Tag Archives: banjo

Snake Suspenderz at the Blue Moon on 04/23/17

The mighty Snakez are delighted to be opening this show for the fabulous Bakelite 78!

Snake Suspenderz, trying to look innocent

In case you don’t know Snake Suspenderz already, we’re a quartet featuring vocals, ukulele, trombone, guitar, tuba and drums. We call our music “cartoon jazz” and we play a relentlessly quirky blend of novelty songs and hits of the 1920’s and 30’s, with a generous helping of original tunes written in those styles. By turns snarky, sentimental, and exuberant, the mighty Snakez bring wildly entertaining musical fun for the whole family and then some, fulfilling our mission to provide “hot jass, hokum and novelty music — with a bite!

Bakelite 78, keeping the speakeasy vibe alive.

Bakelite 78’s repertoire is an eclectic mix of swing, Dixieland, blues, proto-country, and cabaret, as well as a plethora of originals in hybrids of these styles.  Founding member Robert Rial arrived in Chicago in 2000, eager to engage in the music he loved most: dance orchestra music/swing, country-blues, dixieland, tin pan alley, rock and American folk. Bakelite 78 preserved the music of the early 20th Century, and the band was born to keep classic crooner vocals & speak-easy jazz/lounge/cabaret alive.

In 2009, Robert departed for Seattle and Bakelite 78 was rebuilt. The new lineup of musicians includes Robert Rial on tenor banjo, six string, tenor guitar and voice, Erin Jordan on accordion and voice, Austin Quist on upright bass, Erik Reed on trumpet, Sabrina Pope on clarinet, and Steven Baz on drums.

We’re going to party like it’s 1929! Come on down!

Jazz Vespers

Sunday, December 4th found Hobbit & Hare in a beautiful old Baptist church, playing the monthly Seattle Jazz Vespers show. This concert series has been running for 15 years now and has “come up on my radar” a number of times. I just never thought I’d be booked for it.

Hobbit & Hare – photo by Greagoir Pavlos

Yet here’s Sketch and I, happily playing for a truly awesome audience of about 65 or so. They were very attentive and appreciative, even applauding for some of my solos. That was enough to make me all verklempt, I assure you! I don’t know about Sketch, but I sure felt validated!

The concert was in three parts. The first part was each of the three acts doing a short (about 12 minute) set. Then there was a 20 minute break featuring a brief, non-denominational, inspirational message and an offering to help support the concert series. Lastly all three acts came back out and each played an additional 18 minute set. H&H closed each music portion.

A special bonus for us was our friend Greg took the above picture and it’s the absolute best live performance pic of Hobbit & Hare ever. (I snapped the other two pictures in this post with my phone and would like to apologize.)

Dan & Jim – photo by Howlin’ Hobbit

Dan and Jim opened the show. I met Dan Schindler a few years ago at a SUPA meet up and he showed up last year busking at Pike Place Market, where he hooked up with Jim Nason. Dan has an immense repertoire of old jazz and novelty music and he not only sings them beautifully but also has a great stage presence. This goes a long way when busking as well as on more “official” stages. He’s helped me out several times with arrangements for the older tunes.

I’ve known Jim for decades, starting with the Victory Music open mikes in Ruston, WA. For five or so years we played together in the Emerald City Jug Band. Jim was the concert coordinator for this special buskers edition of Seattle Jazz Vespers. In addition to being amazing on the bucket bass and guitar, Jim writes excellent songs. In 2015 he took home his third Grand Tumbleweed Trophy from the songwriting contest at the annual Tumbleweed Music Festival in Richland, WA. That’s 30% of the trophies in their history!

Pretty Shady String Band – photo by Howlin’ Hobbit

The Pretty Shady String Band took the middle position. Annie Ford has been busking at Pike Place Market for about a decade and Greg Paul for around half that time (if my fuzzy memory is behaving).

Annie has several projects going and plays fiddle, washtub bass, and guitar. Her other projects include the Nu Klezmer ArmyCast Iron Maidens, and her own Annie Ford Band.

