Saturday, 24 October 2015

Bill Keith 1939 ~ 2015

Having just learned of Bill Keith's passing on the telephone, I am at a loss for words. Please read a fine news release from John Lawless at

Rest in Peace, Bill...

...and thanks for so many awesome all-night jam sessions throughout our decades together.

The gracious banjo maestro, Bill Keith, shaking hands with Jonny Cody after playing ‘Devil’s Dream’ together at a campsite during the Grey Fox Festival in July 2013 ~~ 50 years from the day that Bill first played it with Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys.  [Photo by Fred Robbins]

Sunday, 11 October 2015

'Castle Picking Party' ~~ New 2016 Location

The new "Picking Party" location in Borger, NL

After a successful 5-year run at Het Kasteel in Groningen, Netherlands co-producer / host of the "Castle Picking PartyHans Kelderhuis announced a new location for the annual all-day jam and concert event. Prior to the last set in the castle's concert hall on September 27th it was revealed that the free public Picking Party will be held in Borger, NL (province Drenthe) beginning in 2016. 

"Cultuurpodium VANSLAG" will be the new home for the annual gathering. VANSLAG is perhaps the most beautiful and accomodating indoor music showcase in all of Holland. The historic 'old village church' in Borger, having been carefully renovated in recent history, now houses one of the most favorable and inviting music venues in the entire country. 
Henk Eggens, proprietor
Cultuurpodium VANSLAG
Dutch entrepeneur, Master Photographer, and music enthusiast Henk Eggens and his wife are the main force behind this amazing musical experience. From lighting to excellent acoustics to hospitality, this couple and their colleagues operate one of Europe's 'best kept secrets'.

The new venue offers many rooms for jamming, and a theater for the mini-concerts throughout the day. There is also plenty of space outdoors for jamming in nice weather. Mark your calendars and join musicians from several countries next year as they get together for the annual all-day / early evening jams and concerts on September 24, 2016 -- now at Cultuurpodium VANSLAG.

The organizers are interested in your suggestions for a title of the event as it moves to its new location in Borger. You may email your ideas for a new name to

Saturday, 10 October 2015

'Beautiful Nothing': A film about the Krüger Brothers

On a rainy Sunday at the end of September the foyer of the Two Rivers Cinema in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina was - as you might expect - busy with a flow of families and couples arriving to buy tickets for a movie and queueing for popcorn. The foyer then filled with rather well-dressed crowd who waited patiently, chatted amongst themselves and were then invited into the cinema where refreshments would be served before the film began.

This was the U.S. premiere of 'Beautiful Nothing' a film about the Krüger Brothers which had been made by Gabriele Weber and Brigitte Bernhard; otherwise known as 'Dames Don't Care'.

Dames Don't Care
Once seated, the audience were addressed by the Krüger Brothers, the film-makers (Gabriele & Brigitte) and then Elaine Marshall, Secretary of State for North Carolina, who welcomed the audience and spoke warmly of the Krüger Brothers and how they have become a part of North Carolinian cultural life. The film is, in places, very personal yet sensitive and includes conversations with Jens & Uwe Krüger and Joel Landsberg, members of their families as well as their friends and fans. Below is the trailer to the film.

I spoke to Gabriele Weber and Brigitte Bernhard at the post-premiere reception and from that conversation and subsequent emails I asked as few questions:

Gabriele & Brigitte's replies prefixed by DDC (Dames Don't Care)

What drew you to make a film about the Kruger Brothers?
DDC: First of all, we just wanted to make a documentary about music. Our first documentary was about the retro culture in the USA. That was in 2007. And after 4 years we felt like... let‘s do another documentary. We had several ideas, then Brigitte started to play the Banjo and met the Kruger Brothers on a Workshop... and we found our new topic.

She was so impressed about the human beings behind the musicians and heard so many stories from her teacher Hansj, who was a former student of Jens. Actually, we [attended] two concerts [by] the Kruger Brothers long before that and we were very impressed. But that was before they moved to the USA and before we started to make documentaries. So we contacted the Kruger Brothers and told them about our idea and they stood right behind us.

[At the beginning] we did not have a storyboard or a storyline... we just had the idea to show about
the limitless possibilities that can be achieved with courage, passion and single-mindedness.

