Rambles

Banjo Joke Pictorials

[Just here for the pictures? Scroll down…]

In the fall of 2013, I went on tour with the NY Banjo Summit. It was an unprecedented collection of banjo lineage—the catch being that the players had to have some association with New York State. The tour began with 12 people on a 12 bunk bus, plus our driver. There were 6 on banjo: Béla Fleck, Tony Trischka, Bill Keith, Eric Weissberg, Richie Stearns, and Noam Pikelny; 4 in the band: Russ Barenberg, Jesse Cobb, Corey Dimario, and myself; and 2 crew: Richard Battaglia on sound and Peter Lesser as tour manager. But wait! there’s more! We were joined by banjoist and wife of Béla, Abigail Washburn, their 4mos. baby boy Juno, Béla’s mother and a nanny. By the end of the tour we were 17 (incl. driver) on the same bus. I  know, it kind of sounds like a joke, but I’m not joking.

BUT! Going into this, I smelled all the ingredients for the perpetuation of a long standing tradition of banjo jokes. As one that enjoys being in the kitchen, I decided to bake up a batch, but with my own style—in picture. To prepare for this endeavor, I studied all 271 represented at the Canonical List of Banjo Jokes in addition to taking suggestions from my tour pals. The goal was to illustrate a banjo joke in picture, post it, and see if folks could figure it out. We had a fun time making these.

Thanks to all for being great sports and for making fabulous music!
casey

 

[Disclaimer: The ideas and concepts represented in these photo jokes are not the views of the photographer, nor do they necessarily represent any of the musicians abilities. No banjos or banjoists were harmed in their making.]

 

THE JOKES

See if you can guess the joke. Stumped? Just scroll to the bottom. Enjoy!

 

DAY 1


by @caseydriessen

 

DAY 2


by @caseydriessen

 

DAY 3


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DAY 4


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DAY 5


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DAY 6


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DAY 7


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DAY 8


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DAY 9


by @caseydriessen

 

DAY 10


by @caseydriessen

 

DAY 11


by @caseydriessen

 

FINAL TOUR GROUP PHOTO


by @caseydriessen

 

STUMPED?

Day 1
Q: What’s the definition of perfect pitch?
A: Throwing a banjo in the dumpster without hitting the sides.

 

Day 2
Q: How can you tell the stage is level?
A: The banjo player drools out of both sides of his/her mouth.

 

Day 3
A banjo player walked into a bar…another banjo player walked into the bar…you’d think the second banjo player would have seen what happened to the first banjo player and ducked!

 

Day 4
Q: What do you call an attractive woman on the arm of a banjo player?
A: A tattoo.

 

Day 5
Q: Why did the banjo player(s) stare at the jug of orange juice?
A: Because it said “concentrate.”

 

Day 6
Q: How do you make a banjo player slow down (or stop playing)?
A: Put sheet music in front of him/her.

 

Day 7
Q: If you drop a banjo and an accordian from the top of the Empire State building (tour bus in our case), which will hit the ground first?
A: Who cares.

 

Day 8
Q: What’s the difference between a banjo and an onion?
A: Nobody cries when you chop up a banjo.

 

Day 9
Q: How many banjo players does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: One and 6 to….

  1. lament about how much they miss the old one.
  2. complain that it’s electric.
  3. complain that Earl wouldn’t have done it that way.
  4. argue about what year it was made.
  5. argue about how much it costs.
  6. ask what tuning is being used.
  7. stand around and watch.

 

Day 10
Q: How can you tell there’s a banjo player at your door?
A: The knocking speeds up, can’t find the key, and doesn’t know when to come in.

 

Day 11
Q: What’s the difference between a banjo player and a large pizza?
A: A large pizza can feed a family of four.

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FIDDLE/STICKS: ENCOUNTER 1 VIDEO & TRACK

Who-Knews?-Letter 20

 

FEATURING KENNY MALONE

I’m thrilled to announce that the first video and tune from my Fiddle/Sticks project are now viewable and listenable! Back in June, Nashville session legend Kenny Malone and I met for two days at Zac Brown’s new Southern Ground Studio in Nashville, TN. We came partially prepared with melodic pieces, a whole bunch of toys, and our vibe open to collaboration and experimentation. I’d love to be long-winded about this, but I’d rather you enjoy the video.

