on the Letterman Show
With Banjos (Who Know How to Use Them)"
A follow-up report by
Dr. Banjo (Pete Wernick)
TV appearance got all sorts of interesting reactions in the month after
we were on. In emails and at the IBMA conference in particular, so many
folks said they stayed up late the night of the show, to see us and root
us on. We even had reports of people cheering in front of their TV sets
(!) and lots of compliments on the playing, especially Earl's tone!
Sad to say, the day
Earl and his wife Louise headed home, Louise injured her back seriously.
She was hospitalized not long after that, in Nashville, and she's also
had complications also involving her chronic breathing difficulties. She
will remain hospitalized for a good while. Naturally, Earl is spending
most of his time with her there. Joan and I extend our concern and very
best wishes to these two very fine people who have done so much for our
A few more
comments on the show:
Many folks have said
they wished we had had more time to play, talk with Dave, etc. I should
mention that the way our “band” was treated was the same as
with any band that plays the show: They are saved for the last spot, and
Dave greets the group after they play, while the credits roll. Our appearance
was given that standard treatment. Of course, a fair number thought this
situation was “special”, but I'll tell you, it's quite special
just being on television at all! Led by Earl, our music got a very powerful
exposure for those 3.5 minutes.
Steve, whose vision
made this whole thing happen, was really pleased with the results of the
two New York City appearances. I spoke with him recently, and along with
sharing our concern for Louise, we both savored our times picking with
Earl and the others, picking together, and getting deep into banjos. A
fun activity for me lately has been working out a twin part for one of
Steve's new tunes.
is a remarkable person. He has so much creative drive and talent, and
right along with that he has a pleasant persona marked by an unusual awareness
of other people. He is one of the most considerate and thoughtful people
I've ever met. Most folks would agree that movie stars are hardly expected
to be considerate of others, so this trait actually surprised me when
I first met him.
As an example, on
the TV show, right after the super-concentration involved in playing Foggy
Mt. Breakdown at top speed, he made sure to call off the names of the
other players at the very end. Tony, Charles, and my names weren't otherwise
mentioned on the show. (I noticed a few weeks later, our names weren't
given on the Late Show web site either, just Steve and Earl and the group
name. So I made a call to someone at the Late Show, and now all five names
Another note: A fair
number of people seemed to think Paul Shaffer somehow “horned in
on” our band. In fact, Paul was invited by Earl upon our arrival
at the Late Show studios. Paul had played on Earl's recent Grammy-winning
cut of the same song, and showed some great speed-hand technique during
the rehearsals and the taping.
A fair number of people
have asked me “what's next” for Steve's involvement in banjo
and bluegrass. The easy answer is “Who knows?” For the several
months ahead, he has his hands more than full with a band new movie (Shopgirl)
and two more coming out. Not a few folks have quizzed me about the chance
of his being an IBMA Awards Show host. The time commitment is forbidding.
Note that he doesn't even agree to host the Oscars! I've let him know
that as he's ready to take in some bluegrass, I'll be happy to help.
Here is a sampling
of some of the wonderful words of encouragement and congratulations we
received from you fine people. It's hard to say how much your support
meant. We felt we were riding a wave of good wishes, and it truly made
everything easier for us.
the postscripts following some names identify them by what jam camp they
You should know that,
since you first announced this, I've been on a mission, alerting my friends
and coworkers and whipping them into an unprecedented frenzy. This truly
is very exciting. I wish my mother were alive to see it. Being a bit of
a renegade, she knew Steve Martin was a banjo player first and comedian
Have a wonderful time
and THANK YOU for spreading the word to pop culture idiots like me who
otherwise never might have known. Best regards to you and Joan; I continue
to love Windy Mountain and having just bought a new guitar for my son
and me hope that we can get a few songs under our belts before spring.
Onward banjo soldiers,"
Jennie in Twinsburg
“WHAT GREAT NEWS!
All my banjo students have the Dave Lettermen Show as their homework - even
the 9 yr. olds!!!
I can't wait to see
you tonight - (actually I can't wait to see anything!!)
Your blind banjo-pickin'
“We are so psyched
for you. Our digital recording gear is at the ready.
Pick and roll on, Buddy."
Denton and Dan Downs
Go get em!"
“It doesn't matter
what name they call you Pete, Nondi, Will and friends You're "Hot Rize"
and "The Live Five" etc...to us forever. It's how well you play
that matters. Yes, you'll play as fast as Earl Scruggs; just try to relax
and think you're in the Grange Hall in front of us. You'll do it!”
you think an old codger like me can stay up that late!
