Friday, February 21, 2014

Old Time Banjo and Bobby Darin ... Perhaps Closer Than We Think

I recently stumbled across a small group of avid banjo practitioners in Asia, and we’ve tried to sustain connections and be mutually helpful.  I ship my issues of Banjo Newsletter to Guangzhou Province after I’ve read them.  I send used DVDs to these Asian friends, and rely on email and other internet-driven mechanisms to trade tunes and helpful practice hints.  I’ve managed to establish an arrangement whereby I get interesting Chinese-language books in return for banjo-focused media. 

This morning I received a plaintive email from a Chinese friend, a young woman who is a professional editor for an economic publication in southern China and a committed, thoroughgoing old time music enthusiast.  I’ve worked on one of her banjos, sent her music, shared resources with her.  She has an insatiable appetite for clawhammer music.

The email asked me if I would please, please, please help her get a copy of an important music book, one that she is so very serious about getting her hands on. 

I thought it might be one of the award winning regional style books that Bob Carlin and Dan Levenson have written.  Or one of the recent publications abut traditional American mountain music. Ot one of the several recent biographies of Doc Watson. 

No.  I was way, way off. 

What my friend was after was Jeff Bleiel’s updated 2004 edition of his book, entitled That’s All: Bobby Darin On Record, Stage & Screen.

I told my friend this puts her in a completely different light.  She is an unreconstructed romantic!  And reinforcing this are the videos she’s been sending me as links underscoring how enduring Darin’s music actually is, like this one:

Here is a small slice of her collection, spread out and photographed for my benefit:


I spent two decades closely studying Maoism, reading tons and tons of Chinese Communist Party histories, and ingesting all I could to understand “The Chinese Mind.”

And to think, all I had to do was reach back to my memories of Annette Funicello!

Play Hard,


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