Strings Magazine is sponsoring the exclusive first look of video. Please follow this link to watch it.

Okay…here’s the quick synopsis: We composed and honed melodies, implied harmonies with drums, and developed arrangements. Kenny beat on a set of 5 djembes, a drum kit, inventions of his own making, and my fiddles (relax…with chopsticks). As you may imagine, I played fiddle. We created structure. We gave ourselves to improvisation. We laughed. We cried. I had a rhythmic fiddle lesson. We conversed about career and industry, beliefs about rhythm and music, life changing epiphanies, inventions and inspirations from dreams, lyrics, the dance, and of course drummer jokes.

Stay tuned for a future podcast of our interview and conversation. The 5 djembe composition “Five and a Fiddle” is available for listening here or by clicking below.

 

During years of live performance and recording together, Kenny and I have never gotten to know each other as well as we did in these two days. I hope you enjoy these sneak peeks.

 

FIDDLE/STICKS: ENCOUNTER 2

(photo credit: Matt Mangano)

But wait! The fiddling and sticking doesn’t stop there. On October 3 & 4, I collaborated for two days with Futureman, percussionist for Béla Fleck & the Flecktones and inventor of the Drumitar. We changed gears from F/S:1 and set up a mobile studio in an awesome photography warehouse called CRAFT Studio. I’ll be digging into this music soon!

 

CHOP SHOP

The online Fiddle/Sticks hangout is up and ready for you guys to jump in. Hosted by me, this private Facebook group will be the place for progress updates, exclusive content, and whatever you want to discuss. More info here, or by clicking below.

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TEDx ASHEVILLE

On November 4, I have been asked to present at the TEDx event in Asheville, NC. I’ll be performing my Singularity piece, Heartbeat Kid, and speaking about chasing the elusive creative muse. It’s an honor to be included, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing and meeting the other participants.

 

SINGULARITY ALBUM UPDATE

The Singularity album is nearing completion! I’ve been squeezing in recording between solo touring, touring for other folks, all things Fiddle/Sticks, and a bit of tractor time. As at the concept would imply, I’m recording/producing it all myself, and there’s just one track left to go.

 

ENCORE

I was out west Singularity-ing (that means just me) in my little powder pearly blue Kia rental. I decided to take the scenic route from Aspen CO to Carbondale CO since I had the time and the weather was gorgeous. I checked the questionably smart phone for a mountain traverse. I found one and cruised the scenic CO country roads, passing a few folks going the other way, and a few homesteads. Slowly, the cars and homes thinned out, and then I saw the “Pavement Ends” sign. I’d been going for a while and thought I was on track…how much farther could it be? So, I kept going, me and Powder Blue – no cars, no homes, no livestock – just hoping I didn’t get a rock in the rental winshield. Up and up I drove, around ruts and rocks, until I crested at the “entrance” of the White River National Forest. And LO! there was a park like map in a display case. But, what’s this? All the roads (ATV paths & trails?) were labeled with numbers and no text. I couldn’t figure out which way to go or even where I was. And that phone’s not so smart without service. I was about to turn around when a lone pickup truck crested from the other direction. “Oh yeah,” he says, “I just came from there, just keep going straight.” And that was the only person I saw until I reached pavement again…which is right when a rock hit my winshield.

Enjoy your adventures!
Casey

 

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KICKING OFF KICKSTARTING

THE DRUMMER PROJECT BY CASEY DRIESSEN

 

Today I start my stroll down Kickstarter Street, and I hope you’ll consider taking a walk with me.  Please watch on, read on, and click on to get an idea of where we can go together. ANY kind of support is supremely appreciated – sharing included. Thanks!

http://youtu.be/01mvXr7u1VU

 

OFFICIAL STATEMENT

Fiddle/Sticks: The Drummer Project by Casey Driessen is a collaborative exploration of rhythm which pairs Casey – the leading voice in percussive fiddle/violin technique (AKA The Chop) – with a list of the landmark drummers and percussionists of our time. Cutting across all genres and traditions, the project documents these rhythmic explorations through recordings, videos, photos and journals. It serves as an inspirational and instructional resource for drummers, percussionists, fiddlers and everyone in the music community interested in pushing the boundaries of their instruments and their music.