Greg plays banjo, guitar, and some washboard as well. Both sing and Pretty Shady shows that off with some great harmonies.

And at the end of the evening we all got paid. Cash. In an amount that said they respected musicians and wanted to actually support live music, not just talk like they did.

Heavenly! Just like a dream come true.

Teasing Out More Details

Here’s pictures of my banjo ukulele as it looked shortly after I got it.

Hokum W. Jeebs banjolele, back view Hokum W. Jeebs banjolele, front view

I took it into the shop where various arcane subjects (like break angle and neck resets) were discussed. Nothing much changed on the back, but here’s a pic of the front after I picked it up at the shop.

Lil Hokum after repair

The main difference you’ll notice is the tailpiece. When I got the uke it had that huge monstrosity you see in the before pic. I’m pretty sure it was an aftermarket alteration. It supposedly allowed you to fine tune the uke, but all it really managed to achieve was to screw up the break angle over the bridge so badly that any moderately vigorous strumming caused the strings to jump out of their slot and off the bridge.

Combine that with the fact the stick that runs through the body from the neck to the end (a feature found on many banjos) had come loose from its moorings, and you can understand why it was unplayable.

The repair fella at Dusty Strings essentially did a partial neck reset and switched in the smaller tailpiece and a different bridge.

It sounds great and plays nice (though I’m still getting used to the skinny neck). The strings are settling in well, but it seems that it’s happier in D tuning and it’s taking extra time. I also want to experiment to see how it sounds with the back off.

This is my second teaser on the subject, so you’ve probably figured out by now that something is in the pipeline that features the banjolele.

You’re right.

Now I just have to round up a musician or three. (Because it’s more fun that way, that’s why!)

I’ll keep you in the loop.

This Is A Teaser

All of the “new music biz” pundits and gurus recommend that you add teasers into your promo strategy.

teaser – Noun
1. a worker who teases wool. also the device used for teasing wool.
2. someone given to teasing (as by mocking, etc.).
3. a brief advertisement or announcement that offers minimal information in order to arouse interest in an upcoming event or product.
4. a particularly baffling problem that is said to have a correct solution
5. a flat at each side of the stage to prevent the audience from seeing into the wings

After owning it for 3 years or thereabouts, yesterday evening I retrieved my banjo ukulele from the repair man. In other words, it’s actually playable for the first time since I got it.

Just working on getting the new strings to settle in.

Old Skool Tech

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I am now the proud owner of of a “No Knot” banjo tailpiece (patented on the 19th of this month, 114 years ago) and a bog standard banjo wrench, which has been around since at least the mid-19th century. These are to get my 30’s era banjo ukulele up and flying.

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I got this ukulele from the estate of Hokum W. Jeebs, famous busker and neo-vaudevillian, and it is simply soaked with mojo. So I’m pretty tired of just looking at it. I want to play it. I feel like I’m disrespecting Jeebs’ memory by letting it sit around collecting dust instead of making music on it.

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Also I’ve been thinking for some time about putting a band together which resembles some of my favorite bands, including Trashcan Joe and the late, lamented Asylum Street Spankers. (Pennies for bombs, billions for hokum!) Having another “voice” in my regular act wouldn’t hurt my feelings either.

The major problem with the little uke is that fancy-schmancy tailpiece. It’s intended to allow fine tuning of the strings but was designed for a full-sized banjo, at least twice the size of the little fella here. The upshot of all that is the angle where the strings go over the bridge isn’t sharp enough and therefore the strings don’t press hard enough on the bridge. So if you strum with any exuberance one or the other of the two outside strings pops loose. And believe me kids, I strum exuberantly.

I’m hoping this will be sufficient to fix the issue, but I suspect it may also need a neck reset. Since I’m going to wait until I get a new set of strings before I change the tailpiece, it may be a week or so before I find out.

A week or so shouldn’t be too bad, it’s been four years since I got it. But I’m getting closer!