Reflections on the Letterman Show
featuring "Men With Banjos (Who Know How to Use Them)"
A follow-up report by Dr. Banjo (Pete Wernick)
Our 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 music.
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.
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 are there.)
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.