Seriously, I'll tape it...wouldn't want to miss it! Don't watch late night
TV, try to avoid the "one eyed monster" anyway. So much garbage!
Best regards to you
“I want to wish
you the best of luck on your first ever TV appearance! I got your e-mail
on this and it is going around Indianapolis, IN in our music circles. I
will have to work hard to stay awake that late, as I am an early riser.
Looking forward to seeing bluegrass style being promoted!! Who would have
what an honor to be in that group. You will do
great and we wish you the very best.
Remember Earl is human
like the rest of us, well maybe not when it
comes to the 5 string. good luck"
“Good luck , Pete!!!
you will be great!!!!!! I will tape the show...I
cannot stay up that late on a school nite!!!!!
Break a leg (but not a finger!!!)"
“Pete, I'm really
excited for you and, of course, I wish you the very best of
luck. I'm looking forward to seeing it...just think about all us jamcampers
out there watching and cheering for you!!
congratulations to you, your wife and your son. Everyone played …hard
for words…. Stupendously! I have watched the video (I have it TIVO'd)
at least a dozen times. I have also spun it to CD for my collection. I
want to credit you with something I think some of the others missed. You
were noticeably more animate and personable when you were playing and
when others played. (I read in your notes that you had to tell yourself
to smile.) I can only imagine playing with the other “names”
onstage and in front of national TV… that the concentration must
have been boggling. I think the smiles that you gave Steve when he played
showed your professionalism. I also enjoyed the “One more time”
you sent Earls way. At first I thought that you were enjoying yourselves
so much you were going to take it around one more time, then realized
what was afoot. I am sure you are getting E-mails from around the country.
Oh, I'll throw this
in. I used to be in the TV and video industry for years before I retired
to raise horses and …..finally take up the banjo. You are an inspiration
Pete, Joan and Will! I had a big smile on my face for three and a half minutes
Wednesday night. Pete, you did us proud! Great solo and great stage presence.
Everyone else was so focused on his own thing, they didn't even look up.
But as always, you were looking out for the group. Well done!
All the best!"
You don't know who
I am, but I was among the fortunate ones that got to see "Men With
Banjos (Who Know How To Use Them), on Dave Letterman. I couldn't believe
I was actually yelling at the television set....yes, yes, yes. And then
with tears in my eyes, I had to ask myself why I was so intense. I guess
it's because of the incredible 'pride' I felt at seeing America's great
musical heritage break through to the so-called 'big-time.' The commercial
music business has so maligned, disfigured, marred, and abandoned our
very sensitive, fragile, and sensible old-time country music, seeing you
perform was a highlight of the year for me. Considerable congratulations
on an extremely well done job. We'll be hoping for more in the future."
National Traditional Country Music Association
“Loved your performance
of FMB on Letterman. What a workout you guys gave that tune! What an honor
to be on the stage with Earl Scruggs. Got to be one of the highlights
of your career. I have downloaded the video and watched it 10 or 15 times
and have tried to copy some of the new licks. It was a really impressive
There probably will be a whole
new generation of pickers who will say "I really got interested in
banjo when I saw this performance on Letterman....." I just had to
send you an email and tell you how much I enjoyed the show."
-- Jadie Matthew
I cannot say enough
about the Foggy Mtn. Breakdown performance on the David Letterman show
last night. I was greatly anticipating seeing such a mix of EXCELLENT
talent since I am not only a Steve Martin fan, but a Earl Scruggs fan
and Pete (Dr. Banjo) fan as well. I was happier than heck in seeing the
performance and the TV volume was about as high as I could get it without
waking up my neighbors. You all did just excellent and I know of no other
word to express how awesome it was. Just EXCELLENT!
The part that I was
disappointed in was the time that Letterman allowed you all to have to
give credit as to who you all were. Steve Martin grabbed a mike at the
completion and in a millisecond he quickly said what he could in mentioning
names and my wife asked, "Who's Steve Wernick?". That should
give you an idea of how little of time that Steve Martin was given. Letterman
should have walked over to the stage and spoke with ALL of you and given
credit where credit was due. Pete, you and the gang did enough so it'll
be with me forever as just a listener to such fine talent from a select
group of people."
“I am sooo excited
for you. I will be tuned in and will try to
figure out how to tape you on my vcr. I have digital cable so it gets complicated
for this blonde. I will be watching/listening and cheering, so listen, I
am sure you will hear me over the banjos/mandolin and guitar. Take care
and see you in Nashville.
Love to you both,"
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