Banjo Players Anonymous
Do you play banjo when you are alone?
Have you played banjo first thing in the morning?
Are there banjos in your family history?
Do you tell yourself you can stop playing any time you want to?
Do you stay up late sometimes just to play more banjo?
Do you sometimes think you need a louder banjo?
If you answered yes or no to one or more of these questions, you should join us at B.A.
The first step is to admit you are a banjo player, and to understand that it is not a crime to play the banjo, but also to understand that your banjo playing probably has an effect on your loved ones.
You must imagine yourself NOT playing a banjo. You must imagine yourself not being the target of such cruel jokes as:
What is the epitome of unfounded optimism? A banjo player with a beeper.
A gorilla and a banjo player are walking across a bridge, what makes them different? The gorilla may be on his way to a gig.
Did you hear about the banjo player who was so far out of tune that other banjo players started to notice?
What's the difference between a banjo and a trampoline? You normally take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline.
What's the difference between a banjo and an onion? No one cries when you cut a banjo.
Three musicians and a banjo player walk into a bar...
What's the difference between a '57 Chevy and a banjo? You can tune a '57 Chevy.
What is the definition of "perfect pitch"? Tossing a banjo from the living room into the toilet without hitting the rim.
Warn your children!
Don't take banjos from strangers!
Letters to our therapist:
Dear Dr. Neubanjeau
I want to know what to do because my son-in-law is threatening to divorce my daughter because he doesn't have time to go to work. He is trying to sell my banjos faster than I can buy them, as so far he was losing the race. What is it with these things anyway? Beating on a ash tub could give the same sound. Maybe that's why I'm always buying and selling, instead of playing one. -- Banjo Bob.
Dear BB -- I don't understand anything in your note, Bob, except that you SELL banjos. Using banjos is an illness that we all should have compassion for, Bob, but selling them is altogether different. The law is, as it should be, much tougher on dealers than users, Bob. Look at what you are doing to people, Bob. I have no way of knowing this, Bob, but I'll bet you even sometimes sell to underage people. -- Dr N.
I got a session in Nashville this week and got paid for it....... PLAYING BANJO !!!!!!. Now I find myself looking for another. The Producer said he has more for me to do. It has caused me to play more than the normal 12 hours a day, and has caused a young female country singer to have sexual interest in me. Can you help? -- Confused in Nashville
Yo Confused -- Absolutely we can help. Send the young female country singer to us.
Dear Dr. Neaubahnjeaux:
My sweetheart has pointed out to me that when I play my banjo fervently for an extended length of time, my bracket nuts leave a line of rosy dot-like impressions arching in a crescent across my breasts for hours afterwards.
What should I do?
Anxious & Overly Impressed,
Yo Strumelia -- I'm afraid it's impossible to diagnose without a photograph.
Dr. Neaubahnjeaux, I had some back pain while playing the 'jo, so I rigged this contraption by cutting strips from an old pair of my wife's spandex slacks (hot pink!) and sewing them to a pair of heavy-duty suspenders. The spandex starts around the waist, with a cradle for the banjo, and the straps run between my legs and up the back where they attach to the suspenders.
The suspenders then clip to the orginal spandex piece in front. This is some good-lookin outfit, because I hear from neighbors that I'm the talk of the town!
Anyway, my back pain is gone, but when I play anything up-tempo I get nasty groin pains. Is this normal? -- In Pain In Fort Wayne
Yo Pain -- Totally normal. Play faster.
Dear Doctor: I've only been picking for about 6 months now, but already the addiction has taken over my life. I pick in the morning before work, I pick at night before and after supper, and before I go to bed. I even walk by the banjo sitting on the stand and strum it just for the heck of it if nobody's watching. Sometimes two or three times. Once I even tried fretting and picking with it still on the stand. And I sit there in the dark just staring at it for hours. It's a 2000 RB-250 with a Price tailpiece, a Snuffy Smith bridge, and a MOP trussrod cover. (Good Earl, how I love saying that!) But that's just the tip of the iceberg. I catch my right hand air-picking at work, and I think others may have seen me. I am ashamed and want to get better, but nothing works. I've tried listening to Blue Oyster Cult while I sleep, learning the German lyrics to 99 Luftbaloons, and yet nothing can distract me from that infernal banjer!
But there's one more thing, and this is what really scares me. I'm thinking of buying two more picks so that I can pick with all 5 fingers and invent my own banjo style! What's wrong with me? How do I stop? Why are there no warning labels on these wicked instruments of the devil?! -- Moving Forward, Alabama
Yo Bama. Yours is one of the most advanced cases I've ever heard of. I can offer only one suggestion: When you're at work, keep your right hand deep in your front pants pocket. Then when you lapse into the air-picking, your co-workers' reactions will be closer to what they might be if you were actually playing a banjo. -- Dr. N.
