Six More Strings Silenced

Guitar Legend Doc Watson Passes Away


Not everyone gets to claim the title of being a living national treasure.  Yet, Doc Watson was a true American artist who made significant contributions to the development of bluegrass and folk music.  Sadly, our living national treasure passed away at the age of 89.

Arthel “Doc” Watson was born March 3, 1923, in Deep Gap, North Carolina.  He lost his eyesight before his first birthday due to an eye infection.  Despite his disability, Doc would became a master of both finger-picking and flat-picking style guitar playing.  He also had a rich baritone voice and sang his songs with passion.

Doc Watson made a name for himself at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival and in fact, was enthusiastically received by the crowd that came to listen to him perform that day.  He later would join forces with his son Merle, performing as a father son duo.  Tragically, in 1985, Merle died in a tractor accident.  Merlefest, a premier music festival is held each year in Merle’s honor.

Although he was well known for his acoustic guitar, Doc’s musical background actually started with a harmonica, a banjo, and later an electric guitar.  He was a master at turning fiddle tunes into great guitar instrumentals.  Watson is a multi-Grammy award winner, as well as the recipient of a lifetime achievement award and the National Medal of the Arts.

I will always have fond memories of listening to Doc Watsons’ recordings on the “Will The Circle Be Unbroken album (United Artists, UAS 9801)” or by watching the “Three Pickers”, a 2004 Grammy Nominated Best Traditional Folk album and live Television performance.  Sadly, two of three pickers have both passed only two months apart. Another six strings have gone silent.

RIP Doc March 3, 1923 – May 29, 2012

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Earl & Doug – Gone But Not Forgotten

Within a couple of months, we said goodbye to two of the great banjo players in the world.  Earl Scruggs, the father of three finger picking, and Doug Dillard, one of the great melodic banjo players and an artist who popularized bluegrass as well as country rock music, have passed on.  These two banjo icons provided a childhood of memories for me as well as others.

It is hard to dispute the legendary status of Earl Scruggs.  It can be argued that no one musician has had more of an individual impact on how an instrument would be played or on the banjoists who have since played it.  Born January 6, 1924 in Flint Hill, North Carolina, Earl would become the father of three finger picking style bluegrass banjo.  While other three finger players existed prior to Earl, no one has come close to mastering his style.  There is not enough space to write about the accomplishments of Earl Scruggs.  On March 28, 2012, every banjo player must have had a tear in their eye when they heard of Earl’s passing.  He influenced many and his music will provide a life time of memories.

Doug Dillard Performing on Stage in 1984

To those not as familiar with banjo players, Doug Dillard may not be as recognizable as the great Earl Scruggs but he too was a great artist.  Born March 6, 1937 in Salem, Missouri, Doug Dillard was a truly gifted banjo player.    He and his brother Rodney settled in Los Angeles and was signed with Elektra Records, a folk-rock label, with their debut album entitled “Back Porch Bluegrass”.  They were an opening act for the Byrds (a band that Doug later would join as part of their European tour) and departed from strict bluegrass traditions by electrifying their instruments. Doug died on May 16, 2012.

Every banjo player includes a Flatt and Scruggs tune as part of their set list.  It is as if every banjo player owes Earl the respect of playing his music.  A banjo player knows that they will never be able to play the tune the way Earl played it, yet they give it their best effort.  As for Doug Dillard, one of my favorite songs I play on the banjo is “Doug’s Tune” and it is a regular part of my repertoire.  I still have an album of Doug Dillard with the late great John Hartford.  The album was entitled “Dillard Hartford Dillard” and I wore the grooves off it.

Both Earl and Doug had something in common.  They both brought the sound of the banjo to the masses in their television and video appearances.  Hardly anyone fails to recognize the Theme to the Beverly Hillbillies, the popular TV show of the 60s and 70s.  Earl brought the banjo to both the TV and the movie screen.  If you ever watched the movie Bonnie & Clyde, you will remember the car chase scenes with Earl’s Foggy Mountain Breakdown playing in the background.  Also, childhood memories are restored to many who will recognize Doug Dillard as the banjo player of the Darlings on the Andy Griffith Show.