 

IN MY OWN WORDS

One day last year, I was chatting with a friend about the future of a new percussive bowing technique on the fiddle – curiously named “the chop.” That person just happened to be banjo innovator Béla Fleck, who knows a thing or two about pushing the boundaries of an instrument. From that discussion, the seed for Fiddle/Sticks was planted.
[Note: Fiddles and violins are the same physical instrument – the distinction is generally for genre, but it’s not a rule. I like “fiddle” – but feel free to substitute “violin” in your head if you like.]

The chop is a relatively new idea, but it came from the father of bluegrass himself, Mr. Bill Monroe. In 1966, Monroe told his fiddler Richard Green that he needed to improve his rhythm. Monroe’s advice was to imitate the trademark percussive thwack of his bluegrass mandolin “chop.” Trace that technique farther backwards and you find the mandolin replicating the backbeat of popular music played by the snare drum – but in the drum-less musical setting of bluegrass. Through this lineage, on an instrument with centuries of musical history and established technical dogma, a brand new bowing technique is born within my lifetime. Paying homage to its mandolin source, this fiddle sound is dubbed “the chop.”

I’ve immersed myself in chopping for over 20yrs and believe this is just the beginning. The chop has advanced well beyond its backbeat origin into harmonic and rhythmic complexity that intrigues and excites fiddlers across the globe. To other musicians, it’s a fresh take and innovative sound not heard emanating from the fiddle family before. I am working hard to push this style to new heights and feel Fiddle/Sticks: The Drummer Project is a perfect pathway. This collaborative exploration of rhythm between myself and landmark drummers and percussionists will trek across all genres and traditions while documenting these meetings through audio recordings, videos, photos, and journals.

I have teamed up with writer, filmmaker and storyteller, Craig Havighurst (String Theory Media, Music City Roots), who will tell the story of these encounters while I concentrate on the music. We will take this project to the drummers – spending two days in their studios and practice spaces, playing music, writing music, exploring the rhythmic side of the fiddle and the melodic side of the drums, interviewing, and deepening our understanding of the musical arts. Successful funding of Fiddle/Sticks will go towards the following: musicians honorariums; travel, lodging, and food; video shooting, editing, and production; mobile audio recording gear such as a laptop, audio interfaces, microphones, mic stands, hard drives, etc; production, editing, and manufacturing of an audio CD; the donor rewards; and fees required by Kickstarter.

The thought of this project becoming a reality makes my metronome race with excitement. I’ve never been satisfied exploring the fiddle just from the fiddler’s point of view. Rather, I’ve discovered my creative turning points through other instruments and genres – adopting the 5-string fiddle over the conventional 4-string to play bebop alto saxophone lines by Charlie Parker; learning odd-meter time signatures from syllabic rhythm practices of classical Indian music; incorporating funk slap bass lines; mimicking rhythm of a glass shard filled tin can shaker from Madagascar; and, of course, my pivotal watershed moment, imitating the mandolin chop in a childhood bluegrass band lacking mandolin. I am continually searching for new thought processes, inspiration and challenges to push the limits of my musical voice, and I believe the unconventional pairing of fiddle with drums and percussion will do so in an awesomely unpredictable way.

Please help me take the fiddle chop to its roundabout drumming roots. My ultimate goal is to work with experts from jazz, rock, pop, funk, Motown, hip-hop, New Orleans, turntable, drum & bass, fusion, country, electronic, and world idioms. For my launch, I will focus on five drummers across varying specialties. Confirmed so far are Jamey Haddad (world percussionist for Paul Simon and Berklee College of Music Professor), Futureman (jazz fusion drumitar inventor for Béla Fleck & the Flecktones), and Kenny Malone (legendary Nashville country session drummer). I hope that Fiddle/Sticks will serve as an inspirational and instructional resource for drummers, percussionists, fiddlers and everyone in the music community interested in pushing the boundaries of their instruments and their music.

