Finding Mississippi

We had a hugely positive reaction to posting a story from The How and the Tao of Folk Guitar the other day so I decided to go ahead and keep posting some of my favorites.

Today we take a look at how I got started playing country blues guitar . . .

Finding Mississippi
From The How and the Tao of Folk Guitar by Patrick Costello

Before the Internet and before compact disks there was the radio.

Now I know you’ve heard the radio before, but it’s easy to forget how powerful it was back in the day when it was just about the only way to hear any music.

For the old guitar players I used to hang around with it was big AM stations like WWVA and WSM. By the time I was a kid the AM band was pretty much all news and really weird religious broadcasts so my lifeline to the music world was the folk show Sunday nights on WHYY.

Every week I would take a stack of cassette tapes and sit all night with my finger on the record button of my boom-­box. As soon as the DJ played something interesting I would hit ‘record’ and by the next morning I had a stack of tapes that I would listen to all week. You couldn’t just record the whole show because folk radio was, and I guess still is, always trying so hard to make everybody happy that you never knew what kind of downright weird stuff was going to be played. I liked the old blues records and some of the other stuff, but I didn’t want to save things like Hungarian goat herding music or old protest songs about obscure politicians.

I had been doing this for a while when one night this record came on that started with an old guy talking about coffee.

As soon as he said “Coffee time” I hit the record button because this guy’s voice was just so cool. It was the kind of voice you’d expect to hear if a bluebird was ever able to have a conversation with you. All sort of sing-­song and kind of cheerful in a sad sort of way. As if he had seen too much of the world but wasn’t going to let it bring him down. It was something a kid in Philadelphia didn’t get to hear very often.

Then he started to play the guitar and I was never quite the same.

I’m not going to try and put the music into words because I don’t think anything I could say would draw the right image. It was just the coolest thing I had ever heard. I sat there listening to this guy singing about his favorite brand of coffee and playing his guitar and I just about lost my mind. After the DJ came on and said that the song was Coffee Blues by some guy named Mississippi John Hurt I rewound the tape and listened to it another three times. Then I dragged out my guitar and spent the rest of the night on the back steps driving the neighbors crazy trying to figure out just what this guy was doing.
I spent days trying to work out the picking patterns and when that didn’t work I went to a music book store and started looking for more information on this guy. I wound up working for a slumlord cleaning out a pair of apartments vacated by a cat lady to make enough money to buy those books.

The other guys in my high school had centerfolds taped inside their locker doors, but I had a back and white photo of Mississippi John Hurt sitting on a park bench with his guitar case propped up next to him in my locker. When somebody noticed it my explanation was, “someday I’m going to be that cool.”

There was just one problem. The stuff in the books didn’t make sense.

Oh, they were well written and had lots of pictures to look at. There were interviews and stuff like that, but I started to get the feeling that the people who made these books wanted to talk about this music rather than teach it. The songs they covered were laid out in tablature but there was almost never any kind of general picking pattern that you could use throughout the song. It seemed that playing fingerstyle blues guitar required learning a song note­by­note and that seemed impossible to me.

I fought through the tablature until my fingers bled. I’m not being dramatic here. I know that local guitar heroes like to throw that “play until your fingers bleed” line like some kind of macho catchphrase but I can tell you from personal experience that it’s neither macho nor fun.

I ran through this stuff for so many hours that my fingertips looked like they had been chewed up by a cheese grater and still nothing I was doing made any sense. After a few months my left wrist started to swell up and I started tying my hand open with a bandanna handkerchief pinned inside my coat sleeve to brace my hand open when I was in school.

It was maddening because I wanted to play so badly and all I was doing was just that, playing badly. After a few months of putting myself through the wringer I wound up sitting on the back steps with my left hand in a bucket of ice and my right hand holding a guitar that I just couldn’t play. It hit me that I wasn’t going to be able to do this and I just about cried my eyes out.

I gave up for a while. I would run through simple stuff on the guitar but I wasn’t happy because I still couldn’t figure out how to play the way I wanted to play. I stuck to the banjo and told myself that I just didn’t have that “it” that lets you play the guitar. I kept on taking my six­-string with me everywhere, but I kind of felt like the guitar had betrayed me somehow.

Right about then Pop took me up to this picking party a friend of ours was putting on. He ran a music shop and was having this sort of get-­together for his customers. I brought my guitar but I wasn’t expecting to do much with it.

