Monday, December 22, 2014

Some Banjo-Focused Sleuthing: The Search for the "Japanese Banjo Newsletter" Article on Dwight Diller


“Banjo Package” was a Japanese publication (primarily in Japanese, partly in English) that ceased publication long time ago.  The individual who published the periodical has also passed on.

I was guided to this periodical in a search for publications on Dwight Diller. 

I learned that two libraries have this in its collection:

HathiTrust Digital Library 
818 Hatcher S Univ Libr
Ann Arbor,  Michigan  48109-1205 
Voice: 734.764.8016

Indiana University 
1320 E. 10th St.
Bloomington,  Indiana  47405-3907
PHONE: 812.855.0100

In each of these libraries the periodical is available as a digital archive, but is not accessible online; for in-library research only.  

Two musicians, Scott Zimmerman and Bosco Takaki, both of whom live in Japan, supported my efforts to locate copies of the journal and identify the issue in which the interview is published.

Bosco Takaki told me that the interview with Dwight and several other clawhammer banjo pickers was published in the “Banjo Package” possibly in the late 1970s and almost certainly before he met Dwight in the early 1980s.

Carl Fleischhauer confirmed that he was not the author/interviewer; Dwight had an early glimmer of a recollection that Carl had done the interview.

Here's an index to issues and further information about the digital archive is available from Indiana University and the HathiTrust Digital Library in Ann Arbor, MI

Carl Fleischhauer and a colleague of his at the Library of Congress looked for the Japanese periodical from the 1970s and 1980s titled “Banjo Package” (later, apparently, “Package” or “Bluegrass and Old-Time package”).

There are two Hathi Trust links:

The Hathi search option (by volume) for each of the eight or nine volumes presented never got a hit on "Diller."  Full text searching did not turn up a good reference.

All I had to go on is Dwight's memory of an interview with a Japanese "Banjo Newsletter" as he recalled it, and Bosco’s vague familiarity with the publication -- and a memory that it would have been published before the Bosco met Dwight in the early 1980s. 

Bosco recalled, in similarly vague terms, that the interview covered several old time players, not Dwight alone. 

That led me to wonder whether it was a mirror of Dick Kimmel's interview published in the Banjo Newsletter in September 1975.  That interview covered multiple banjo players: Dwight, Stu Cohen, Bob Flesher, Grandpa Jones, and Doug Unger.  (Dick Kimmel, “Thumpin’ For Clawhammer Pickers: Banjo Set Up,” Banjo Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 11 (September 1975), pages 4 – 6.)

The periodical was not in the Library of Congress’ holdings, nor did the Library of Congress have access to the padlock-icon material referenced by Hathi -- copyright restrictions.

Carl Fleischhauer’s associate at the Library of Congress did a bit more searching and deduced that Indiana may not have the full run.   According to the Hathi Trust indices, they’ve scanned the following from the IU collection:

               v. 1
               v. 2, nos. 11-12
               v. 3, nos. 1-8, 10-12
               v. 4
               v. 5, nos. 1-4, 6-12
               v. 6, nos. 1-10, 12
               v. 7

If you go to the IU Library catalog, you get the additional confirmation of what they do and don’t have:

Ø  “Banjo Package”   1975 -- v.1, no.1-v.2, no.5; v.2, no.11-v.3, no.6

Ø  “Package”   1978 -- v.3, no.7-v.3, no.8; v.3, no.10-v.5, no.4; v.5, no.6-v.5, no.12

Ø  “Bluegrass & Old-time Package”   1980 -- v.6, no.1-v.6, no.10; v.6, no.12-v.8, no.1 (so there’s apparently an issue not in the Hathi Trust listing – v. 8, no. 1)

Appalachian State, meanwhile, apparently has only the following:

Ø  “Package” -- v.4 no.11-12 (bound separately)

Ø  “Banjo Package” -- v. 3, [no.] 7 (78. May)-v. 5, [no.] 12 (80 Oct.)

This means, as my Library of Congress colleague pointed out, that there are no complete runs anywhere in the U.S. from a library that provides information for WorldCat.

The actual resolution to the puzzle came from Indiana University’s Reference Services Department  folklore specialist Moira Marsh  Moira Lorraine March ( who tells me that “Banjo Package” volume 1 issue 4, pp. 16-18  (1976) is a series of interviews with old-time musicians.  The articles are in Japanese except for the performer names.  Included in this item, on p. 17, there is a column devoted to Dwight Diller.  Also, there is a photo of Diller in the next issue (1:5 1976), p. 16.

I’m working with the folklore specialist at Indian University’s library to get clear copies of the text.  The articles are in Japanese except for the performer names.  I speak Chinese (and Thai and Viet), and as a consequence of being around the stuff I read enough Japanese to dope my way through non-technical articles – and should I actually have an inflated sense of my ability to figure out the Japanese, then I know I can to turn for help to my many old colleagues from the Japanese side of my “business.” 

Nice Banjo Hangout community effort!

Thanks to:

Bosco Takaki
Scott Zimmerman
Carl Fleischhauer and his Library of Congress associate
Carl Baron

Very Respectfully,


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