design as a kid because it was similar to other derbies, but with a Philadelphia rough and ready attitude blended in. It wasn’t a posh British fancy lad kind of hat. More like something you would see a guy wearing cocked at an angle on his head as he beat the snot out of somebody in an alley in an old cops and robbers picture.

The hat I found today is too small. I need to find one in 7 1/2. It was still cool to solve a riddle that goes all the way back to when my father and I were just starting on the banjo.

The last meetings of The Banjo and Donut Marching Society were a lot of fun and there was some wonderful music being made.

Somehow meeting twice worked even though we were still waiting on some computer parts, and I was riding out a hellish migraine. Both sessions were a lot of fun, and people are really starting interact. Lots of great songs, questions and insights all around, and we are only just getting started!


The Banjo and Donut Marching Society has a home page!

There isn’t anything there yet, but I secured the URL and host today. It’s a start.

Next Week:

The Banjo and Donut Marching Society: UK Edition
Time: May 20, 2020 07:00 PM London Time (that’s 2:00 PM Eastern)

Meeting ID: 867 7421 6725
Password: 587582

The Banjo and Donut Marching Society: USA Edition
Time: May 20, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Meeting ID: 810 6811 6616
Password: 858489

Dear Old Dad has chosen Bad Bad Leroy Brown as his song pick for next week. Download the lyrics and chords:

Two Donuts!

The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society London Time
Time: May 13, 2020 02:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Meeting ID: 846 6060 2450
Password: 223554

The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society Eastern Time
Time: May 13, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Meeting ID: 881 1711 7300
Password: 437679

This week Dear Old Dad has chosen our (cough) interpretation of Johnny Cash’s You Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog.

You Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog
Key of G
¾ time
G             D           G
You dirty old egg-suckin' dog
C                        G
You won’t be around very long
C                           G
If you don't stay out of my hen house
     D                      G
I’ll stomp your head in the ground

G                   D           G
Well you ain’t very handsome to look at
           C                         G
And you’re shaggy and you eat like a hog
           C                 G
And you’re always killin' my chickens
    D                     G               
You dirty old egg-suckin' dog


Now if you don't stop killin’ my chickens
Though I'm not a bad sort of guy
I'm gonna get my riffle and send you
To that big chicken house in the sky

What song, lick, technique or question do you have to share? Everybody is welcome!

Lou shared this link with instructions on how to improve setting audio for music on Zoom. If we all follow these steps, next week will be even better!

Jeff shared these tips:

Having done several I know that jamming together is not possible, if everybody has mics running, jamming together with one leader with their  mic running, works. Fortunately you have the ability to mute everybody while you speak.Just in case you have not looked at it, Zoom has a feature called “Original Sound” if you have not looked at it please do, The link tutorial that I used was but there are others.We have also found that if members use headphones / ear buds it helps to reduce echo / bounce back from their speaker to mic.

Also look in the audio settings to turn off Background Noise Suppression, Suppress Persistent Background Noise and Suppress Intermittent Background Noise. This will do a lot to improve sound quality for everybody.

More Stuff:

Aunt Mannie’s Blueberry Cupcakes

If you have read Just This Banjo, you know that my Aunt Mannie was a huge part of my childhood. She also meant a lot to my mother.

Mom spent summers growing up in a cabin along the Brandywine River in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Every August a box would arrive with a  dozen blueberry cupcakes from Aunt Mannie.

Mom only made the recipe for me a handful of times when I was growing up. I have always  wanted to try making them, but this is not like making a blueberry muffin. Muffins are loaded with sugar and have a bread-like texture. These are blueberry cupcakes. On paper the difference is just a word, but once you taste one of Aunt Mannie’s creations the raw simplicity hits like that moment in The Simpsons when Homer tastes a Ribwich for  the first time. It is simple and made with love and most of all it’s good.

Go to the grocery store. Get some butter, eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract and a pint of blueberries. You will also need a muffin pan and some liners – but the store should  have those too. The blueberries can be fresh or frozen. Cooking spray is  also good to have.

Either leave half a pound of butter out to soften or zap it briefly in the microwave. Don’t melt it.

Wash your blueberries and check them for stems.

Don’t rush. Enjoy the process without worrying about the goal.

You will need a bowl to mix everything in and a spoon or a spatula.

Once you are ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get ready to make some cupcakes.

  • Half pound of butter
  • One and one half cups sugar
  • Three eggs
  • Three cups flour
  • Four teaspoons (yes, you read that correctly.) of baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • A teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Once cup of milk

Cream the butter and sugar together until silky and smooth. Don’t let the kitchen become a mess. Clean up as you work.

Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla extract.

Add in the dry ingredients and mix into a shaggy (zoinks!) dough.

Slowly add the cup of milk while mixing. You may not need to add all the liquid. You want the batter to be thick but flowing.

Fold in the blueberries. Be gentle. Work with love.

Grease your muffin pan and add paper liners.

Spoon  the berry and batter mix into your paper liners. Greasing the spoon will make work a bit easier. Do not overfill the liners. You don’t want  big muffin tops. The baked cupcake should just dome over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes – but check it around 20 minutes.
Let them cool and enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea.

The taste? Light vanilla cake with big blueberries. Not overly sweet or complicated. It’s just good.

The recipe yielded eighteen muffins this morning. 

Remember, these are small. These are simple. These will give the people you love the feeling  my mom and I experienced when Aunt Mannie doted on us. There is something profound in loving somebody, but also in being somebody loved.

So, Mother’s Day was nice. Mom loved the cupcakes and said I did Aunt Mannie credit – high praise indeed!

I also shared some muffins with one neighbor and a loaf of white bread  fluffier than cotton candy to another. There were some low points like  Pooka proudly bringing me her first kill and getting all “Wow! I sure  love killing stuff. I’m going to do this a lot.” You could see  velociraptors juggling Balisong knives singing songs from Evil Dead The Musical in her murderous eyes.

Jesus, being a cat owner is a complicated moral juggling act.

Seeing  mom taste one of the cupcakes, watching the scents, tastes and textures  take her back to the Brandywine. I found myself humbled at the artistry of my Aunt Mannie. I have written books, sang songs and walked on the shores of other countries, yet I am still humbled by the uncomplicated artist of this small woman who went nowhere, had nothing and understood everything. I have so much left to learn, I have so much work to do, so  much to let go before I even come close.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I lack the words to describe how grateful I am to have to in my life.

Thanks again, Aunt Mannie. Thank you for loving my mom. Thank you for loving me.

Last Night’s Mess and I Am So Proud

We were getting started with last night’s The Banjo and Donut Marching Society when a cascade of one thing going wrong after the other hit and left us with the best possible results.

Sound on my iPad died for some reason. I am still waiting for new speakers for my work computer, so there was a lot of technical fidgeting to do. To make matters even more interesting for me, I had to sort things out with a full-blown migraine.

So, on our end there were a lot of headaches. Literally. I wound up loading  Zoom on my mother’s computer, and hosted the show while balancing the monitor and camera combo with one hand. And a migraine. Right about then we started losing power.

It should have been a technicolor nightmare, but the gang just kept things going while we wrestled with issues here. Every time we got cut off, we came back and found the group sharing.

To see music students casually share like that was like going back in time to Kitts living room and the original Banjo and Donut Marching Society. To say that I was and am proud of them is putting it mildly.

I will be posting details for next weeks meeting soon. Right now I am going to crash for a while longs. My head is still hurting, but I am honestly happy.