Fake Karate and Fake Banjo

Before you read this, watch the video.

I am serious. This won’t make much sense unless you watch the video.

Ready? Let’s boogie!

If there is anything I love as much as bad movies, it is watching fake martial artists getting smashed. It’s right up there with crunchy peanut butter in my book.

I was twelve years old when I started out in the martial arts. 1982 wound up being a brutal year. The first schools and dojos I attended were about as genuine as a rubber tomahawk.

The first place dad sent me was a kung fu academy where two senior students jumped me in the locker room.

Continue reading

The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Society meets at 7:00 PM Eastern TONIGHT

There is always risk of a scheduling mix up when the guy posting the information has dyscalculia.

Here is the login information for tonight’s meeting:

Patrick Costello is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society
Time: Jul 29, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
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Meeting ID: 828 1707 4875
Passcode: 154955
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Me & My Theremin

People keep asking to hear my theremin. It sounds like the devil’s slide whistle right now, but give me time. Some of the photographs I mentioned in the video can be seen at this URL: https://www.frailingbanjo.com/2019/02/10/memories/

If you need to schedule a lesson or ask a music-related question, text (do not call) (410) 713-4044

The Most Insincere Form of Flattery

One of the realities of teaching, especially when you teach massive numbers of people, is that your creative ideas get reused by your students.

Lenny Ross, a burlesque song and dance man who once worked Atlantic City’s sleazier joints, once told me that jokes are contagious. They spread like germs in a nursery school. Once you tell a joke on stage, it’s over for you – but it keeps growing and changing as people in the audience go to work the next day and retell it around the water cooler. You either have to constantly be writing new material, or paying somebody to keep your magazine loaded.

When I see a student reworking – or even rehashing – my material, I see it as a good thing. My teaching style is a patchwork of my dad, Ed Parker, Peggy Seeger, Remy Presas, Elizabeth Cotten, Ted Vollrath, Lenny Ross, Tiny, Paul the Beatnik, and countless other men and women who took a moment to work with me. The resulting crazy quilt of influences that I wrap myself in proudly – but not too tightly. I am still my own person. I do not use a persona on stage or in a lesson. The Philadelphia Mummer in me knows when to brass it up a bit and my radio experiences help me use my voice to be understood clearly, but I never present myself as anyone but Joseph Patrick Costello III.

Today I stumbled across a heavily photoshopped and stylized Instagram image of an old lady with a caption taken right out of my workshop on The Smart Hand and the Dumb Hand. If it was just that I wouldn’t care, but she did it to sell her books and records.

This happens a lot. I don’t talk about it because the banjo Internet is completely and freakishly insane. I get death threats against myself and my family. When Amy died I got hate mail mocking my loss. I know that sounds terrible, but I have been dealing with this crap since 1997.

There are several monetized versions of The How and the Tao of Old-Time Banjo and my other books on the web. They took the book apart and posted it page by page with clickbait advertising all over it. Several prominent artists have blatantly copied my presentation style, plagiarized my tab files right down to the mistakes and all manner of silly childish nonsense.

There is a video on YouTube advertising a banjo company. The artist – a Grammy winner – copies my presentation so well that I started getting calls and emails within an hour of the clip going live. Then this person plays one of my arrangements almost note-for-note but badly.

I don’t mind them taking from me. As a teacher, I view myself as a resource. For every cretin there are countless others doing the right thing. What drives me nuts is that the takers never have the moxie to do much with their borrowed ideas, concepts, mannerisms, jokes, insights and all that jazz.

If you are going to take from me, at least take it somewhere. Either make good art or at least a good payday. Just flopping around going nowhere is just going to make me mad.

If you are that stuck, if you are that desperate, just contact me. Be nice and I will help you. The next person who plagiarizes me and goes nowhere is going to get slapped silly.

More On Stage Fright

If you read Just This Banjo, you already know that I tend to barrel ahead regardless of the situation, odds, legality, safety, sanity or anything else.

Like I said in the recent video discussing stage fright, I was always scared. I just never let it stop me.

Take a good look at the photo above. Notice that my stance is odd and my legs are blurry? Well, the picture was taken seconds before we went on stage for the very first time. I was so scared that my legs were shaking.

I was scared out of my mind. So was my dad. We did it anyway – because that is what folk singers, and Philadelphia Mummers, do.

It’s okay to be afraid. Just never let that stop you.

The How and the Tao of Old-Time Banjo: Second Edition

I am currently working on two books at the moment. The first is White Belt, a book about the learning process. The second is the long-awaited second edition of The How and The Tao of Old-Time Banjo.