Dear Doc: I'll confess to you that I've started conversing with other banjo players over the Internet. It's been just a lot of chat so far, but it's getting more serious, to the point where I'm tempted to travel and meet one of these players in person. My question is, how can I be sure I don't fall into one of those "stings" involving a police officer on the 'net just impersonating a banjo player? -- No name please, Kansas
Yo No -- If you play banjo and somebody says they want to meet you, that sounds pretty fishy right there. Assume it's a sting. -- Dr. N.
Dear Doc -- I don't know how it really started. I think playing the guitar caused it. Or, maybe like any addiction, I just thought a few strums and picks wouldn't hurt. Now I'm addicted and don't know how to withdraw, but I have cut down to a couple times a week. I only fall off the wagon when I go to jam sessions or have to play the guitar in a band. And my wife encourages me to take it with me. Maybe she thinks that the obsession I have will lesson my other obsession with love-making. Would more sex assist me in my banjo addiction? Tired of being strung out on a banjo, Terry.
Hi, Strung -- No, sex won't help with your banjo addiction. But your banjo addiction should certainly curb your sexual activity. -- Dr. N.
Dear Doc: I just bought my first banjo, a used one that the previous owner said was a "good bluegrass player". I can't get it to play any music for me! Is there a switch to turn it on ? Where are it's batteries and how do i change them? Did i get took?! HELP!!!!!!!!! -- Bubbba
Yo Bubba -- It's fine. That's the way it's supposed to sound. -- Dr. N.
Dear Doc -- Am I ever glad I found you! My otherwise witty, charming, beautiful and talented girlfriend has been sneaking across town every Thursday for over a year to meet with her banjo teacher. I've been listening to her progress, and I can't seem to figure out why she, or anyone, would need a banjo teacher. I could think something more sinister is going on, but she's bought a Buckbee, a Deering Boston, and a Tyler Mountain banjorine. That seems like a long way to go to establish an alibi. Are there really banjo teachers out there? It seems like a scam to me
Furthermore, in response to Freaked Out On Banjo's query, my sweet, backslidin, banjo-playin' ladylove also suffers from BANJER FACE. When she plays, she gets a thousand-yard stare that would cause the most battle-scarred Marine drill instructor to find a nice friendly biker bar to drink in. It's worse than a double shot of Botox! She is clearly in an altered state of consciousness when she starts into "Ragtime Annie" or "Running Gun". She needs to be physically shaken to bring her back, blinking, to Earth, and I'm afraid that that isn't all of it, nor the worst.
She takes me to Bluegrass Festivals and Folk Jamborees. I don't want to go, but I can't let her wander around unsupervised for obvious reasons. She skulks amongst the sales tables, plunking down good money for Bob Flesher and Joe Bethancourt CDs (and isn't THAT an abuse of technology- the sound of banjos, reproduced in in absolutely clear digital glory!). She scurries from jam to jam, "oohing" and "aahing" over the banjos the way reasonable people do over, say, classic muscle cars, or Fender Stratocasters. Then, invariably, some "friendly" banjo player will ask the killer question: "Do you play, sweetheart?" I can kiss my day goodbye and get used to standing there, powerless and abandoned, while my lady love consorts with..........THEM.
I love her more than I love my '68 American Standard Strat, and I want to help before she drags us both down, and has to start borrowing money to support her.......this is SO hard to write........banjo addiction. Thanks for your time, Doc, it helps so much just to know that banjos are wrecking other lives than mine.
Yo Wrecked -- Banjer face is indeed a sad symptom of advanced banjo addiction, an indication that there is no turning back. Usually, when a banjo player has Banjer Face nothing moves except his or her fingers. The guitar player winces. The bass player bobs up and down to the beat of music. But the banjo addict just stands there with that distant stare that you describe.
It might help to take movies of her while she is playing the banjo, and showing them to her later, after you have shaken her back to Earth. Perhaps you could dub in the sound of John Prine singing, "There's a hole in Daddy arm, where all the money goes," or some similar song about dependence.
Chances are, though, that nothing will help. Not once banjer face sets in.