 

ENCORE

My year of Flecktones is rapidly coming to a close, and it’s been a wild ride. I’ve been stealing hours from my tour days (at times finding an outlet outside our hotel before rooms are ready while taking shelter from the rain under an overhang – as captured by the Vic Wooten cam below) to ‘gear’ up for my biggest Singularity shows – two sets at MerleFest before the last Tones show…how’s that for dovetailing? In that spirit, Fiddle/Sticks encounters will weave in and out of my Singularity travels this year.
I sincerely thank you for your support,
Casey

 

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WHO-KNEWS?-LETTER 19

TAKE 2

 

SAYONARA USA, KONNICHIWA JAPAN!

Who says you don’t get a second chance in life?! Nearly a year ago, I arrived at the airport to depart on my first excursion to Japan – only to be punched in the gut by own self by an expired passport – by 1 week! I left a buddy, Jordan McConnell hanging – he was already there, and it was supposed to be a duo gig. I got in touch with the few folks I knew in Japan and put out a call for musical help. Mandolinist Taro Inoue stepped in and I’m told the musical experience was awesome. Once I caught my breath, I found myself with an airline ticket already purchased – and fine print that dictated I take a trip within a year to not lose it. I may have missed one gig, but now I have a two week tour of clinics and shows. The group is a trio of (you guessed it) Jordan McConnell on the guitar and Taro Inoue on mandolin – as the Pacific Rim Acoustic All-Stars.

Here’s a track to check out.

 

If you know anyone on the Japanese archipelago, please drop a quick note to let them know we’re on our way. If they’re an english speaker, send them to my website Gigs Page. If they’re a Japanese speaker, here’s a special Gigs link in Japanese.

Hello again, Airport! Nice to meet you, New Passport. Surprise me, Adventures.

 

WARREN HAYNES CHRISTMAS JAM

I had the pleasure of participating in the annual Christmas Jam held in Asheville, NC by Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule). Béla Fleck pulled together Jeff Sipe (drums), Bill Evans (sax), Jimmy Herring (guitar), Taylor Lee (bass), and myself for a couple of sets. It was a wild ride and went way into the morning. Here’s a video of Béla’s tune, Monkey See.

http://youtu.be/lDz3q4_p3AU

 

LOGO CONTEST: THE SINGULARITY TOUR

And the winner is….Mark Fidel! I honestly swear that his last name had nothing to do with my decision – he was using a pseudonym. That said, I do enjoy the serendipity.

HUGE THANKS to all the participants. I was surprised by the number of entries and really enjoyed watching the submissions come in. People got very creative and went in directions that I hadn’t imagined before. Have a look here if you want to cruise the entries.

You can show your Singularity solidarity with a Singularity Tour iPhone case. They come in two colors – white and grey. Check’em out!

 

PHOTOS

I just returned from a week long whirlwind international expedition with Béla Fleck & the Flecktones. We hopped from Dublin, Ireland to Glasgow, Scotland to Eilat, Israel – and home again [jiggity jig]. 2 nights and portions of 2 days in each location. It’s tough to get out with one travel/rehearsal day and one gig day, but I made the most of it [sleep later]. Dublin and Glasgow feel a bit like old friends, but this was my first date with Israel. We flew into Tel Aviv and then promptly drove to the southernmost tip – which is the northernmost tip of the Red Sea. TSA, step aside… meet Israel. My most memorable experience (non-security) was an outdoor Israeli lunch with our festival liaison, and her close friends – sorry, no pictures…too busy enjoying local experience! To round out the galleries, I’m sharing my love of fire hydrants again…this gallery continues to grow – and did in Israel.

               

 

SPRING INTO…Spring???

Good thing I had my holidays (wow, plural) to enjoy this year, because the holiday is over! Life is about to get silly. When I return from this 2+ week Japan tour, I’ll spend two days at home washing clothes, paying bills, watering plants, packing for Flecktones touring – and kissing the babe and baby, of course. Flecktones are hitting it hard for March and April…West Coast, Rocky Mountains, Midwest, and some Midsouth. I terminate at Merlefest with them, dovetailing into a few Singularity sets and a re-host of the midnight jam. Once I pack up camp and head home, my 3yr old daughter and I will take a daddy/daughter adventure to Scotland’s Shetland Islands for their annual folk festival. Confirmed shows for the spring and beyond can be found to the right or on my GIGS Page.