Please feel free to share your memories and experiences with these two gifted artists by posting below.  Earl and Doug may be gone but the gift of music they left will be treasured for many years to come.  Goodbye Earl and Doug.  We’ll miss you.

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Keb Mo – A Night of Blues

Keb Mo performing with his National resonator guitar

Some recording artists know how to give you your money’s worth.  I think it cliche’ to say that the concert I just attended was the best I have ever seen.  After all, I have seen quite a few and you always seem to like the latest.  With that being said, on February 2nd, 2012, I did get my moneys worth from Keb Mo.  He performed continuously for a good two hours or so at the Lyric Theatre, in Stuart, Florida.

Keb Mo, the artist formerly known as Kevin Moore, is a three-time Grammy Award winner. He is a singer, songwriter and blues guitarist but his style reaches a variety of genres from soul, jazz, pop and rhythm and blues.  Whether or not he is playing his National resonator guitar, picking a Gibson acoustic guitar, or playing his Red Custom Stratocaster, his style is both diverse and unique.

Ticket Stub From Keb Mo's Concert

On this particular evening, Keb played an excellent mixture of tunes from his repertoire, which stretches from 1994 and his debut album “Keb Mo”.  Although its hard to pick the best of his selections on this particular night, some of my favorites included the songs “Shave Yo’ Legs”, “Government Cheese”, “Perpetual Blues Machine”, “Am I Wrong”, and “Gimme Watch Got”. Yet, I especially enjoyed his entire band taking turns singing “The Door”.

I would have loved to meet Keb after the show.  We tried but the body guards closed the door on this idea.  Some patrons got through but they had a special pass.  Maybe next time Keb.  You can see my gallery of photos of Keb and his band at www.fretmentor.com. or on Fretmentor’s mobile app for the iPad and iPhone.

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Day 1 – Fretmentor’s Workshop 2012

Jim Hurst, Dave Jakubiak, Byron Berline & Alan Munde

The first day of Fretmentor’s 3rd Annual Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar and Mandolin Workshop, featuring Alan Munde, Jim Hurst and Byron Berline, was a memorable one.  Approximately 50 attendees arrived from as far as England, New York, Georgia and various communities from Florida.

Three Great Pickers

Morning and afternoon instructional classes were held throughout the day.  In addition to a healthy lunch being served, all in attendance enjoyed snacks, drinks and the best cheesecake on the planet. During a break, students formed their own outside bluegrass jams.  Finally, the evening ended with an exclusive concert held by three gifted performers and instructors.  To see Alan, Byron and Jim perform was a special treat for each and every person in attendance. Also, Elliott Rogers, guest guitarist from the Alan Munde Gazette, performed a couple of tunes with the Alan and Byron.  To say that it was a special time is an understatement.

Tomorrow is another day.  This weekend will soon pass but the memories of a truly unique musical event will remain with us for some time.

Posted in Banjo, Classes & Workshops, Concerts & Festivals, Fiddle, Fretmentor News, Guitar, Mandolin, News & Events | Leave a comment

Pickin With Alan Munde

Alan Munde & David Jakubiak

You know life is good when you get the chance to play music with one of the all-time great banjo players in the world.  That is what we did today not far from the Atlantic Ocean.

Alan Munde, the legendary banjo player arrived for an appearance at the 3rd Annual Fretmentor Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar and Mandolin Workshop.  Joining Alan on the trip was Elliott Rogers, a member of the Alan Munde Gazette.

Alan Munde & Elliott Rogers

Our first course of business was to take a short trip to the Atlantic Ocean.  There, we took some photos for an upcoming article I will be writing for the Fretboard Journal.  After stopping for dinner, we continued picking some bluegrass at my house.

This is just a prelude to what is going to be one special weekend workshop with Alan Munde, Byron Berline and Jim Hurst.