Help me, Doc. I'm a fiddle player myself but our banjer player in the band is becoming so loud you can't hear anyone else. His first banjo was a canning pot and then a toliet lid ... He just recently went hightech and got a stelth ... HELP ... How do I talk to him about this addiction? -- Loser of Hearing
Yo Loser: It may be time for an intervention. You'll want to get the whole band together, plus a preacher. All of you explain individually how the banjo player's banjo playing has affected you, and then you ask him to throw away his banjo, plus any extra banjos he may have hidden in drawers or closets, and to go into rehab. Of course, the bottom line is that he has to want to quit for himself. Be prepared for the banjo player to become very defensive when confronted.
Dear Doc: Many years ago I took banjo lessons because I wanted to play something that not everyone else plays (i.e., guitar). Though I never got all that good at it, I bought a 5-string and continued playing. Since I married, my wife has encouraged me to purchase, or has suprised me with, other instruments. So now I have a 12-string guitar, a 00 Martin, a mandolin, harmonicas, a boughran, bones, ocarina, mountain dulcimer... but I still remember many of the banjo tunes I learned, and think of it as my main instrument! Is there an instrument that I can get that will free me from the shame and ostracism of being a banjo player? -- Searching in Pasadena
Yo Searchman: Maybe the accordion, but only because the shame and ostracism will still be there.
Dear Doc: My husband is the love of my life. Every time I leave the room, though, I come back to find him ogling banjos or the almost more disturbing "banjo-lins" on websites. How can I get him to switch to looking up porno? I have tried to use banjo-watchparental controls on our computer, but he always seems to bypass all security measures . I am scared. He bids on banjos and similar sinister "cross breeds" on E-bay and I am terrified that someday these auctions may be more than hoaxes and he may win. He hides his banjos in the closet where he doesn't think I can't see them. But - I KNOW - DEAR GOD- I KNOW !!!! I am afraid I am going to find him taking a "banjo backpacker" to work or getting pulled over with it in the car with him. He asked me to get him banjo lessons this year for Christmas -- will Jesus send him to hell for such blasphemy? I used to be an atheist but I have turned to God to "deliver" (no pun intended) me from this layer of Haites. HELP!! Can the postal service prosecute you for trying to mail a banjo? Do you think that will be the next form of banjo-terrorism? Any help will be appreciated. -- One terrified Amadeus Hottie in La-La
Yo Hottie: The most disturbing element here is that your husband may take a banjo to work. Use every sexual promise and threat at your disposal to prevent that from happening -- because if he does take a banjo to work he will get fired, which will give him more time to play the banjo.
Also, use your browser's history feature to discover any bids your husband may have made on banjos or mutant banjos. Then get into those auctions yourself, outbid him, and send us the banjos.
Jesus loves the banjo player but he hates the banjo. So your husband won't go to Hell for requesting banjo lessons, but YOU will if you provide them. (He whoevereth shall enable the advancement of a player of banjos shall suffereth twenty-fold moreso than he who suffereth from hearing that player -- Luke: 14:204:DDGBD.)
Yes, the postal service can and will prosecute anyone for mailing a banjo, unless it is mailed to us. That is part of our government's pledge to stomp out not only banjo players but also people and countries that harbor banjo players.
Dear Doc: Unethical Arkansas pickers keep stealing my licks when I go over there. Do you think I should get myself one of those new-fangled lick protectors I've seen advertised on TV? Guardedly, The Dallas Flash.
Yo Flasher: The only lick protectors we endorse are ear plugs. But I can tell you this: If you are a recovering banjo player, you need to avoid temptation. Stay out of Arkansas.
Hey Doc -- I been pickin fer thirty years and I'm scared. When I'm not pickin I can sleep at night. But when I wake up I start pickin my nose. Iffin I am pickin then I pick up all these lovely banjo groupies and I don't sleep all night and I can't pick my nose in the morning.Is this fair? Concerned I am -- Peeburgh Jon
Yo Pee -- Go ahead and pick yer nose right in front of them groupies. If they don't mind the banjo they ain't gonna mind nuthin.
Dear Doc: While searching for porn on the internet, I ran across your banjo site. My wife walked in unexpectedly before I could exit the screen. How can I filter out your trash so that I'm not embarassed this way again? -- Bob in Alabama
Yo Bob: Because banjos are so often referred to as "f---ing banjos," banjo sites often pop up in searches for porn. To avoid the banjo sites, filter out the word "f---ing." This may coincidentally eliminate many porn sites, but you'll still get the really kinky ones.
