...and Amie on the Banjo.


I was asleep the past few weeks while my body was adjusting to a new medicine. When I wasn't sleeping fourteen hours at a stretch, I was a walking zombie, barely taking in the world around me—I held on to chairs to keep my balance, processed each word said to me as though the other person was speaking a foreign language. The new pill is designed to slow down my thoughts. It has managed not only to do that, but to slow down the world as well. Monday, I was jarred awake by a banjo.

What started as light banter between two guests and myself at the front desk of the Inn ended in an impromptu lobby concert and banjo lesson. I turned out to be in the presence of Greg Deering, founder of Deering Banjos, and Todd Wright, his Director of Artists Relations & Events, two otherwise ordinary guys. Todd did most of the playing, picking four or five songs in a row, bringing smiles to passersby. Greg, the man who actually made the banjo, sat smiling across the room. Steve Martin, a banjo player in his own right, once said, "You just can't sing a depressing song when you're playing a banjo." Well, the otherwise cold and depressing lobby was filled with warmth and welcome. I grinned from ear to ear while he played. Todd said, "I'll play the first few, you play the next." I assumed he was talking to Greg. Eventually, I realized he meant me. Just as suddenly, that innocent looking five-stringed instrument turned into a mass assemblage of strings and pegs only a professional could sort out. I was scared stiff. Both Greg and Todd seemed used to this response, and calmed me down. They coaxed me out from behind the counter, put me in a chair, and then set the banjo's weight in my lap. Banjos look featherlight and seem like tambourines from a distance, but in fact they weigh a ton. I cradled this one like a baby. Todd showed me how to strum the strings this way and that. As I did so, I could feel the vibrations through my entire body. Banjos are surprisingly powerful. Todd showed me two simple chords, gave me hand signals for when to play one, and when the other. I'm now a banjo player!

I obviously don't know a damn thing about banjos, but if the people who make and sell them make a difference, then I just can't imagine owning anything but a Deering. They range in price from about $300 to $1,500, which is what the one I was holding sells for. (After that, you're talking Brazilian Rosewood, Mother of Pearl inlay, and If you have to ask, you can't afford it.)

For those of you familiar with my Steve Martin obsession, I feel obliged to say that Steve Martin is not on the list of people who officially endorse the Deering Banjo, a fact that deeply troubles me. Of course, he could own one. Come on Steve. Loosen up. Your banjo playing may be endearing, but your banjo's not a Deering. Ho boy! Can you hear the banjo in that last statement? Okay. Everybody... "Hang down your head Tom Doooooooley..."


Blogger Angela  said...

I can totally SEE you playing and how much a little music will change the whole atmosphere of the Inn - Sounds like you had fun! :)~ Angela

15/6/06 1:00 PM  
Blogger Amie Barnett  said...

Not just music, BAAAAAANJO music!

Thanks Angela.

15/6/06 2:18 PM  
Blogger Mary Z. Cox/A Secret Life of Banjo  said...

Hello Amie,
If you'd like to see some more photos of some really wonderful Deering banjos--go to
and watch the slide show in the television area. :)
Best wishes,
Mary Z. Cox

16/6/06 7:18 PM  
Blogger Caribou  said...

Hi, Amie:

Thanks for dropping by Birdwalking and leaving your comments. It's refreshing to see that I'm not the only one who has frustration with spouts.

I'm a coffee addict and love that jolt as soon as I wake in the morning. I do enjoy tea, but never before noon.

I've been reading your blogs and can't stop. I had to slap myself so I could step away and add a comment.


2/7/06 4:52 AM  
Blogger Jeff N,  said...

Hi amie. I enjoyed a bluegrass band once my company sponsored and learned to enjoy and appreciate the banjo and how it now talks to me. Good story....your friend/Jeff Nutter

6/8/06 5:47 AM  

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