Go With The Flow

David writes:

So I started out like most people probably do, learning songs from the tabs in The How and the Tao and from your other books. I’ve managed to memorize a dozen songs or so, but I don’t think it’s the right path. I can’t see how a person can possibly memorize the melody of every song that might come up at a jam. So when you’re doing an instrumental break like you did on The Wreck of the Old 97, are you playing that from memory / tab, or are you improvising it on the spot? Is it necessary to have the song memorized (like from tab) or is there some way to learn to play the melody break by ear?


Continuing A Tradition

Every Thanksgiving for the last fifteen years – probably longer – our friend C.C. would show up at our door with a Smith Island carrot cake and a bucket of his homemade Chex mix.

Smith Island cakes are huge and rich. The three of us could never eat a whole cake, so every year we would up sharing the cake with our neighbors. It was always a joyous thing . . .

C.C. passed away this year. I’m still having a little trouble processing that. I love him like a brother.

Anyway, I am heading down the street to the Smith Island Baking Company tomorrow to order a carrot cake for Thanksgiving. I don’t want to give up the experience of sharing cake with our neighbors, and a small way to remember our friend.

I miss you, C.C.

Say Hello to Miss Trudy!

A snippet of video to introduce my mom’s upcoming YouTube channel!
That’s right, the woman who taught me about faith, music, poetry, art and Pennsylvania Dutch cooking will be sharing her skills on the Internet.
Stay tuned for more details.

One For The List!

A while back I posted a sort of bucket list:

  • Continue writing and teaching.
  • Finish the Blues Project.
  • Visit my family and friends in the UK and Spain.
  • Learn to Juggle.
  • Learn to play the piano.
  • Swim with otters.
  • Learn to bake bread.
  • Take some art classes.
  • See the redwoods.
  • See the aurora borealis and/or the aurora australis.
  • Convince my friends/readers/students to plant milkweed, parsley and butterfly bushes to help monarch butterflies, swallowtail butterflies and clearwing moths.
  • See the night sky in the desert.
  • Hold workshops for my friends in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania +  The Guildford Banjo Jamboree
  • See as much of Canada as I can.

I will soon be able to strike one item off of my list! Ken in Washington made me a personalized juggling DVD.

Now to start stocking up on chainsaws . . .

Offline Thursday

Wednesday afternoon I was at the grocery store with Dear Old Dad and I got hit with a bad migraine. It hit so hard and so fast I just about fell over.

It’s so late Wednesday night right now that its Thursday morning, and I still feel like hammered #$%&. I am going to give my brain a slight break and turn off the computers for the day. Stay offline and focus on writing. 

If my brain pain and the weather allows, Dear Old Dad and I are planning to visit special place for me, and it’s jut down the road from Crisfield, but I never get to visit now that I can’t drive.

I have other news to share, but it’s late enough to be early and my head hurts really bad. I’m going to watch a bad horror movie. Nights like this call for the big guns, so it’s either The Abominable Dr. Phibes or The Green Slime.That will work as well as meditation to get me rested so that I can write tomorrow.

Thanks to all of you for the kind comments on my recent videos. You are all such amazing people. I will have to work harder to measure up to your kind words.

God bless,

The Work

Dear Old Dad can tell you that once in a while the pain I deal with on an everyday basis gets to me. If it isn’t that then it’s the nightmarish amount of technical stuff I have to handle with on equipment that will stop working if I look at it the wrong way. Add in nonsense from angry people at random intervals and there are moments when I throw my hands up in the air and wonder why I do this job.

I was having one of those moments a few days ago when I ran across an email John in New York sent us in 2008:

Dear Pat and DoD,

I just got married last weekend and although I’ve only been playing
for about 6 months, I belted out a version of “The Wild Rover” at my
big fat Irish wedding.  This was my first performance in public.  It
was one of the scariest things I have ever done (and I’ve jumped out
of airplanes).  The worst happened: I forgot some lyrics and was about
60% as good as I am in private on the banjo.  Guess what?  No one
cared.  The crowd was so into it that they filled in what I forgot and
helped me along.  This was by far one of the highlights of an awesome
reception.  I want to thank you guys for all the services you have
provided that enabled me to do this (and put that look of sheer joy on
my new wife’s face).

Letters like this – pictures like this – moments like these are why I fight through my hearing and seizures and strokes and everything else that gets thrown in my way.

I have a lot of emails, cards and letters like Johns. Stories of men and women who took up the banjo to sing to, for and about the people that they love.

I love my job.



The new gear has arrived, and now I am waiting for the stuff I forgot to include in the original order.

I am making use of the downtime learning to use the new equipment and getting back to writing. 

Yesterday a request came in for a frailing banjo workshop on The Grateful Dead’s Ripple. It works better on the banjo than I expected. I love it when a song surprises me like that. 

Videos will be rolling soon. I can’t wait to show you what we have been working on. We have some really cool stuff in the works!

God bless,