I was kicking back under the pavilion when this little guy came over. He wanted to show me a banjo he had made. It wasn’t a bad looking banjo, and to top it off there was an elaborate and pretty detailed naked lady inlaid on the resonator. The girl on the banjo was holding a panther on a gold chain and the whole thing was well done but kind of weird. Trust me, when a high school kid sees a picture of a naked woman and can only think wow! That’s kind of weird, you know something isn’t quite right.

“Now what in the hell are you showing a kid that for?”

I looked up and there was this huge old guy talking to the fellow who had made the banjo. “Something wrong with you, buddy? Showing a kid that sort of thing, what are you thinking?”

I tired to tell the big guy that it wasn’t a big deal but he turned to me, pointed to my guitar case, and said “Get your guitar and come with me.”

I started to blow the guy off. I don’t like taking orders and I was still pouting about my lack of any guitar skills so taking my guitar with this guy didn’t seem all that appealing at first. Then I took a look at the guitar he was carrying.

It was a Guild dreadnought and it was just about played to death. The fretboard was all gouged up and the finish was worn off the top of the guitar around the sound hole, but the creepy thing was that everything else on the guitar looked pretty new. It hit me that this guitar was only a few years old and this guy had put all of this wear on it in a fairly short period of time.

I got the feeling that I had better just go along with him and see what was going to happen. This had the potential to get real interesting.

We wandered to the far side of the picnic grounds and he flopped down on the grass, cracked his knuckles and went right into a Mississippi John Hurt song. As he was playing he started talking.

“This isn’t a bad guitar, but it’s already on its second fretboard. I wear them out every few years and once you gouge up the wood on the fretboard bad enough it gets kind of hard to keep hitting the notes just right.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say. I just stood there like an idiot staring at the guy’s hands. His fingertips were so calloused that they looked more like claws, but they were just dancing around the strings.

“You just going to stand there kid or do you want to pick a bit? I don’t care either way, I just didn’t want to leave you with that guy. Naked women with panthers? On a banjo? It’s just wrong”

I shook myself out of my daze and pulled my guitar out of its case. He looked at my chrome­-plated Dobro 33­H and gave a little nod of approval. “Ah! You play the blues, do you? Let me hear you play something.”

“Maybe I ought to just listen for a while. I can’t seem to figure this stuff out.”

He shook his head. “Let me hear what you’ve got and maybe I can help.”

I figured it would be pretty lame to back out so I started fumbling through one of the songs I had been working on from the guitar books.

When I was halfway though the song I glanced over at the guy and he was just staring at me with this look of horror on his face. I stopped playing and the guy said, “My God, that was so bad I couldn’t even tell what song it was! What do you think you are doing kid? I’ve got to ask because you sure ain’t playing that guitar. That was bad enough to hurt my feelings!”

I threw my arms in the air in exasperation. “That’s the problem, the books don’t make any sense! I keep trying to play these songs and everything comes out sounding like garbage. Man, this just sucks!” I told him about all of the trouble I was having. Then I pulled one of the tab sheets from my guitar case and handed it to him.

“Oh, that book! No wonder you’re so confused. These guys treat everything measure by measure and never tell you how anything works.” He crumpled up the piece of paper in his big claw like hand and threw it back into my guitar case. “Tune up, kid and let me show you how it works.”

We went over the basics together. Play a simple rhythm and sing. Then start messing with the rhythm. He taught me the chord progression to Coffee Blues and My Creole Belle and had me play rhythm while he messed around with the melody.

“Your alternating bass goes through it all the time. Start working on that and always try to make your first bass note the same as the name of the chord you are playing. If it’s a C chord your first bass note should be a C. The second bass note ought to be a five, you know what that is?”

I shook my head and he rolled his eyes and muttered something about books.

D chord variations“You’ll figure out the five later on. Right now your best bet is to just mess with it and go with what feels right. When you can play the rhythm start moving your fingers around inside the chord form. Play me a D chord. Good, now take your pinky and put it on the first string at the fifth fret and hold on to that D chord. Don’t look at me like that. I know it’s a reach. Now strum that and then lift your pinky off the first string so the ‘normal’ D chord rings out. ”

“Hey, that sounds pretty cool!”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now go back to your plain old D chord. Take your ring finger on the second string at the third fret and flatten it out so that you are hitting the first string too. Strum that, and then move your ring finger so it’s just hitting the second string. Now the whole time your middle finger is still on the first string at the second fret, right? Strum that regular D chord and then lift up your middle finger so the first string is open.”