Dear Doctor: Hey Doc, I have been rompin' on my 5-string for several years now, but I recently quit dipping Copenhagen and have been doing OK with the Zyban thing. Anyway, I was at a festival this weekend and at about 2-2:30 in the morning I was sober and realized that I had dropped a piece of Nicorette gum onto my banjo's J hook area during a break on Jim and Jesse's "Are You Missing Me." Then I had a vision that my fingers were melting into the fretboard. What in the hell does this mean, Doc? Will I be OK? -- "W.D." (email@example.com)
Yo Fourstring: You'll be fine. You're lying about being sober at a festival at 2:30 in the morning, but that doesn't matter. What matters is the vision of melting fingers, which is simply an indication of your body's natural immune system rejecting your 5-string, Fourstring.
But even more significant here is the gum on the J hook. Nicorette has a way of zeroing in on problem areas. That particular J hook is probably loose, so take a 5/16th-inch wrench to it, and be very careful with your adjustment. Most banjo books will tell you to screw down those hooks until just before the drum head breaks, but we suggest cranking them down until just AFTER it breaks.
Then throw away the Copenhagen and the Nicorette, and get yourself a carton of Luckies. Every time you feel an urge to play the banjo, smoke a cigarette instead.
Dear Doctor: Last night I had an erotic dream about my 5 string. I was playing "Coming round the mountain" for the 75th time in a row, when I popped the most amazing chubby of all time. My wife was in the kitchen and so I called her in, she said, Dearie, it looks like yer banjer wants you more than me!"
Well, let's just say the rest was like one of them skin flick movies. I woke in a sweat and with "morning wood" and immediately played "Coming round...". My wife said I should join your support group. I told her all you guys do is take addicts' banjos and put your skill saw to em. Is that true? And if so, will that cure my sexy banjo desires? -- Twangin Schwang in Spokane
Yo Schwang: What happened here is the result of your having heard so many comments from your wife over the years about "you and your f-----g banjo." Eventually your subconscience took it literally. That plus, let's face it, Comin' Round the Mountain is a pretty erotic thought. We can't discuss what we do with the banjos we get. It's like how the cops never announce how or when they destroy confiscated drugs.
Dear Doctor N: My sister and brother in law and I are in a family band, which is wonderful, but they think my banjo is too loud. I have tried repeatedly to make them understand that this is the best kind of banjo for cutting through at those jam sessions, and for really outstanding contest playing. No luck, they keep wanting me to play the quieter one. I personally think it need to be a little bit louder. How can i get them to see the beauty of loud banjos? -- Muzzled picker
Yo Muzz: Replace your strings with common household twine, available in any hardware store, and then play as loud as you want. Your sister and brother-in-law will love it.
Dear Dr. N: I answered yes to all the questions. Does that make me a banjoholic?
Naah, not me. I can quit anytime, just as soon as I can buy an original pre-war flathead Granada. Sorry, gotta go now, wife and kids are in bed asleep and I'm going upstairs to try to figure out one of Earl's licks in Cumberland Gap (or was it a lick in Nashville Blues?) -- Ray
Yo Ray: One last lick my rear end. You'll go from Cumberland Gap to Hot Corn Cold Corn to the Martha White Theme to Flint Hill Special, always needing something stronger, unless you send us your banjo.
Dear Dr. N: Where do I pick up an olde time banjo kit (for frailing ) at a reasonable cost. (Will build, can build, don't want to build.) Where do I find people who went to play old time folk and banjo tunes (Normal people). Want to play songs like " Bury me Beneath the Willow," "Down by the Banks of the Ohio," "Ginseng Sullivan," "Home Still Rocks My Soul," etc. All in Los Angeles area. Banjo, harmonica (cross harp), guitar and vocals (somewhere between tenor and bass. Have wife who plays and sings and is much better looking than me, will travel. Age group is over 50. -- James Burgener Senior
Yo James: NORMAL people? You are looking for NORMAL people who like to play banjo tunes? And you are looking for NORMAL people in the Los Angeles area? Ha ha ha ha ha.
Dear Dr. N: I'm on my second banjo. The first wasn't good enough . My wife says she can hear that darn thing three blocks away and they all sound the same. I play it in the morning. I play it on my lunch breaks. I play it every chance I get. People ( jam sessions) say, "Oh no, he's brought that darn banjo with him again." I've played guitar since my teens and in many bands. Now I can't wait to get to that banjo at every opportunity. I'm an accomplished guitarist and everybody wants to hear me play but I just can't wait for the chance to strap on the banjo. My jamming partners say I get a funny look on my face when I play it. My son (who's in rock) says I look stupid with that funny look on my face? Should I freeze my face before I play it? I believe I'm a banjo junky who's gone to far to quit. -- Freaked Out on Banjo
Yo Freako: Don't freeze your face. Freeze your fingers.
