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Pete Seeger és a hosszú nyakú bendzsó története és egy Seattle-ben élő Pete tanulója és követője ismerhető meg ezen a helyen.

 

Thank you, Pete.

Peter McKee

Since 1967, Seattle-resident Peter McKee has been an admirer and student of Pete Seeger’s banjo playing and political activism. Peter can be contacted through the website for his one-man show: “Pete: The Songs and Times of Pete Seeger” at https://sites.google.com/site/petesongsandtimes/home

March 2014 Tweet This article has been made free for public access. No subscription is necessary. The Seeger Long Neck: America’s Third Banjo By Peter McKee Pete Seeger, 1944 Along with Earl Scruggs, Pete Seeger was one of the two pillars of the 5-string banjo in the 20th century. We mourn his passing and celebrate his life. We should also celebrate his amazing banjo playing. Now into our second decade of the 21st Century, the world of banjos and banjo playing appears to have gravitated into two schools or camps—bluegrass and old-time. Each genre has its preferred banjo. Bluegrass has the resonator banjo, epitomized by the much-cherished and iconic pre-war Gibsons. Old-time has a host of preferred banjos, but all are open-backed, with some being made with scooped necks near the banjo head to enhance the frailing or clawhammer style of down-stroke picking. Bluegrass, of course, has Earl’s three fingered picking—crisp and driving. Sixty years ago, the much smaller banjo-playing community of the day was not so clearly divided into these two neighborhoods. Today in the pages of BNL and other banjo-centric publications and web sites, banjos and their players are often cast into one of these two categories. I believe there is, however, an often-overlooked third banjo neighborhood that should, at least occasionally, be recognized. That is the world of the long neck banjo, invented in 1944 and played from that day forward by Pete Seeger and a small group of long neck enthusiasts who appreciate that the long neck is unique unto itself, and possibly better suited for a particular use than its other two banjo siblings. Vega Long Neck First, a brief history of the long neck’s creation. By 1944, Pete Seeger had been learning to play the 5-string banjo for eight years. As a member of the Almanac Singers from 1940-43, Pete played a variety of standard length open-backed banjos. He had developed his own picking style, a variation of frailing. Instead of first hitting a string with a downward stroke of the back of a fingernail of his right hand, Pete developed what would become known as the Seeger “basic strum” or “up picking.” In his 1948 self-published book, “How to Play the 5-String Banjo” (still in print), Pete describes his basic strum as starting by plucking up on a string with his right index finger, followed by a brush down across the strings with the ring and sometimes middle finger, then followed by ringing the 5th string with the right thumb. Sometimes he used picks on the right hand and sometimes he didn’t. Frailing does not usually involve the use of finger picks. While Pete mastered many styles of banjo playing and could frail and three-finger pick with the best of them, Pete’s signature “basic strum” was developed for a particular purpose—to accompany his singing of songs, both traditional and political, where the words of the song were was as important as the music. Seeger’s basic strum was also central to his masterful ability to get thousands of audience members singing together with him, often in three-part harmony. For Pete, his banjo was always a tool he used toward the achievement of both political and musical goals. Indeed, the words emblazoned on his banjo head for more than 50 years—“This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It To Surrender”—make it clear that, for Pete, his banjo was just that —a machine, a tool. In 1944, Pete realized his standard length open backed banjo needed to be adapted to meet his particular needs and abilities. Pete long said that his solo singing voice was never a stellar example to be emulated. Many folk performers had richer, stronger or clearer voices and many had a wider range. Fortunately for us all, in 1944 Pete devised a solution to a particular limitation he faced with a standard banjo. Pete and the Almanac Singers played a song in Spanish honoring those who fought against Franco’s fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Pete played the song Viva La Quince Brigada, out of C tuning because he liked that tuning with its lowered fourth string. Unfortunately, playing out of that tuning in C minor made the song just a bit too high for his voice. If he could lower the tune one full step to Bb minor, Pete figured he could sing it comfortably. His unique solution gave birth to the long neck banjo. Just before he shipped out to Saipan during World War II, Pete took his Vega Whyte Laydie to legendary luthier John D’Angelico in New York’s Lower East Side and asked him to saw off the neck at the nut. He then had D’Angelico insert a neck extension which allowed the addition of two extra frets