“Now if you keep playing with chords like that you’ll start to find all sorts of melody lines. The trick is to keep the rhythm steady. If you’ve got the rhythm down you’ll be able to fish around and play those melody notes.” He went on to show me a similar idea using the A chord, but told me to figure some G chord variations on my own I told him that this was pretty cool, but it wasn’t what the books said to do. The books said these old blues players were doing something a lot more complicated that that.

“Well, you don’t want to go against that. Those guys have been a real help up till now, haven’t they?”

“Yeah, you’ve got me there. So how do I get this sound? I want it so bad and nothing is working.”

“That’s the problem. You want to do what you call ‘the cool stuff’ right away and that won’t work. You’ve got to build up to it.”

“If I do that will I play like Mississippi?”

He broke out laughing. “Hell no. I’ve been playing longer than you’ve been alive and I can’t play like Mississippi John Hurt. Nobody can. You can only play like yourself.”

“But those guys in the books. . .”

“Oh, you can get a song or two down note-­for­-note, but that’s not the blues. The guys who do that kind of thing can’t do anything but copy people. The only ideas they ever seem to have were thought up for them by somebody else.”

He leaned back and started running through some song in the key of D. I played rhythm while he kept on talking.

“Mississippi lived his life. You’ve got to live your life. You’re not an old back man from the Delta. You can play the same music and sing the same songs but it’s always going to be different because you’re different people. You’ve got to be yourself, kid.”

He left it at that. We played a few more songs and then my dad wandered over and joined in with his tenor banjo. When it came time to start heading for home I thanked the old guy for giving me the tips and told him that I had a lot to think about. He just grinned at me and said that I would figure it out someday if I just gave myself some time.

C chord variationsOver the next few weeks I started messing with the chord tricks he had shared with me on the D and A chords. When I tried the same sort of thing with a C chord everything came together. By the end of the night I had a simple but cool sounding arrangement of Stagolee put together along with the beginnings of a few other tunes.

I jumped up and started running around the back yard in the rain waving my arms in the air yelling, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” like some kind of crazy person.

I may have been a tad overenthusiastic. It took me years to actually get to a point where I even remotely thought of my playing as “good” but the funny thing was that people started complimenting me the first time I played my mongrel version of Stagolee in public. My dad got involved and started playing back up rhythm on his tenor banjo so I wouldn’t start drifting out of the rhythm on more complicated songs. After a while I stopped thinking about Mississippi John Hurt. I just played the guitar the way I thought it should sound and tried my best to make musical sense. What I played changed from what I thought somebody else was doing into what I felt at the moment. I can play Mississippi John Hurt songs nowadays, but I like to twist things around and make the song suit how I feel.

I started out looking for the secret of somebody else’s music and kept coming back confused and frustrated. When I decided to forget all of that and just start playing the guitar I found what I was looking for, and a lot more. I guess you could say I set out to find something in Mississippi only to find out that the answers to my questions were out on my own front porch.

You didn’t think I would tell you that story without showing you what I came up with for Stagolee, did you?

In this tab file I have laid out the chord progression in quarter note strums with some bass runs mixed in. If you look at the chord progression you will see the “melody” is played by fretting the first string in your C and F chords with your little finger.
I wrote this tune out using strums so you would have a chance to work out the picking pattern on your own. The pattern I usually use for this one is “bump­a­dit­ty, bump dit­ty” or four eighth notes followed by a quarter note and two eighth notes. I usually play the first string as a pinch to kick off each measure in order to bring out that first string melody note.

Have some fun with this song and see what you can come up with!

4/4 Time
Key of C
Standard tuning

Banjos, kittens and happy endings

Stockings, before receiving treatment

Stockings, before receiving treatment

Stockings, after undergoing corrective surgery

Stockings, after undergoing corrective surgery

Just want to say hi Patrick. I find you to be very inspirational and I can tell you’re a wonderful person. I’m a 60 year old special education teacher from suburban Chicago and have been plating the banjo for a year now and you’re videos have been tremendously helpful. I saw in todays Daily Frail that you have a cat. Well I have an inspirational story for you. My son is a veterinary surgeon in Chicago and he did a pro bono surgery for the Tree House Animal Shelter in Chicago. A kitten was brought in that was born with it’s rear legs facing backwards. My son (Steven Neihaus) did this experimental surgery and actually turned the legs around. The kitten now runs around like any other cat. When this occurred (last January) Tree House sent a press release to the media and the story went around the world. I’ll include some links but if you Google “Stockings the kitten” you’ll get the idea. The Chicago TV news just did and update on the kitten a couple of weeks ago and I’ll include that link too. Just want to share a nice inspirational story with you because your Youtube’s are an inspiration to me. Thanks again.