If you don’t know the story, The How and the Tao of Old-Time Banjo was dashed out over a long weekend in the winter of 2003. The book started as a free handout for an after-school banjo club. The books conversational tone and use of storytelling is just how I write. I never intended for the handout to be widely read. When published, it set off a crazy domino effect that lead to the book winding up on computers around the world.

The title, by the way, was another accident. Since it was never supposed to be a book, I came up with the title as an offhand joke.

Never underestimate the power of the Taoist happy accident.

People have been asking for an updated second edition for a long time. Getting me to work for financial gain is nearly impossible. For a seconded edition to happen I needed a damn good reason.

Well, that reason presented itself, and I have started working in earnest.
For me, the most interesting things about revisiting my first book is how much I have changed. I was 33 when I dashed out that free handout. Now that I am 50, my skills as a musician have grown and I have a deeper understanding of the craft.

While The How and the Tao of Old -Time Banjo had its share of critics and copycats, releasing the book freely under a Creative Commons license turned a simple project for some kids into a revolution. As soon as the book was free to download I started getting calls from friends and strangers with wild takes of seeing scores of people at festivals with a brand-new banjo under one arm and a battered printout of the book under the other. I have had people walk up to me in restaurants, airports, bus stations and farmers markets wanting to shake my hand and tell me what the book meant to them.

For an introvert who was forced to educate himself at the library, this is heavy stuff. The kind of thing that could be mistaken for a Horatio Alger story, only this all happened. Heck, it is still happening.

The second edition will not be the same book with a new cover. With the first book freely available everywhere, that would not make much sense. This will be a new book that takes some things out, rewrites some sections and occasionally draws from my other works that are now out of print. I am not sure how it will be released just yet. Traditional ink and paper printing is a much more complicated endeavor in 2020, but I will not take that out of the list of possibilities just yet.

The other book in progress, White Belt, draws on my experience ion various disciplines to explore the learning process. While I am viewing this as a standalone work at the moment, it could very well wind up being folded into the second edition of The How and the Tao of Old-Time Banjo.

Sometime in August or September I will be making chapters of both books available to my Patreon sponsors. Meanwhile, here are the ten books to my credit along with some old essays to keep you busy:

If you have input on the original work, or there is something you would like to see in the second edition, drop me a note at dobrolibre@gmail.com or text (do not call) (410) 713-4044. You can also use the same number to reach me through the Telegram app.

Dear Old Dad and I will still be available for lessons and The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Society. This is a HUGE undertaking, so your support and well-wishes are a huge help.

This Week at the Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society

Join us and your musical Internet neighbors around the world for the next meeting of The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society on July 29th as 2:00 and 7:00 PM Eastern Time. Musicians of all instruments, genres and skill levels are welcome.

Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society
Time: Jul 29, 2020 02:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
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Meeting ID: 861 2496 6811
Passcode: 600102
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+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
Meeting ID: 861 2496 6811
Passcode: 600102
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kdkwrwLfMU


Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society
Time: Jul 26, 2020 05:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
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Meeting ID: 812 1986 7534
Passcode: 247474
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Meeting ID: 812 1986 7534
Passcode: 247474
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kcpm0stUVz

This week’s song is The Beatles’ Octopus’s Garden.

I transposed the song to G to make it easier for banjo players, but you can play it in any key you wish. Also, the song of the week is not mandatory. You can play anything you want at the meeting. This is just something to get people practicing.

G              Em
I'd like to be under the sea
C                              D
In an Octopus's Garden in the shade.
G               Em
He'd let us in, knows where we've been,
C                              D
In his Octopus's Garden in the shade.
Em
I'd ask my friends to come and see
C              D
An Octopus's Garden with me.
G              Em
I'd like to be under the sea
C               D             G
In an Octopus's Garden in the shade.

We would be warm below the storm
In our little hideaway beneath the waves.
Resting our head on the sea bed
In an Octopus's Garden near a cave.
We would sing and dance around
Because we know we can't be found.
I'd like to be under the sea
In an Octopus's Garden in the shade.
 
We would shout and swim about
The coral that lies beneath the waves.
Oh, what joy for every girl and boy
Knowing they're happy and they're safe.
We would be so happy, you and me.
No one there to tell us what to do.

G              Em
I'd like to be under the sea
C               D          Em
In an Octopus's Garden with you,
C               D          Em
In an Octopus's Garden with you,
C               D          G  D  G
In an Octopus's Garden with you