and had it glued in place. Now, with his extended neck, Pete could lower songs played out of C down to Bb. For five years, Pete played this original long neck with two extra frets, only to have it stolen from the back of his car in 1949. Photos of Pete after 1949 show him playing a variety of extended neck banjos and at some point in the early 1950’s Seeger’s long neck sported three extra frets. This would allow a rich bass sound to songs played out of open G tuning, when dropped three half steps to E. It also allows a similar rich tone for songs played out of C, lowered three half steps to A. Just recently, I smiled while reading Pete Wernick’s January 2014 BNL column which urged banjo players to become more versatile in playing in the keys of E and F. Wernick notes these keys better suit the vocal range of women singers. As a long neck banjo player, my first thought was, “Well, just capo down two half steps from open G (Key of F) or three half steps (Key of E).” Admittedly it’s a “cheat,” but then so is the use of a capo. By the mid-1950’s, Pete’s long neck banjo was becoming iconic in the growing folk music revival and the Vega Instrument Company of Boston, with Pete’s permission (though he declined any royalties), began to produce a top-end Vega “Pete Seeger Model” long neck. In 1958, the new Pete Seeger Model retailed for $295. One of the first to purchase the new Vega Pete Seeger model was Dave Guard, soon to become famous for playing his Seeger long neck as a founding member of Kingston Trio. Quickly the sound of the long neck became “the” folk revival banjo sound. Seeger’s basic strum was perfectly matched with his long neck banjo to help him pursue a fundamental life-long quest—getting people singing together. Scruggs three finger picking is the “over-drive” to bluegrass, but it is not well-suited as a solo instrumentation for song leading. Frailing, the model upon which Pete based his basic strum, is somewhat better suited to the task. But for Pete, the combination of his long neck and his basic strum seemed to foster a special connection with his audiences, encouraging them to sing along. Maybe it is the wider range or the richer lows of the long neck. Maybe it’s the less percussive, at times simpler, picking style of Seeger’s basic strum that has the ability of encouraging audiences to join in. Of Seeger’s basic strum, music historian Robert Cantwell has noted in his book “When We Were Good: The Folk Revival”: “By nestling a resonant chord between two precise notes, a melody note and a chiming note on the fifth string, Seeger gentrified the more percussive frailing style with its vigorous hammering of the forearm and its percussive rapping of the fingernail on the banjo head.” Even the longer banjo neck, in the hands of a master like Seeger, can be effectively used as sort of a musical baton, urging the co-performers—the audience—to join in the music. Today, the long neck has largely faded into relative banjo obscurity. In 1989, Deering acquired the rights to the Vega name and has produced some top-quality long neck banjos, including a replica of the original 1958 Vega Pete Seeger Model. Gold Tone and other companies also make long necks. However, as a percentage of all banjos purchased and played, we “longneckers” are a rare breed. Today, both bluegrass and open backed frailing banjos are enjoying a golden age of banjo making; not so with long neck banjos. It is telling that on the internet site Banjo Hangout, there are only 120 or so diehard members who subscribe to the long neck discussion forum. It appears that many of us trace our love of the instrument to our youthful banjo exposure during the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s. It is also interesting to note that while Pete was repeatedly recognized for his seminal role in the folk music revival of the 1950’s and 1960’s, there has been no updated appraisal, analysis or teaching of Pete’s unique banjo playing styles. We all know of the many books and DVDs which explore, analyze and teach the finer elements of Scruggs picking, Monroe’s mandolin style and Tony Rice’s guitar wizardry. To my knowledge, however, only one book currently exists which attempts to reveal Pete’s banjo playing techniques—Pete’s own. Would not our world of banjo players benefit from a fresh, detailed analysis and teaching of Seeger’s unique take on the banjo? Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, and Pete Wernick have all publicly acknowledged that Pete, his banjo playing, and his banjo book played a formative role in first bringing them to the banjo. For those of us who did not grow up in a rural, Southern environment where the five string banjo did have its own life—without Seeger and those first exposed to the banjo via Seeger in the 1940’s and 1950’s, we ourselves would likely never have been exposed to the instrument we love. Vastly oversimplified—No Seeger = no Dave Guard. No Dave Guard = no Kingston Trio. No Kingston Trio = no folk revival as we know it. And then I and many others would not have been playing our banjos for the last many years. Thank you, Pete. Peter McKee Since 1967, Seattle-resident Peter McKee has been an admirer and student of Pete Seeger’s banjo playing and political activism. Peter can be contacted through the website for his one-man show: “Pete: The Songs and Times of Pete Seeger” at https://sites.google.com/site/petesongsandtimes/home From Chuck Ogsbury, founder of ODE and OME Banjos, on the Seeger longneck: In the late 1950’s most of the popular “folk” groups (Weavers, Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary, Christy Minstrels, Chad Mitchel Trio, etc.) were using the longneck 5-string banjos, based after Pete Seeger’s instrument. Pete’s banjo had a Vega Tubaphone pot and a custom neck. At that time, the only company making longnecks commercially was the original Vega Company of Boston, which made the “Pete Seeger” long neck model. These banjos were in high demand then and they were hard to find, and expensive ($365 list price). About this time, while attending Colorado University in Boulder, I was searching out and fixing up vintage fretted instruments for myself and my classmates in my spare time. Following up on a newspaper ad, I ended up buying a used Vega longneck for a friend. Before turning it over to my friend, I took the time to thoroughly evaluate it. I found the instrument to be disappointing, as I felt it was poorly made with a clubby neck, funky hardware, faulty fretting, purple finish, and was over priced. About this same time, I was playing with the idea of building banjos with an aluminum pot as an alternative to the traditional wood and brass pot. I felt the aluminum construction would cost considerably less to make and might sound good. It wasn’t long before I made a prototype, which worked so well that I decided to build 100 long neck banjos under the name ODE. These original ODES sold for about $75 with a hand-made, coffin shaped case for an additional $25. Unexpectedly, as fast as I could put these banjos together, they sold by word of mouth out of my garage shop. This inspired me to make a second batch banjos, with many of the second 100 being standard length 5-strings. Tenors, Plectrums, Guitar banjos and resonators soon followed, and ODE was on its way. I also had the opportunity to visit the Vega “factory” about 1961. Bill Nelson Jr., the son of the original Vega owner, was still running the company and he showed me through their shop which was located on the second floor of an old industrial building in Boston. I recall that their shop was surprisingly small and “old-school” as they were still using much turn-of-the-century machinery and tools, and the whole place seemed a bit funky and disorganized for a “factory.” They were making, at the time, mostly the longneck Pete Seeger models, a few Vega Vox tenors and plectrums, and some 4-string tenor guitars. In the early 1960’s, other companies that made longneck 5-strings were: Gibson, Bacon, Harmony, and a few other small builders such as Christy and Epic. As the long neck popularity faded, the long neck was dropped and bluegrass banjos took over. Vega came out with the “Earl Scruggs” bluegrass model which never sold well because of its Tubaphone tone ring and stamped flange construction. C.F. Martin Guitars bought Vega on the recommendation of their historian Mike Longworth, who was also a banjo person. Martin never did well with Vega and sold the instrument section to a Korean man who made the Vega in Asia for a while before going bankrupt. The original tooling and Vega work in progress never went to Asia but was stored for years in a warehouse in Los Angeles. It was stored in crates stacked 20’ high and was offered for sale at $60,000. Apparently, it failed to sell, and a few years later in liquidation proceedings, most of this original Vega tooling and parts went for scrap at a bankruptcy auction. Greg Deering told me he found out about this after the fact, and unsuccessfully attempted to track down and retrieve some of it from junk yards but was largely unsuccessful. Pete: The Songs & Times of Pete Seeger Home About the Show UPCOMING DATES Tickets Photos About the Performer Contact Home Pete: The Songs & Times of Pete Seeger is a multimedia, live concert by Seattle banjo player Peter McKee available as a fund-raising tool, free to sponsoring nonprofit organizations, unions and other social justice efforts whose goals are consistent with the songs and life of Pete Seeger. For more info or to book this show as a fund-raising concert: Contact Peter McKee at 206-789-5282 or phdmckee@hotmail.com Click on the "Photos" tab, above, to see more photos from past performances! Click the "Upcoming Dates" tab, above, to learn about future show dates. ABOUT THE SHOW Peter offers his show as fund-raising tool, free to nonprofit organizations, unions and other social justice efforts whose goals are consistent with the songs and life of Pete Seeger. Since 1967, Peter McKee has been an admirer and student of Seeger’s banjo playing and political activism. Peter is a co-founder of the Seattle folk band, “Clallam County”, which has performed together throughout Washington State for the past 36 years. Visit