Were you Bluegrass fans before starting the film?
DDC: [In music] our first love belongs to the era between the 20's and 50's. So we never were Bluegrass fans in particular but music lovers in general.; and we wouldn‘t say that we are specifically Bluegrass fans now. But when we look at the thousands of vinyl records and CDs that we have in our collection, the number of the recording that we have by the Kruger Brothers is only equalled by those Billy Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

How long did the film take to complete?
DDC: Brigitte met the Krugers at a Workshop in December 2010 and we started filming in May 2011. In October 2014 we finished the editing process and gave a first screening in November 2014.
Then we had to do some little adjustments and had the premiere in July 2015. After that we started the DVD production and the DVDs manufacture was completed in September 2015. So, it took us all in all, about 5 years. But you have to know, we had our day jobs to do, beside this project. We worked nearly every weekend and spend all our vacations for two years to finish this film.

Will the film be available to buy through your website?
DDC: We think so. But we have to admit, we never thought about the possibility of selling the DVD of 'Beautiful Nothing'  to anyone other than our friends. But after the first screening the Krugers came with the idea to sell DVDs at their concerts and on their website. And before we could think we are now sitting here with 1,000 DVDs. So yes, we will sell DVDs as will the Kruger Brothers. But we need some time to figure out how. But if someone would like to purchase a DVD, send us an e-mail and we will reply as soon as possible.

What is your next project?
DDC: First of all we want to promote the film. You know.. when we finished the film we had a screening in Switzerland for our friends and friends of the Krugers and we thought, 'that's it, finished'.
But then so many people came up with new ideas where and how to screen the film and we thought, 'ok, let‘s do it right' and we contacted "Carolina in the Fall" with the idea to screen the film at the end of the festival as the U.S. premiere and there new friends came up with new ideas.. and here we are with hundreds of ideas. As we did the whole project of our own and with our own money, we have no producer, promoter or distributer to which we are accountable. But besides that, we feel like organizing some new events, as we did in the past. That's our other passion, events in the style of the era between the 20's and 50's.

If you would like to buy a copy of 'Beautiful Nothing': A film about the Krüger Brothers then please contact Dames Don't Care via their website or e-mail.

Finally, here is a recording of the Krüger Brothers playing 'Beautiful Nothing' which gave the fils it's name.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Deering Banjos 40th Anniversary event featuring The Kruger Brothers & JigJam

Yet another year has rolled by since the last Deering Banjos/Eagle Music celebration - how time has flown! But here we are again and on Saturday 7th November, Eagle Music will hold the Deering Banjos 40th Anniversary event at the North Light Gallery in Huddersfield.

You can read my review of last year's event here but let me tell you about the 2015 event. As already mentioned, this is a celebration of Deering Banjos' 40th Anniversary and the ninth consecutive year that Eagle Music will be the No. 1 world dealership for the Deering Banjo Company. Like previous events, the day will have a very full programme - more of which shortly - but, before we go any further, I want to state that non-banjo players (such as myself) will find the nature and quality of the workshops appealing, the insights from musicians into their playing and performance enlightening - though there is a clear risk of finding yourself wanting to have a banjo for Christmas (or earlier - see 40th Anniversary deals below*).

The close working relationship between Deering Banjos and Jens Kruger is widely known and it is a delight to report that The Kruger Brothers will, once again, be appearing at this Deering Banjos/Eagle Music event. Jens, Uwe & Joel be holding an on-stage Performance Workshop during the afternoon as well as the (now traditional) Audience Group Performance - practice 'Oh Susanna' in readiness! Here is Cumberland Gap from last year.

The day will conclude with a concert by The Kruger Brother - it is worth stressing that this will be their only UK appearance this year.

But what about the rest of the day's programme...
  • Greg, Janet & Jamie Deering will talk about their 40 years of banjo making and, last year, Greg could be seen discussing banjo set-ups and more with attendees.
  • There will be two workshops:
    • Long Neck Banjo Workshop with Pat Kelleher
    • Intermediate to Advanced Bluegrass Banjo Workshop with Bill Forster
    • IMPORTANT: Call Eagle Music on 01484 661460 to book your place 
  • On-Stage performance by Nick Mann
  • On-stage performance by JigJam who's CD Oh Boy! featured on the EBMA Blog recently
  • Picking sessions

All this is in addition to a full range of Deering banjos and accessories on display (and to be played) and (from experience) staff from Deering and Eagle Music ready to discuss and advise on your requirements. *There will also be some '40th Anniversary' special offers!

Steve Noon of Eagle Music with Janet & Greg Deering
The event is held at The North Light Gallery, Armitage Bridge, Huddersfield and the North Light Cafe will be open for food and refreshments throughout the day.

Visit the Deering Banjos 40th Anniversary UK Event page on the Eagle Music website for full details and to book your tickets and do remember that if you would like to join one of the workshops then leave nothing to chance - call Eagle Music on 01484 661460 to book your place