Norm Neihaus
Skokie, Ill

Lessons From Aunt Mannie

Aunt Mannie and Patrick sometime around 1987
From as early as I could remember, the envelopes arrived in the mailbox on every holiday. Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, The fourth of July and so on.

Always addressed in the old-fashioned way to Master Patrick Costello, always a simple greeting card, always a few dollars and always from my Aunt Mannie.

The thing is, I didn’t have an Aunt Mannie.

She wasn’t my aunt. She was actually a distant cousin. For some reason she took a shine to me and for the first eighteen years of my life took the time and effort to send me something in the mail on every holiday.

I came to count on those cards. I looked forward to receiving them and the few dollars she sent meant I could treat myself to something on the various holidays. Aunt Mannie – who I didn’t meet face-to-face until I was a teenager – was always there for me.

I loved her. I still do. I always will.

When I finally met Aunt Mannie I was shocked to discover that this wonderful woman had nothing. Every card, every stamp, every dollar she sent me over the years required a huge sacrifice on her part.

It was a realization that rocked me to my core.

People love to question why I have distributed so much music instruction over the Internet – and some folks have been right. I do love the folk process and I am an artist who simply loves his craft. That said, Aunt Mannie’s example has fueled my desire to teach and share.

If I have taught you anything, you can thank Aunt Mannie.

P.S. Aunt Mannie also taught me how to make the prefect grilled cheese sandwich. That has nothing to do with music, but it is one of those essential skills that has brought great joy to the people I love

Country Music Originals: Legends Of The Lost

Just spotted this on the Acoustic Soundboard forum: Country Music Originals: Legends Of The Lost.
Country Music Originals: Legends Of The Lost

Graced by more than 200 illustrations, many of them seldom seen and some never before published, this sparkling volume offers vivid portraits of the men and women who created country music, the artists whose lives and songs formed the rich tradition from which so many others have drawn inspiration. Included here are not only such major figures as Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family, Fiddlin’ John Carson, Charlie Poole, and Gene Autry, who put country music on America’s cultural map, but many fascinating lesser-known figures as well, such as Carson Robison, Otto Gray, Chris Bouchillon, Emry Arthur and dozens more, many of whose stories are told here for the first time. To map some of the winding, untraveled roads that connect today’s music to its ancestors, Tony Russell draws upon new research and rare source material, such as contemporary newspaper reports and magazine articles, internet genealogy sites, and his own interviews with the musicians or their families. The result is a lively mix of colorful tales and anecdotes, priceless contemporary accounts of performances, illuminating social and historical context, and well-grounded critical judgment. The illustrations include artist photographs, record labels, song sheets, newspaper clippings, cartoons, and magazine covers, recreating the look and feel of the entire culture of country music. Each essay includes as well a playlist of recommended and currently available recordings for each artist. Finally, the paperback edition now features an extensive index.

I am kind of shocked – but happy – to see this on the Internet Archive.

The Daily Frail’s New Format

The new, literally daily, format for The Daily Frail has generated a lot of questions. People view the Internet as a sort of permanent archive – a library where the books are never overdue – so the idea of material being online for just a day seems a little crazy.

Here is a story that might help you understand why I am changing the format of The Daily Frail:

Harmonica Joe
From The How and the Tao of Folk Guitar by Patrick Costello.

“Hey kid, you want to make a couple of dollars?”

I wasn’t so naïve that I didn’t know the usual course of action a kid was supposed to take when an old man in a raincoat asks a question like that. But this guy looked pretty harmless, and I was curious about the huge chromatic harmonica he had pulled out of his pocket, so I didn’t run like hell.

He was waving the harmonica around like a wand as he started talking again. “You break out that guitar and we can make a few bucks. Maybe get us some lunch. Maybe make enough to get some burgers to take home with me. Come on kid. Play a tune with Harmonica Joe.”

I was on the boardwalk in Atlantic City looking for something to do while my grandfather trolled the slot machine pits in one of the casinos. He wasn’t really interested in gambling. Oh, he might toss a few bucks into the slots but he was really interested in talking to the little old lady bingo queens. These trips were more about a technically free bus ride (they would charge you ten bucks for the trip and then give you a roll of quarters at the door) and a chance to bird­dog down by the ocean. I only came along because mom thought somebody needed to keep an eye on him.

