Ken Haferman, playing my first gourd banjo,
"Great Gourd A'Mighty". (2005)
About 1975, I was working in the Positive Note
Music store, on Milwaukee's East Side (Farwell
and North), when this somewhat weathered
fellow came in, looking for Ralph. I told him
Ralph wasn't there. So he sat down, pulled out
an ancient Vega, and proceeded to frail like
nobody I'd ever seen before.
I asked him about using the middle finger,
instead of the index. You see, MY index finger
has an unusually thin fingernail, and it tends to
rip and bleed. However, the BOOK from which I
had been studying, SAID to use the index
finger. And I figured, for once in my life, I was
going to follow the book, as written by some
Yet, here was an obvious expert, mid-fingering
away with consummate skill. So I asked him if
it was really OK to use a finger other than the
one indicated by the Expert.
I have passed along to every one of my
students, the advice Ken gave me:
Kid, it's YOUR banjo. Play it any way you WANT!
(Psst! Down HERE! It's the first
Squared Eel banjo ever made!)
In case it's a heart-wrenching ballad?