Uncle Wayne Plays Some Church

April 24, 2009 4:21 PM

Last night I was trying to find some inspiration for the bluegrass I'm working on and the first thing that came on youtube was THIS. It's a pretty slow version of Home Sweet Home.

The banjo picker is my Uncle Wayne. He was probably one of the best banjo pickers of all time and was friends with and played with the best; Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and Ralph Stanley to name the big boys.

Being a man bound to tradition, he chose to run his family farm instead of chasing fame or fortune, so there's almost nothing of him in the public record. Being posted here is about as famous as he'll ever be.

I don't know how common it is to turn those tuning pegs like that in a song, but even though this song isn't even 1/3 of his usual speed, it's still amazing.
posted by snsranch (10 comments total)

Right on! (I saw Steve Martin turn the pegs while picking on one of the late shows recently.)
posted by augustweed at 4:25 PM on April 24, 2009

Ha, now that I'm checking it out, it looks like A LOT of folks are turning those pegs!
posted by snsranch at 4:46 PM on April 24, 2009

This clip is worth it for those announcers alone: the lady's hairdo, the mountain painting backdrop, and that guy's tie. Want that TIE.

Then the music... yes indeedy, I have to say, the biggest problem I have with bluegrass is (often) the speed. Those breakneck tempos usually just leave me cold, cause they suck out all the potential for juicy phrasing, bending notes (as we're hearing here with this guy's tuning down via pegs) and so on. So I find it refreshing whenever i hear bluegrass at slower tempos. Love it when Bill Monroe slowed things down, for example. You get a rolling, lilting feel that, again, is necessarily absent from the super-fast renditions.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:45 PM on April 24, 2009

That is fuckin' awesome. Yes, as I was watching this, before I read your "more inside," it dawned on me that he's riding the tuning pegs. Fantastic. I love this. You gotta get your Uncle Wayne to play some stuff with you.
posted by chococat at 7:52 PM on April 24, 2009

I had never seen the peg turning before, so even if it turns out to be pretty common, it was really cool that you linked to it here. Man, that is so cool.

And I have to agree with flapjax. I love bluegrass, but I prefer the slower ones to the racing speed ones. I think that a lot of the better details of it (the dobro ornaments, violin slides and so on) are often missing from the faster versions.

Fantastic link, man, thanks for posting it.
posted by micayetoca at 5:38 AM on April 25, 2009

It seems treacherous to change the tuning midsong like that. Wouldn't it be easy to lose track of your fingerings at any given moment?
posted by umbĂș at 10:54 AM on April 25, 2009

Thanks for checking this out folks and for not calling is out as a goofy post!

I agree about the speed, definitely, but the couple of times that I saw him play for an audience, he was really there to put on a dramatic daredevilish show. That ties in to your comment umbu, when he would play at break neck speed and start turning keys without missing a beat, peoples jaws would drop.

He passed away about 10 years ago and since then I haven't found any of his music except for some really bad family recordings. So when he popped up out of nowhere the other night I was pretty damn excited and had to share!
posted by snsranch at 4:19 PM on April 25, 2009

Wow, way cool.
posted by COBRA! at 9:37 AM on April 27, 2009

It seems treacherous to change the tuning midsong like that. Wouldn't it be easy to lose track of your fingerings at any given moment?

That's exactly what I was thinking when I watched that vid. It seems like something that would not be fun to do live, you'd have to have a good sense of pitch, do it quickly to keep up with the song, and than remember where the hell you're playing at b/c you just changed the tuning of the strings. I've seen Zepelin Video's of Jimmy Page messing with the tuning in "Dazed and Confused" but he's just kinda using it as a vibrato, from what I remember he went back to the original tuning each time and I saw John Lennon do it once playing "Yer Blues" but I think all he did was tune down to drop D.
posted by BrnP84 at 2:38 AM on April 30, 2009

The changing-tuning-while-playing thing is common enough that someone invented a special tuning peg to make it easier - the Sperzel Locking Tuner, and I'm fairly sure I remember reading that guitarists began to do it because they'd seen banjo players doing it (in fact I think the Sperzels were originally developed for the banjo and then snaffled away by guitarists).

I know that Adrian Legg has been using them for a long time, and I saw Nick Harper doing it about fifteen years ago - though I'm not sure that he was using locking tuners. Just chutzpah.

(If you've never seen either of these players, I can recommend them both very highly.)
posted by Grangousier at 2:18 PM on May 7, 2009

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