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Fretmentor’s 3rd Annual Workshop – A Bucket List Item

Alan Munde, Byron Berline & Jim Hurst

Fretmentor’s Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar, & Mandolin Workshop

Lake Worth,  Florida

Alan Munde

Almost everyone has a bucket list and I guess you can add my first meeting with Alan Munde, Byron Berline and Jim Hurst as an item on my list.  They will join me and approximately 50+ attendees at Fretmentor’s 3rd Annual Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar and Mandolin Workshop, to be held in Lake Worth, Florida, on January 28-29, 2012.  This workshop has been planned for the past six months and includes morning and afternoon instructional classes by these three great artists.  On Saturday, an exclusive concert for registered attendees and their paid guests will also be held.

Various sponsors have donated items for raffle drawings that will also be given away at this event (see the online brochure and sponsor list at www.fretmentor.com).  I appreciate all the support that has been provided by these sponsors.

Byron Berline

Rather than try to cover this topic in one Blog, I am pledging to do my best in offering my thoughts on the one of a kind event throughout the week.  It is an honor to have such legendary artists as Alan and Byron who I have followed since the age of 10.  At the same time, I believe more and more people are going to soon learn what a special guitarist and vocalist that we have in Jim Hurst.  Attendees who are learning about these individuals for the first time, as well as those familiar with these artists are in for a special treat.

Jim Hurst

So the count down towards Fretmentor’s 3rd Annual Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar and Mandolin Workshop begins,  as we anticipate the arrival of Alan, Byron and Jim to South Florida.  Can’t imagine a better way to remove an item from your bucket list than by coming to Florida to enjoy some music, especially if you are braving the cold and the snow up north at this time of the year.

Fretmentor.com welcomes the artists, the attendees and their guests to this wonderful event.

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A Moment With Bela

Bela Fleck .. An Innovator on the Banjo

Bela Fleck

I had the pleasure of seeing Bela Fleck and the Flecktones perform on October 13, 2011 at the Lyric Theatre in Stuart, Florida.  Joining Bela on stage were Victor Wooten on bass, “Future Man” on percussion, and Howard Levy on piano and harmonica.  It was the first time Howard Levy was reunited with the Flecktones in 20 years.

My first experience seeing Bela Fleck perform was back in the 1970s, when he played with the New Grass Revival as the warm up band for John Hartford.  At that time, Bela was just making a name for himself.  Since then, I had seen Bela Fleck and the Flecktones perform in downtown West Palm Beach at the annual Sunfest event.  It was only a couple of years ago that I had front row seats to see Bela perform with Stanley Clark.  That moment dissipated with a hurricane, as the event was canceled.  Just our luck.  How often can you get front row tickets to any concert?

On this particular night we sat in the top balcony and I can honestly say that they were some of the best seats we had in a long time.  First, because we sat in the front row and center.  A perfect location for me to photograph the entire band from my seat.  You can see the gallery of photos by going to www.fretmentor.com.

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones

The setting was intimate.  The Lyric is a small venue but not too small.  It is located in a quaint downtown area not far from the Atlantic Ocean.  When you enter, you feel you are there to see a movie.  The crowd gathered in the lobby and once the lights flashed on and off, the concert was ready to begin.

All of the Flecktones gave the audience their money’s worth.  They performed most, if not all, of their tracks from their latest album “Rocket Science” and they ensured that each of the four performers would be featured at some time throughout the night.  They also played the Hippo tune, which is a crowd favorite.  Based on the reaction of the crowd, the audience was mesmerized with the talents of Bela Fleck, Futureman, Victor Wooten, and Howard Levy.

Me & Bela Fleck

Afterward, I had the chance to personally meet with Bela Fleck and the band.  A small crowd gathered around the band, as they sat on the edge of the stage to greet their fans.  An opportunity to meet these performers up close and personal is one of the primary reasons why a small venue concert can equate to the greatest of value.  It was one special night for a music fan such as myself.

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Music Festivals – While On The Road

Are You a Fan of Music Festivals?


If so, I have something for you.  Keep reading to learn more.

Fretmentor's Festival Locator Feature

In Southeast Florida, each summer there is a popular waterfront music festival that attracts people from all over the country and overseas as well.  From its inception, the local residents told their friends about it and before you know it, it has grown in popularity.  Yet, there are so many music festivals around the world, that some go unnoticed by many outside the area. So the thought of a mobile iPhone & iPad App that allows travelers (as well as those at home) to view music festivals throughout the country and the world became intriguing.

