The late Dave Van Ronk, whose early career provided the inspiration (however broadly) for “Inside Llewyn Davis,” was a dear friend of mine. The stories I heard from him and from others concerning the Village folk milieu of the late 1950s and early ’60s remind me of my own experiences in the Twin Cities a decade later.
I came up with some rules for flying with guitars that have served me reasonably well through the years. I thought it might be a nice idea to share them. When I travel to Europe or Asia I have to fly. Sometimes it’s necessary in North America, too. Here are some rules.
One thing I’ll never regret as long as I live is that my home is in Minneapolis. I got to see Kirby Puckett play baseball. Many times. I’d have seen him play more if the Twins had played outdoors, but I caught a few games at the dome every year and had the pleasure of seeing him play on the road, at storied Yankee Stadium in 1987, the first year they went to the series and ultimately won.
When I think about the great guitar players who influenced me, and there are many, both through recordings and people I knew personally, the one guy that really changed my life at the tender age of 23 or so was Ted Bogan. Ted played with Carl Martin and Howard Armstrong as part of, naturally, Martin, Bogan and Armstrong, “the last of the old-time black stringbands.”
Dave Van Ronk’s autobiography, The Mayor of MacDougal Street is a wonderful read. To me it was like sitting in his living room late into the night talking, eating, drinking and listening to music. Dave was a masterful storyteller and it’s an amazing and wonderful thing that he was able to capture that feeling on the page.
I moved to Minneapolis in late 1969 at the tender age of 19. I came because it was a guitar town and I played the guitar. Well, it was reasonably close to my home town of Fargo, too, and that was important to me at the time. It turned out to be one of the luckiest moves of my life. The West Bank (near the part of the University of Minnesota that sprawled across the Mississippi River to its west bank) seemed to draw young creative people like a magnet.
“These days, country music stars are created in a factory in China, molded out of plastic by workers earning 38 cents an hour, then shipped to Nashville, where they are fitted for a cowboy hat and taught to sing ditties written by a committee of moonlighting Hallmark employees.” –Washington Post, November 8, 2005
Every now and then someone comes along and tells me about some new pickup I need to listen to. Piezo electric pickups and pressure sensitive pickups have one major problem. There’s no air. When you mike an artist’s voice there’s air around it; it sounds like it is somewhere, in a space. The piezo equipped guitar, or mandolin, or anything, has no air around it – it doesn’t sound like it occupies the same space as the singer.