I was in the habit of taking my guitar with me everywhere I went back then. It made things like taking a bus trip kind of rough because the case was so big and heavy, but I figured you never know when you might run into a chance to play so I kept it with me. We would make this trip every once in a while and sometimes I could sneak in and play some slots. That wasn’t too much fun because whenever I managed to hit a jackpot grandpop would claim my winnings. It was funny. He didn’t have a problem with me gambling, but he did have a problem with letting me keep what I won. On this particular trip one of the security guards stopped me at the door. I guess the sight of a kid dragging this huge guitar case around while ogling the cocktail waitresses was kind of hard to miss.

I tried to con my way through by giving the security guard a big grin and saying “I’m with the band.”

It didn’t work. If anything, it made everything worse.

Grandpop wasn’t much help. He just hollered “Ah, it serves you right for being a wise guy!” as they threw me out. He even kept my free roll of quarters. So I had the boardwalk to myself on a cool day. I had no money and nothing to do. I started wandering around looking at the tourists and the wannabe gangster types until I saw the old guy covered with birds.

He was trying to eat a hotdog in this arthritic kind of slouch. He looked like his back was too messed up to stand up straight. The pigeons and seagulls were lined up on his back and shoulders trying to reach around his head and swipe a piece of his lunch. There were so many birds piled on him that I couldn’t really see his face. As I walked over to get a better look he noticed me and brought his head up to look me in the eye, well, he tried to but a seagull hopped up on his hat.

“Hey old timer. That’s a pretty good trick with the birds.”

“Help me out here kid. Get these damn birds off of me!”

I cracked up. I dropped my guitar case and started swatting at his passengers. They were pretty fearless and it took a little bit of work to get rid of them all.

“Hell of a thing when a man can’t eat his lunch.” He said. Then my guitar case caught his attention and he asked me if I knew how to play.

“A little,” I said. “But I’m not really that good.”

He thought about it for a second and asked me if I wanted to make a few bucks as he waved his harmonica.

So there I was wandering down the boardwalk following this little old man with a crooked back. He was talking a mile a minute and I had a hard time understanding everything he was saying. Part of it was the way he talked, but I was also trying as hard as I could not to break out laughing. He still had his slightly used and pigeon-­pecked hot dog in one hand and his harmonica in the other and as he talked he swung them around like batons.

“Now the first thing we have to do is find ourselves a spot. You’ve got to have a good spot. In front of the casinos is no good because everybody going in or out is either broke or saving up to go broke. You know the house always wins? Don’t gamble son, it’ll ruin you as quick as a showgirl. I should know. Now we want a spot where we can hit the couples. Couples aregood because if you sing to the girl her boyfriend has to throw you a tip or she’ll think he’s a heel.”

“So we sing to the girl and we find a good spot.”

“That’s right! You’re getting the idea. I might get myself some lunch today! I told you my name was Harmonica Joe? I used to be on the radio.” He started to sing, “Hello and what do you know? It’s Harmonica Joe on the ra-­di-­oh! ”

We wandered around until Joe found a spot he liked. We were close to a couple of tourist trap shops with cheesy t­-shirts and salt water taffy baskets on display.

“Now here’s what we’ll do. I’ll call the songs. You know any jazz tunes?”


“Good. Then that’s what we’ll play. You get to a chord you don’t know just move your hand up and down across the strings and smile at the people. Out here they can’t hear you so if they see you moving around like you’re playing they will think the ocean is just drowning you out.”

He went over some more things like how to casually draw attention to my guitar case so people would think to toss in some money and how you have to play standing up so people won’t think you’re lazy.

It was pretty cool because Joe really had this system down. We worked the people passing by just as easy as you please while we played. When a couple stopped to listen he would fuss over the girl and take her by the hand to do a couple of dance steps. When a family stopped he would stoop down and fuss over the kids, which was my cue to look at the dad and give a little cough as I lightly kicked my guitar case to rattle the change.

The whole time this was going on Harmonica Joe talked to me about performing. He talked some about the places he had been, but most of the time he talked about how the game works. He said that entertaining people wasn’t just about playing well, you also had to be able make them feel good about listening to you.

I’m not sure how long we played that afternoon. Time just sort of flew by because I was having so much fun playing and watching Joe work his audience. It all came to a halt when Joe all of a sudden kicked my guitar case closed and shoved it under a bench in one sweeping motion of his foot. The next thing I knew Joe had stashed his harmonica in his pocket and just sort of stood there like he was asking me the time or something. I couldn’t figure out what was going on until the cop walked over.

“Nice try, Joe. But I’ve been watching you two for a while now.”

“Why hello officer. It’s a lovely day isn’t it?”