Fretmentor's IPhone & IPad App

My partner, Bootzer.com, a musician & mobile App developer, and I have spent months developing such an App.  Today, it has 900 music festivals from not only the United States but every continent in the world.  More will be added with our intention of ensuring that this will be the most comprehensive Music Festival Locator available to the public.

The App has many features about the Fretmentor instructional website.  Included are wonderful ways of learning about fretted instruments, music history, music theory, and more.  You can now read Fretmentor’s Blog on the road and search Fretmentor ‘s photo galleries. Soon more enhancements will be added, including lessons on how to play these instruments.  Yet, we are especially proud to release the Fretmentor Festival Locator that both music students and non-music students who love music will all benefit from.

What is the Fretmentor Festival Locator?

Fertmentor's Festival Locator Dial

Currently the Locator has 900 music festivals with links to the various websites where information on these festivals are located. With the supplied Dial, you can search for festivals by genre (Blues, Jazz, Rock, Bluegrass, Country, Folk and Others).  You can also narrow your search by month.  Imagine driving across the country in June and having the music festival map and information right at your fingertips. Search the particular month and genre and find the music festivals that you are interested in.

How Do I Get The App?

The Mobile Phone App for the iPhone and iPad is available from the App Store  You can go to the App Store (see the link at www.fretmentor.com)  and install it in seconds.  Best of all, the App is free.  All you need is an iPhone or iPad.

Will There Be Updates?

Absolutely.  We will be adding more features including  video and audio lessons on how to play your fretted instrument.  Feel free to email  us (see www. fretmentor.com or www.bootzer.com)  or provide us with your comments to this blog and let us know what you think.  Those interested in highlighting their festival or performers  interested in promoting their band in more detail, should contact us as well, to see how this App can help with their marketing efforts.

Posted in Banjo, Classes & Workshops, Concerts & Festivals, Fiddle, Fretmentor News, Guitar, Mandolin, News & Events, Recording & Technology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Alison Krauss & Union Station

August 20, 2011 in Ft Lauderdale, Florida

If your talking about getting your money’s worth, the show I saw last night speaks volumes.  Alison Krauss and Union Station performed on August 20, 2011 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  While they have been performing together as Union Station for 20 years, this was my first opportunity to see them at a live performance.  They had played years ago at the Pompano Beach Ampitheatre but I must have been sleeping at the wheel and missed it.  Not this time though.

What can you say about this concert?  It had everything.  group performance, duets, acapella, solos featuring each artist, instrumentals, up tempo bluegrass, slow ballads.  Alison Krauss and Union Station performed it all and did so, for two hours. The crowd was entertained

We missed the opening act, as our group had formed a consensus that eating some specialty burgers at Rok:Brgr was worth our time.  It was a good decision.  Yet, I heard one or two songs of the opening act and they weren’t bad.

Alison Krauss continues to produce music that appeals to audiences of all ages.  She has followed up “Raising Sand”, her album with Robert Plant (a 6 Grammy Award winner) with “Paper Airplane”, an album that is taking off with more potential awards awaiting her.  She is a queen of Grammy Award winners, with 26 total.  Her success continues with Alison Krauss and Union Station; her band of 20 years.

The Band

Dan Tyminksi – Guitar, mandolin and vocalist for Alison Krauss & Union Station since 1994.  He has been named “male vocalist of the year” four times by the International Bluegrass Music Association.

Ron Block – Banjo, guitar and vocals for Alison Krauss and Union Station since 1991.  Has written 10 songs for AKUS, of which one “A Living Prayer” received Gospel Music Association Dove Award for bluegrass song of the year in 2006.

Jerry Douglas – Has played with AKUS since 1998.  Is a world re-known Dobro Player who has earned 12 grammy awards, 3 CMA awards and numerous IBMA awards.  He is the King of the Dobro guitar.

Barry Bales – Bass and harmony vocal with AKIS since 1990.  He has 13 Grammy Awards to his credit, one CMA award, one Academy of Country Music Award, and 11 IBMA awards, including Bass Player of the Year in 2008.

