From The Archives…The Creative Workshop

Michael Snow with his Gibson-ES-175
Michael Snow with his Gibson-ES-175 (photo courtesy of Travis Turk)


Recently sent to me by my old pal  Travis Turk, this is probably the first picture of me in a Nashville studio situation, taken at Creative Workshop in 1972, soon after arriving from England. Travis was the engineer at CW at that time, and I still have that lovely old Gibson ES 175 D. Thanks, T.T.

On The Fly…Twilight Joys

Waltz Across This Cake With Me by JOtwell Perspectives (click for more)
Waltz Across This Cake With Me by JOtwell Perspectives (click for more)

One of the pleasures and perks of being a studio-owning muso in the relative twilight of one’s career is the ability to take on little projects for the sheer fun of it. One such for me has been a string of wedding songs written and recorded specifically for the nuptials of the members of our extended family.

I started this  tradition after my son, who was first out of the chute in the marriage stakes, got hitched, so he and his spouse  don’t have one, but from my daughter onward, and including all the cousins, there’s been a song for the occasion.

These are full-blown studio productions complete with packaging, and we usually make up 100 as keepsakes for the wedding guests. I like the fact that stylistically I can tailor the piece , in some fashion , to the couple in question , either suggested by their professions, or interests. I can stretch out musically – who’s gonna stop me ?-and it’s a one of a kind personal giftie.

There have been some suggestions that it could be a profitable sideline, but doing it for hire would take the joy out of it for me, so that isn’t an option, although I did branch out and do one for a dear friend of ours.

The Bells Are Ringin’…

On The Fly…Banjo, really ?

My First Banjo by JOtwell Perspectives

Banjo was the first string instrument I got my eager hands on, when I was  nine or so. There was an upright piano in our house, at which I was already flailing away , but the first whispers of skiffle were being heard, and guitars were starting to appear on TV, along with banjos, so I was primed…

My elder cousin, Pauline, was dating a fellow who was already playing in local string bands, and was in possession of a long-neck, four string tenor banjo, which was often to be found at Pauline’s house. Many a Sunday, my folks would park me there while they and the other  relatives would repair to a local pub for afternoon libations, which gave me a couple of hours with the banjo, flying blind, but figuring bits and pieces out , the way one does when there is strong interest. I also did a swap of some comics with a lad in our street who had a tacky plastic ukulele, but that banjo was a bona fide grown-up instrument, and consequently of more importance  to me than a toy-town uke.

When I got my first acoustic guitar at age eleven,  banjo retreated to the far periphery of my musical interest for many years. Electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards and bass in various forms became the tools of my professional trade, which didn’t have much need for the old plink plonk.

When I moved to Nashville in 1973, I became aware of the locally favored 5-string banjo and the high-octane stylists who had followed in the wake of Earl Scruggs’ ground-breaking  innovations – scared me to death, to be honest. However, when my father-in-law passed I inherited a vintage open-backed Savoy short-neck tenor banjo from him, which had a lovely old-timey sound to it, so I began to plink and plonk again, just for fun.

Interestingly enough, tenor banjo (played with a pick) had remained in fashion in traditional Celtic music circles, and the upsurge in interest that occurred in that form of music  from the ’80’s on gave Irish-style tenor banjo a new lease on life. Being first generation Irish myself, I’d become re-interested in the form and the great young (and not so young) artists who were producing thrilling neo-traditional records on both sides of the big pond, and for the next few years I immersed myself in it, aligning  with practitioners in both live and recording situations. I really enjoyed that period, becoming adept at bodhran and getting the chops up on cittern and Irish bouzouki as well as the trusty old tenor banjo.

During that time my dear globe-trotting pal Bob Saporiti found the magnificent closed-back Concertone tenor banjo that was featured in the blog, and kindly gifted it to me. I now have it strung with nylon banjo strings, which give it quite a different tone, while I keep the Savoy steel strung .

Although I’d never consider myself to be a bona-fide banjoist, it’s been my pleasure to plink and plonk away on quite a few albums that needed the flavor of the old-time plectrum tenor…grand fun always !

Check out these other Banjo entries- they are fan favorites: and