Clallam County's website here: http://www.clallamcountyband.com Questions? Contact Peter McKee at: 206-789-5282 phdmckee@hotmail.com Pete: The Songs & Times of Pete Seeger Home About the Show UPCOMING DATES Tickets Photos About the Performer Contact Home‎ > ‎ About the Show Pete: The Songs & Times of Pete Seeger A Live Multi-Media Concert By Seattle banjo player, Peter McKee Since 2012, Seattle banjo player Peter McKee has presented this one-man performance honoring the songs and times of Pete Seeger. This two hour multi-media concert traces the historical context of eighteen iconic folk songs closely associated with Seeger. Peter guides the audience though 70 years of our country’s history while performing such songs as “If I Had A Hammer,” “We Shall Overcome,” “Guantanamera,” “Union Maid,” and “This Land Is Your Land.” The performance incorporates narration, photographs, historical sound clips, and the one constant element of any Seeger concert – the voice of the audience itself joining in on the choruses. The music of Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, The Weavers and Tom Paxton, as well as the struggles against war, racism, the communist witch hunts of the House Unamerican Activities Committee of the 1950s are featured prominently in this show. In the end, Peter’s performance seeks to capture an experience with the audience that Pete Seeger himself often described – “…when one person taps out a beat, while another leads into the melody, or when three people discover a harmony that they never knew existed, or when a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher – then they also know there is hope for the world.” - "Pete Seeger: The Power of Song," 2007 With Pete's death at 94 in January, 2014, this show continues to celebrate, preserve, and honor the songs and times of Pete Seeger. The show is also offered as a FREE fund-raising tool to nonprofit organizations, unions and other social justice efforts whose goals are consistent with the songs and life of Pete Seeger. Pete: The Songs & Times of Pete Seeger Home About the Show UPCOMING DATES Tickets Photos About the Performer Contact Home‎ > ‎ UPCOMING DATES Fundraiser for Northwest Center for Creative Aging, Seattle, WA. Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, 7:00 PM Come celebrate the songs, life, and times of Pete Seeger while supporting Northwest Center for Creative Aging at The Bridge at Village Cove, just east of Greenlake. Sing along, clap, stomp your feet, or just enjoy Pete's well-loved folk songs. Tickets available at http://bpt.me/2640257 or call 206-930-0809 for more information. PRIOR PERFORMANCES Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle, WA. May 24, 2014 As part of the 2014 Folklife tribute honoring the late Pete Seeger, a full presentation of the entire show took place at the JBL Theater at the Experience Music Project (EMP), on the grounds of the Seattle Center. This state-of-the-art theater/performance space with seating for 190 and fantastic acoustics was a perfect setting to lend your voice to this singing celebration. Fundraiser for Citizens of the Ebey's Reserve, Whidbey Island, WA. June 30, 2013 A one-hour highlights show was performed to support citizen's efforts to protect the health and welfare of the inhabitants of the Ebey's Reserve region in North Puget Sound. Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle, WA. May 25, 2013 Folklife selected "Pete: The Songs and Times of Pete Seeger" to open the Experience Music Project (EMP) Sky Church stage on May 25, 2013. A 45 minute portion of the original two hour show was presented to a standing room crowd. Subscribe to posts Show Debut posted Jan 9, 2013, 5:16 AM by Peter H. D. McKee [ updated Jan 9, 2013, 6:00 AM ] The show premiered Sunday, October 14, 2012 at the Historic Admiral Theater in West Seattle. With over 200 in attendance, we raised more than $800 for Northwest Folklife, the non-profit sponsor of Seattle's annual Folklife Festival. Northwest Folklife Festival - 5/24/2014 - Seattle, WA posted Oct 23, 2016, 5:43 AM by Peter H. D. McKee Citizens of the Ebey's Reserve - 6/30/2013 - Whidbey Island, WA posted Oct 23, 2016, 5:41 AM by Peter H. D. McKee Northwest Folklife Festival - 5/25/13 - Experience Music Project, Seattle posted Oct 23, 2016, 5:37 AM by Peter H. D. McKee [ updated Oct 23, 2016, 5:40 AM ] Debut photos - 10/14/12 - Admiral Theater, West Seattle posted Jan 9, 2013, 5:58 AM by Peter H. D. McKee [ updated Oct 23, 2016, 5:45 AM ] Photos courtesy of Dick Goldsmith

Northwest Folklife Festival - 5/24/2014 - Seattle, WA

posted Oct 23, 2016, 5:43 AM by Peter H. D. McKee

 

 

 

Citizens of the Ebey's Reserve - 6/30/2013 - Whidbey Island, WA

posted Oct 23, 2016, 5:41 AM by Peter H. D. McKee

 

 

Northwest Folklife Festival - 5/25/13 - Experience Music Project, Seattle

posted Oct 23, 2016, 5:37 AM by Peter H. D. McKee   [ updated Oct 23, 2016, 5:40 AM ]

 

   

 

Debut photos - 10/14/12 - Admiral Theater, West Seattle

posted Jan 9, 2013, 5:58 AM by Peter H. D. McKee   [ updated Oct 23, 2016, 5:45 AM ]

 




Photos courtesy of Dick Goldsmith