To say that this band is tight and plays as a group is an understatement.  The 20 years of performing together is evident.  They blend their talents effectively together and compliment one another with harmonies and instrumental technique that far surpasses many groups.  With so many awards to their credit, Alison Krauss and Union Station seem to put any potential individualistic egos aside for the group as a whole.  The band simply works well together.

Alison’s live voice this night was as angelic sounding, with a perfect pitch as what you would hear on any mastered CD recording.  Dan Tyminski’s voice, with his pure Appalachian sound, commanded the audience’s attention.  To further compliment those vocals were the tight and hard driving instrumentals and rhythm technique and harmonies of Jerry Douglas, Ron Block and Barry Bales.

Close to 30 songs performed over two hours, with a solo feature that demonstrated the legendary talent of Jerry Douglas, left the audience with a good feeling at the end of the night.  Alison Krauss interacted well with the audience demonstrating a confident performer with a sense of humor, as she talked about her visit to Florida and even their favorite cereal brands.  While my seats were tucked away far in the second floor Mezzanine  of a large auditorium, I have to say that this time I left the concert feeling even closer to Alison Krauss and Union Station.

The Set List

Paper Airplane, Dust Bowl Children, Choctaw Hayride, Daylight, Sinking Stone, Let Me Touch You For Awhile, Ghost In The House, Baby Now That I Found You, Rain Please Go Away, Sawing On The Strings, Wild Bill Jones, Every Time You Say Goodbye, Jerry Douglas – Medley of Shenandoah, Spain & Wabash Cannonball), (Dan Tyminski’s Banjo Solo – Green Pastures), The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn, Dimming of the Day, Ron Block Featured Eternity, Stay, Bonita and Bill Butler, Miles To Go, Man of Constant Sorrow, Piano Blues – Any Old Time with a transition to Oh Atlanta, (Encore) – Nothing at All, Whiskey Lullaby, Down In the River to Pray, Lie Awake, Your Long Journey, There is a Reason.

Please Add Your Comments Below About Alison Krause & Union Station

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Recitals, Video & Nerves

Recording Performance

Videotaped Recitals - Good or a Necessary Evil?

Does A Videotaped Music Recital Assist A Student?

I remember when I was in high school and had to give a demonstration speech.  It was videotaped. Right from the beginning, I hated the thought of having to demonstrate something in front of both my class and a camera.  It made me nervous, just like performing music in front of people may make a performer nervous.  The minute someone puts a camera in front of you, that performance takes on a new dimension.

For the first time in years, students from Fretmentor’s weekly bluegrass class in Jupiter, Florida were videotaped in recitals. In the beginning of this 8-week session, groups were selected and one song was chosen randomly out of a hat. The groups had 8 weeks to practice either individually or with the group as a whole.  It should be noted that all groups work on approximately 20 songs that are originally arranged by Fretmentor.  So students are all working from the same versions and arrangements for each tune.

This group has made great strides over the past couple of years. I recall some earlier classes where one of my students advised me that she was sick to her stomach all day, while thinking about performing in front of others later that night.  I also had a student who told me that he performed in rodeos throughout his life without any problem but the mere thought of playing music with others, made him nervous.  Not only are the latest students performing regularly in front of others, they had the courage enough to allow themselves to be recorded, so they can actually see and listen to the results.  As a teacher, you can only think of this is a great learning tool.

Fretmentor has its own You Tube channel where the videos can be listed as private, so only those receiving authorization can view their performances.  This adds comfort for those who are somewhat apprehensive about being exposed to the public via the internet.

Bluegrass Group Performance

Fretmentor's Bluegrass Performance Class

Share Your Thoughts …

I would like to hear from both the students and others about their experiences with having to perform a recital that is videotaped.  Was it hard to do?  Did it make you nervous or uncomfortable?  Do you believe the experience will make you a more confident player while performing in front of your friends or the general public?  Did you learn anything from the experience? Please share your experience with us by commenting below.

Digg!

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What Happened To My Frets?

