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Steve Haninger. Good Mike Seeger instructional video on

banjo styles that might be of interest to you. All the old pre-bluegrass forms are covered, Claw Hammer, Up Picking etc, and besides its always nice to see the late Mike S. singing traditional songs. Essentially he discusses the style, sings the song and then demonstrates the banjo style in a manner so slow and so clear, even I can follow it. (And I wrestled with Pete Seeger's banjo instruction book until I wanted to burn it).

Did you ever hear him do that cockeyed variant of Mother Maybelle Carter's song Wildwood Flower? Terry Stafford, the writer of novelty songs like The Streak messed about with Wildwood Flower, making use of the preferred growing matter of the day, the late 60's.

I found Terry's version called the Wildwood Weed online, but I've reconstructed it in the version I heard Mike sing, and accompanied him so many times. If I wasn't playing he made me turn my back to him when he was on stage because I was mouthing along with the words, and we'd both get confused. Same thing used to happen with the Arkansas Traveller. "Rob, you're going to have to stop it, you took the words right out of my mouth."

Well the wildwood flower grew wild on our farm
And we never knowed what it was called.
Some said it was a flower and some said it was weed
But we never give it much thought.
One day I was out there talking to my brother,
Reached down for a weed to chew on;
And things got fuzzy then things got blurry
And then everybody was gone.

When I come to my brother Bill was there
And he asked me what was wrong with my eyes?'
I said, "They's glassy from chewing those weeds'
An he thought he'd give it a try'
We spent the rest of that day and most of that night
Just a lookin' for my brother, ummmm, Bill,
Come morning we found him swinging there singin'
On top of the old windmill.

Now all good things must come to an end
and it's the same thing with our weeds,
One day this feller from Washington he come by
And he turned white as a sheet
And he dug and he burned
And he burned and he dug
And he tore up all our nice little weeds
Then he drove away and
We just smiled and waved
Sittin' there on that sack of seeds.


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I do remember Wildwood Weed

and we may have a Mike Seeger video around here. It's my wife who enjoyed Mike and Peggy for their old songs and especially those for children. That's the stuff that my kids grew up with...poor kids. Happy When Mike died, I went to Amazon and bought several CDs for my wife and do recall one or more dealing with various banjo styles. He must have been quite the entertainer when working small and intimate venues. I could swear we had a video somewhere. I'll ask her later.

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He was wonderful, both as a member of a group, and as a solo

artist. He had a very easy manner and a great relaxed presence on stage, whether in a club for 50 or sitting in an audience of a thousand at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, or Fox Hollow. Much of the tone of the banter was the same, though he seemed to be a natural stage person, who was quite happy ad-libbing and reacting to people.

Peggy Seeger was his half sister, full sister to Pete I think, who had lived in England and been married to Ewan McColl for some years (but unconnected to Kirsty MacColl, except through Kirsty's father).
His full sister Penny married John Cohen (a member of the New Lost City Ramblers, and also friend/colleague through the folk biz) who formed the Putnam County String Band with her playing cello and another chap whom I didn't know well and whose name I've forgotten. John was always very generous with me, and I really appreciated his soft spoken manner.

Mike also had a group with Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard (and was married to Alice) who did Appalachian music. The harmonies were a little harsh for my ears so I kept my eyes peeled for Mike as a solo artist, particularly when I was in Ann Arbor and had The Ark at hand.

You think your kids had it tough. Mine grew up on Jazz and Old Timey music (i.e. Mike's) and my guitar playing. The good news is that his musical taste is stunningly good in my entirely unbiased opinion, and we share music, he being my source for Indie and Off the Wall, me for old stuff and Frank Zappa, though I too find Indie things to bring to him via YouTube.

I do wish there was a way of downloading all those years of first hand experience and memories of friendships and all that great music directly to him, but I haven't figured that one out yet. I'd also love to share some of the very funny and disrespectful things we said about "this" year's "Flash in the Pan" artists.


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If you've not run into this one yet
Pete and Peggy

I found it to be enjoyable and remember some of these songs done by others. There's a fellow from somewhere in Appalachia named John McCutcheon whose music was also imposed on our kids. His primary instrument was hammered dulcimer and he played it quite well. He did a concert in a church near us with a Russian fellow who played bouzouki. John had a good repertoire of children's songs. Another folk artist we enjoy is Jean Ritchie. He family is from the Kentucky coal mining area. She's not much of a singer but tells some wonderful stories in a way that glues you to your seat. It's not so much the music we enjoy but the education we get in between the tunes and songs. I've yet to find an instrument I can play. It would be fun to join into some of the spontaneously created bands we ran into early in the marriage.

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