 

ENCORE

For the next two weeks, I’ll be 15hrs ahead of my country — a bit of time travel into the future. So far, the sun is out and the sky is blue. Things are off to a good start today. I promise to let everyone know if there’s any surprises you should watch out for. I close with two pictures: a view from my first morning in Japan around the corner from where I’m staying in Takarazura City; and the second I call “Houseguest.”
Sayonara for now,
Casey

 

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ANNOUNCING THE SINGULARITY TOUR

WHO-KNEWS?-LETTER 18

 

THE SINGULARITY TOUR

What began as an occasional experiment at camps, festival workshops, and during practice room schenanigans will now become the focus for me next year. The setup is simple: me + fiddle + pedal board + a mess of wires. Using recording and looping technology along with digital effects pedals, I’ll build arrangements and songs layer by layer in real-time for the audience. There is a wide and colorful range of sounds and textures possible from just the fiddle, and I intend to set out on a sonic adventure. You’re invited to come along for the ride.

Selections will range from heavily layered compositions with a gradual build:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9GyoUmhKU0

 

To the naked and striped down roots of unaltered fiddle and voice:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeOrHWYbVLg

And many degrees in between. My time with Béla Fleck & the Flecktones comes to an end at the 25th anniversary of MerleFest next year…at which point I kick off my tour and host the Midnight Jam again. Please keep an eye on my GIGS Page to see when The Singularity Tour lands in a town near you.

 

LOGO CONTEST: THE SINGULARITY TOUR

Married white fiddler seeking an iconic image with strong emphasis on the technology element and visual depth for tour endeavor. I need a logo to represent The Singularity Tour, so I’m holding my first design contest. [Take me there, now!] The prize is $500. My ideal logo design is: Clean, uncluttered, modern, easily identifiable. Overall vibe conveys man + technology, limitless possibilities, one person but many layers.

The contest began two weeks ago and ends Nov. 30. Please follow this link to learn more, enter, and to see the designs so far…and share with any designer friends you my have. Thanks!

 

LATE NIGHT TV

Played Late Night with Jimmy Fallon the other night with Béla Fleck & the Flecktones. I guested on the web exclusive performance of Flying Saucer Dudes. Was great to see The Roots perform and get excited about the Flecktones. Also, my old college buddy, Mark Kelley is the new Roots bass player…he used to borrow my upright at school…

 

PHOTOS

Here are two new galleries from wanderings on the road this summer. Gallery One is from Bethlehem PA where an old defunct steel mill has been preserved and arted up. It’s size was unbelievable to me and I was told it’s a fraction of what it used to be! Gallery Two is from a trip between Denver and Salt Lake City where I captured the amazing wings of a patient dragonfly and an apparent alien mothership hovering over the city streets. Enjoy!

      

 

TOUR OF JAPAN

Woohoo! This coming February 10-25, I’ll be on my first trip/tour of Japan. The first few days will be fiddle/violin clinics followed by trio gigs with Canadian guitarist Jordan McConnell (The Duhks) and Japanese mandolinist Taro Inoue. So far, we’ll be visiting Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Tokyo, Nagano, Yokohama, and Kamakura.
Originally, I was supposed to do one duo show in Japan last March with Jordan. Imagine my utter disbelief when, arriving at the airport to depart, I found my passport had expired a week prior. I screwed up. I sent a bulletin to the few folks I knew in Japan – which ended up with Taro saving my butt and filling in on the gig. I had one year to use my flight credit…which brings us to the present day and this particular musical collaboration. Please spread the word this tour with any friends/family you may have in Japan. Confirmed shows can be found on my GIGS Page.

 

ENCORE

The summer has closed, fall closure approaches, and winter will begin. It’s been a great and busy busy year on the road with the Flecktones. We’ll be off for the upcoming holidays and reconvene for a short Ireland/Scotland/Israel stint in January. Between tours in September, I had some new photos taken for the Singularity Tour. I found this great stationary box truck done up to look like a stage. It lives at the Wedge Brewery in Asheville, NC and they show movies on it — pretty cool idea. This is also the place I shot my Heartbeat Kid video.
Gobble x2!
Casey

 

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