Frets Magazine (1979-1989)

Doc Watson On Frets' Premier Issue

In 1979, I had just finished my first year at college and returned home for a summer break.  Of course, my banjo, guitar and mandolin came back home with me.  After walking into a nearby music store, I discovered the premier issue of a magazine called “Frets”.  This was a perfect magazine for me, I thought, since I played three instruments and wanted to learn as much about playing them as possible.

So I was smart enough to buy that premier issue.  It’s not often that you have the first copy of a magazine that is newly published.  It’s especially not often that you still have that premier issue in mint condition 32 years later.

Frets Magazine Featuring Bill Monroe

Frets was not just about banjo, mandolin and guitar.  It included issues for violinists and fiddle players, bass players, dulcimer players and well; anything with a fret.  Later issues featured Sting, Al Dimeola, Dan Fogelberg, Arlo Guthrie, Stephane Grapelli, Chet Atkins, Sam Bush, Ravi Shankar, Bela Fleck, Byrone Berline, Alan Munde, Willie Nelson, Albert Lee, Los Lobos, and even Itzhak Perlman to name a few.  The genres were varied and included bluegrass, jazz, blues, classical and more.  There were lessons, shop talk, expert columnists, history, special editions, and buyers guides.

The topics, covered by experts in the field, included such themes as “Song Arrangement”, “Acoustic Music Festivals”, Reading Music”, “Buying Strings”, “Sound Recording”, “Performing”, “Learning and Teaching” and “Playing Tips”. Much of the information is still relevant today, which is one of the reasons I have maintained by collection for all of these years.

There was also a luthier section that covered many topics from instrument repairs to instrument building.  The care and maintenance of your instruments was addressed, as well as reviews of vintage instruments.

Earl Scruggs Featured On Frets Magazine

This was an encyclopedia of musical knowledge for the acoustic musician.  It included lessons from well respected instructors Alan Munde, Byron Berline, David Grisman, and Happy Traum.  Upright bass was taught by Ron Carter and of course, Bill Keith wrote many columns on music theory. Other Shop experts, such as Roger Siminoff and James Rickard talked about everything from “Banjo Tone Bars” to “Acoustructure – Instrument Endurance Tests”.  Each month was a treasure trove of information.

So whatever happened to Frets?  You would think that such a fine magazine should have survived and thrived in today’s acoustic music scene.  The new performing artists of today should be the new feature covers and the topics could be further updated from yesterday’s news.  I guess the profit for the publisher was just not there but the interest from its readers still is today, as noted on music forums concerning this topic.

The magazine was owned by Guitar Player magazine and was a descendant of a earlier 1970s magazine entitled “Pickin”.  The first issue was Volume I No I in March 1979 and the final issue was Volume 11 No 11 in August 1989.  There were 114 issues in total, published from 1979 through 1989.

Collection of Frets Magazines

This magazine is loaded with so much useful information, that  I have maintained my copies in my personal library and often refer to them.  While I have an entire collection of the 114 issues that I will never part with, I have placed extra copies up for sale on my website www.fretmentor.com.  Since the magazine is no longer available, each copy is a collector’s item for music students, players, and fans of the monthly featured artist.  You can find a gallery of the copies available at the Fretmentor Store.

So while I wonder what happened to my “Frets”, maybe one day, they’ll bring it back.  In the meantime, I will be thumbing through my issues from 1979 to 1989 and reliving some fond memories of some great players.

Digg!

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Fretmentor’s Second Annual Banjo & Guitar Workshop Featuring Jens & Uwe Kruger – March 26-27, 2011 in Lake Worth, Florida

Jens & Uwe Kruger … They’re Back for a Second Time.

Jens & Uwe Performing For The Crowd

Two of the great performers, instructors and entertainers of the banjo and guitar will return for an encore.  On March 26-27th, 2011, Fretmentor will host the Second Annual Banjo & Guitar Workshop Featuring Jens and Uwe Kruger in Lake Worth, Florida.  Details of this event are posted at www.fretmentor.com.

Some people have yet to learn about just how wonderful these two gentleman are as both performers and as individuals.  After the Kruger Brothers Palm Beach concert in 2009, I was able to encourage Jens Kruger to come down to South Florida for a banjo and guitar workshop for all interested music students.  We have discussed making this an annual event that may one day grow to include other notable instructors and performers.   South Florida is a wonderful location to visit and this venue offers many an opportunity to take a vacation during the spring and learn something at the same time. So I am excited to present the Second Annual Jens and Uwe Kruger Banjo and Guitar Workshop.