“Joe, how many times have I told you that I don’t want you out panhandling on my boardwalk?”

“Panhandling? You’re acting like every musician out on the street is some kind of bum!”

“Joe, you are a bum.” Before Joe could say anything the cop turned to me. “Who are you?”

I gave him a big grin and said, “It’s ok. I’m with the band.”

He didn’t seem to think that was any funnier than the security guard did.

“So you’re out here learning to be a bum?”

“I thought I’d give it a shot. If things don’t work out I could always be a co. . .” Joe cut me off right in the middle of the punch line.

“He’s just a kid playing a little bit of guitar for old Joe. Nothing wrong with that is there, officer?”

The cop gave me the hairy eyeball for a moment. I gave him by best grin again and he finally relaxed and started to laugh. “Well, you guys didn’t sound too bad. Matter of fact you sound better than the guys further down the boardwalk, but they ain’t breaking the law because they have a license.”

I started to say something but Joe kicked me and gave me the signal to keep my mouth shut.

The cop looked at us again, gave a deep sigh as he shook his head and said, “I’m going to take a walk. When I come back I want both of you gone. I’m sick of telling you this Joe. I don’t want to see you again today.”

So that was that. Time to hit the bricks. I was sad that it was over but I had a great time and, whether he knew it or not, Joe had taught me a lot about performing. It also hit me right about then that I was dead tired. This had been a lot of fun but it was also a lot of work.

I dragged my guitar case out from under the bench and was kind of shocked at how much money the marks had thrown in. There was a lot of change but there were quite a few ones and fives.

Joe took a peek at the money and his face brightened up. “Not a bad take for a little bit of work. Fifty­-fifty sound good to you?”

I thought about it for a second and decided that I could go one better than that. I scooped up the money and handed it to Joe.

“Here. You take it and get yourself those burgers.”

Joe tried to argue with me but I wouldn’t hear about it. I told him that it was the least I could do in return for some of the tricks he had shared with me (and in the years afterward knowing how to rustle up a few bucks on the street has gotten me out of more than one bad scrape) and that the only thing I would probably do with my half was give my grandfather another shot at the slots. We said our goodbyes and Joe gave me a quick hug before he disappeared into the crowd.

I was squaring away my guitar case when my grandfather came running over shouting, “What the hell have you been up to?” Apparently he had seen me handing Joe a fistful of money because he started yelling at me about hanging out with bums and giving money away.

We took a walk up and down the boardwalk to kill some time before the bus came back to take us home. Grandpop carried on the whole time that Joe was just going to go get drunk with the money and that I was a total jackass for thinking otherwise.

“Ah, I don’t care grandpop. I liked the old guy and I think you’re wrong about him. You don’t know the guy. He’s just going to buy some cheeseburgers.”

“If you believe that you must be stupid. Don’t you know anything?”

We were walking past the McDonalds on the boardwalk when Joe stepped out lugging this big bag of cheeseburgers and a large cup of coffee. He spotted me and started waving the bag shouting, “God bless you boy! I got my lunch and I got some to take home! Goodbye, and don’t forget old Harmonica Joe!”

I shouted back, “Hello and what do you know? It’s Harmonica Joe on the ra-­di-­oh!” He did a couple of quick dance steps and shuffled off into the crowd.

For the first time in my life my grandfather didn’t have anything to say.

This was how I learned my craft. I spent my teenage years and beyond wandering the countryside with a banjo or guitar slung over my shoulder (sometimes both) being open to learn from anybody I chanced to meet. When I did run across a musician willing to share with me I knew that each encounter was a once in a lifetime moment. There was no record button or bookmark to save the hours I spent with Harmonica Joe. I had to take in and absorb as much as I could before the moment was lost.

A good example of this sort of folk moment in action is The Subway Shuffle.

I know nothing about the guy who taught me what I went on to call The Subway Shuffle. We only spent a tiny bit of time together, but almost thirty years later I am still building on the technique he taught me. If I had not been paying attention – treating the moment as something precious, something to remember -I would not be the guitar player I am today.

By keeping The Daily Frail up for just a day I am hoping to bring some of that immediacy into play.

Now, I have built a few compromises into the system. We make the past week’s episodes available on weekends, and you always have the option of downloading the episode from Vimeo, and we will be releasing DVD’s from time to time.

We may change things in one way or another down the road, but for right now The Daily Frail truly is daily.

Not twice this day
Inch time foot gem.
This day will not come again.
Each minute is worth a priceless gem.
~Takuan Soho