Dear Dr. N: I feel so sorry for you and I know you must be hurting and distraught. People who can't play banjo good or yearn to play banjo at all always make up banjo jokes so they will feel of value and worth to normal society. Also since the banjo is one of only two true American instruments, I know you must feel un-American and not accepted, kind of like Benedict Arnold felt after he tried to learn banjo and couldn't.
I know the pain you must be feeling seeing others play banjo and enjoying the experience and the admiration of so many in normal American society only to be shoved aside because you can't learn to play the banjo. Truly my heart goes out to you and the hurt and you must be feeling to be shunned as a mentally crippled person for not being able to make your fingers work properly on the banjo when they probably fly over the computer keyboard. It must be extremely frustrating, and so you have to relieve your frustrations by endorsing and telling banjo jokes. I wish I could reach out and help you knowing that everyone is laughing at you instead of your jokes because they think you are a mental retard.
But there is hope even for mental retards (not that I think that of you). Yes, you can feel patriotic again and feel of worth to your fellow man even though your fingers are unable to play America's instrument, the BANJO. The answer is learning to play the Sousaphone (the big horn like a tuba that wraps around your body with the bell over your right shoulder). It is America's other original instrument. All you have to do is make your lips vibrate like you were giving some good banjo player the raspberry and push three buttons with one of your ten fingers. That gives you seven other fingers and two feet to march in the parade with. (Be careful to stay in step or people will think you are retard -- not that I do.) This is a proven cure for bringing back your self-esteem and feeling of worth. You won't have to tell banjo jokes anymore and you will feel a meaningful part of society. Then no one will laugh at you anymore. Then you can reach out and help others like guitar players who always yearned to play banjo and couldn't so they took up guitar.
Ron, I hope I have been of help to you and your lonely existence. I know playing the tuba will be of great help to you self-esteem. It will also help your kissing when all the girls find out you are not a retard any more. Oops, I didn't mean to say "retard."
Let's just say you are only "strange," or different from the rest of us. -- Bob Flesher
P.S. Just because I said I am your friend doesn't mean that we should socialize when we are out in public. After all, I am a banjo player and I do have my self-respect.
Yo Bob: So what's your question?
Dear Doctor: Should I get some softer strings? I love my banjo so much I sleep with it every night and I'm fast running out of bandages. -- Anonymous
Yo Anon: Simply remove the strings. This will not significantly reduce the irritation, but your banjo will sound better.
Dear Doctor: I haven't been able to quit playing the banjo cold-turkey, but I have cut down to about 3 tunes a day on several occasions. Each time, though, I slowly backslide into playing more and more. What do you suggest? -- THREEFINGER FRED.
Yo Threefinger: To avoid temptation, you need to get rid of your banjo. Send it to us.
Dear Doctor: Are there any drugs that can help me stop playing the banjo? -- Steven Stoner.
Yo Stoner: Sleeping pills can offer some short-term relief, but otherwise, most drugs only seem to make the problem worse. Send us your banjo and your drugs.
Dear Doctor: I hope you can help me. I am at my wits end. My husband is a banjo player and just won't quit. I have tried everything! We hide his picks...that doesn't stop him he just frails the night away. At first he just played socially. I realized we had a problem when one of the neighbors spotted him DRIVING with the banjo on his lap!
His addiction has affected everyone. The kids don't bring their friends over anymore because they are ashamed of their father. I have heard him say "just one more tune" for the last time.
Please help us! -- Havena (foggy mountain) Breakdown
Yo Havena: Hiding a banjo player's picks is like hiding an alcoholic's swizzle stick. Send me the banjo.
Dear Doctor: What am I to do? I have played banjo for many years...now I have also become a lawyer...Do I have to worry about becoming the victim of banjo-playing lawyer jokes? Or are the two joke lines unlikely to meld?
Desperate in Lodi
Yo Desperate: You have good reason to worry. Banjo-playing-lawyer jokes are only a matter of time, and they will be crueler than either lawyer jokes or banjo jokes. Like the sum being greater than the parts. I suggest you locate the person who sold you the banjo and sue his ass off. Dr. N.
Dear Doctor: Hello, Doc. I think I have a problem. My wife has taken a picture of me asleep in my recliner still holding my banjo. Is there any hope for me?????? Its a pretty blond you know.
Messed up in Mississippi
Yo Messy: Tell your wife it was a one-time get-together, and that the banjo doesn't really mean anything to you. Maybe she'll buy it. I don't, but maybe she will.