Here are some of the comments that were posted at the Fretmentor Forum after last year’s event:

“The word Musicality keeps ringing in my head over and over. I am walking around humming tunes, and I keep smiling. The time spent in the presence of Jens and Uwe was wonderful, and enlightening.”

“I was impressed by the breadth of both Jens’ and Uwe’s knowledge of music. To be able to play bluegrass, blues, rock, country and classical, among others, just floors me. But their personable nature just made it so much fun to be around them during the workshop and during the concert.”

Jens Teaching One on One

“Truly a wonderful experience. It was motivating in the musical venue but uplifting in a broader sense. The workshop far exceeded my expectations and I was sorry that it was over.”

“Today was one of the most memorable days of my life.  A classmate who had met them previously said last week how personable they were and wow were they.”

Fretmentor with Jens & Uwe Kruger

“Kudos to the Krugers for a great workshop and to Fretmentor for setting up such a well-run, informative and even inspirational event.”

“It’s very clear that the weekend was amazing. Jens talked more than about music. He talked about being aware and connected to life. What a great break from the mundane life. I knew it would be great but it far exceeded my expectations.”

So please come and join us on March 26th and 27th.

This event promises to be just as good if not better than when the Kruger Brothers visited South Florida for the first time.

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Fretmentor’s Acoustic Christmas

Yes, its that time a year again.  The time we go into the attic and pull down the Christmas lights and ornaments.  It is the time we go to our local retail store and hear Christmas tunes from the past.  This year, however, it is also a time to start learning some of your favorite holiday tunes on the banjo, mandolin (fiddle) and the guitar.

After working for over a year and a half on a compilation of Christmas tunes to be learned and played by acoustic instrumentalists, Fretmentor has just released “Fretmentor’s Acoustic Holiday“. What is special about this collection is that the music is written for all acoustic instruments and even the lyrics are included for each selection.  Since the music is in both standard musical notation and tablature, no one is left out in the cold.  Fiddle players can learn the same tunes as the mandolin player.  An entire band can learn each piece and play together, since music is standardized for each instrument.

The collection can be purchased at www.fretmentor.com.  You can contact David (Insert @ Symbol) Fretmentor.com for instructions on how to pay for the materials.  Once you make payment, you will receive Christmas member authorization to download the Christmas songs right to your computer the same day  No waiting for mail delivery mail of your materials.  In addition, by downloading the free Tef viewer, you will be able to play the entire song in a computer generated midi format.  This is perfect for learning the song at your own pace.  In fact, you can even slow the tempo of the midi file or repeat a given section while you are practicing.

So what are you waiting for?  Go to www.fretmentor.com and order the entire collection.  After all, Christmas will soon be here and you can be rest assured that someone is going to request you to play a Christmas tune at that next holiday party of yours.

In the meantime, we wish you a

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year

from www.Fretmentor.com

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Fretmentor’s Gretzky – Man’s Best Friend

Gretzky With One Of His Favorite Students

On June 26th, 2010, I had the sad misfortune to have to put my best friend to sleep.  Gretzky is my pet weimaraner and my best friend for 11 and 1/2 years.  This past month Gretzky became ill and headed to the music studio in the sky.  So why am I writing about him on my own music website and blog?

Well Dressed Pup

Well, Gretzky was more than just a pet and best friend.  He performed an integral function as part of Fretmentor’s business.  He was Fretmentor’s business partner,  cover model, finance manager and audience.  He modeled the apparel.  He collected and even on some occasions ate the lesson fees.  Gretzky entertained the students.  In addition, he is the cover star featured on Fretmentor’s Children Guitar instructional book on CD and the children would be curious to learn more about him.

Fretmentor's Best Friend

Many of my students became acquainted with Gretzky when they arrived for their lessons. He had many favorite students and knew which day they would arrive with treats. He would wait for their arrival and greet them at the door.  He also let them know when their hour lesson was over.

On at least one occasion, Gretzky grabbed the lesson fees and swallowed a portion of a $20 bill (he disregarded the singles)  If a student wasn’t careful and left their case open, he would steal a guitar, mandolin or banjo polishing cloth.  He came back with it just to show you that he could do it if and when he wanted to.  Yet, he freely returned the rag to its rightful owner.

When I recorded music, I sometimes forgot that Gretzky would walk in just as the recording was finishing.  Upon review, you could hear Gretzky’s collar jingling in between the instrumental breaks. So that so-called perfect recording had to be recorded over.

Children's Guitar Instruction CD

So it was a sad month as we lost a key member of the Fretmentor community.  I will miss my best friend dearly but he will never be forgotten. When it is time for me to leave this earth, I look forward to playing my guitar, banjo, or mandolin once again with Gretzky by my side.

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Bluegrass Legends

JD Crowe and the New South Perform at the Lyric Theatre

JD Crowe Performing On Stage, March 20, 2010, in Stuart Florida

JD Crowe Performing, March 20, 2010, in Stuart Florida

On Saturday, March 20, 2010, I had the pleasure of seeing JD Crowe, one of the greatest banjo players of all time, perform with his band JD Crowe and the New South at the Lyric Theatre in Stuart, Florida.  Prior to attending the show, I researched my archives of earlier Banjo Newsletter (see BNL September 1976 and 1982) cover stories of JD Crowe.  While JD Crowe’s appearance at age 72, has changed from those earlier issues, his music remains as tight and energetic as ever.

You see, when I started playing banjo in 1970, JD Crowe and the New South was one of my favorite bluegrass bands.  Next to Earl Scruggs, JD Crowe is one of the true masters of the five-string banjo who I studied and attempted to emulate in my early years.

Bobby Osborne & the Rocky Top Express

On this night, the crowd was also treated with the performance of Bobby Osborne & the Rocky Top Express.  Along with a variety of songs, Bobby Osborne showcased his original composition “Cherokee Lady” on the mandolin and ended with his grand finale “Rocky Top”, which he said was written in 1967 and released on Christmas Day. At the end of the concert, both JD Crowe and the New South and Bobby Osborne & the Rocky Top Express played on stage together.

After the performance, I had the opportunity to meet back stage with JD Crowe and ask him a few questions.  In particular, I wanted to know how he has managed to maintain a band of bluegrass musicians who are not only outstanding performers but have impeccable vocals.  The sound of JD Crowe and the New South is refreshing similar to some of his earliest work.  Yet, former band members such as Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs and Jerry Douglas are obviously no longer part of the group.  JD Crowe explained to me that while he gets frustrated losing talented musicians, who have left the band to pursue other musical interests, he carefully maintains contact with potential replacements via phone lists and recommendations he receives from others.  As he stated “You really can’t have a great bluegrass band without excellent vocalists”.  JD Crowe and the New South have both.

Bobby Osborne, David Jakubiak, & JD Crowe

David Jakubiak (center) with Bobby Osborne (left) & JD Crowe (right)

I was surprised to learn that two members of JD’s band, Mark DeSpain on dobro and Cal Perkins on bass have only been with the group since December of 2009.  The entire group has only performed since January 2010 with Dwight McCall and Ricky Watson now being the senior members dating back to 1996 and 1998 respectively.  Yet, with JD Crowe’s eye for talent, this group performed flawlessly and proved to be an audience favorite.

JR Crowe with Ricky Watson (left) of the New South

JD Crowe with Ricky Watson (left) lead guitarist & vocalist of JD Crowe & the New South

That leaves me with the impression of the master himself.  While performing 50-52 shows a year, JD Crowe hasn’t lost a step.  He still drives a bluegrass band with passion and when you see him playing the five–string banjo on songs like “Fireball”, Scruggs’ “Flint Hill Special” or his own standard “Old Home Place”, you recognize that you have truly seen one of the best in the business.

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David Jakubiak has produced six books on CD for banjo, mandolin and guitar.  He has been playing banjo since 1970 and has over 40 years of experience in playing, performing and teaching music.  Check out his site at www.Fretmentor.com

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