The Magic Banjo

He left to play the banjo, but he came back a fiddler. There was dust on the magic banjo, which never seemed to leave its hanging post on the wall (“The Wall of Sounds,” he called it), but he was scored with tiny bite marks, so we wondered. He played the fiddle like it was magic too, but Cassandra the slave girl witch said it was plain. He was just damn good, bringing an off-kilter virtuosity to all our playing. One night we had a go with “St. Finnegan’s Reel,” a difficult number in any circumstances, and we were all mad drunk. Suddenly, our prodigal put down his fiddle. “I know JUST what this song needs,” he cried, tearing the banjo off the wall. A string of notes rolled out, fast, angry, high and haunting, that did make our version of “St. Finnegan’s” just perfect. And the banjo neck again turned into a snake, and he was bitten repeatedly, and he wailed and fell to the floor, and it was piteous to see.

When he recovered, he was still holding the banjo, but he could not speak or sing. He plucked a slow waltz, and then he waltzed on out of town. We all listened to that final song, instinctively grabbing hold of our children, who longed to march after him, and some did follow him, never to be seen again, as they paraded into the forest of serpents.

–Dan Kilian

Editor’s Note: This was the program to the farewell concert for the great Dave Benjoya, who left the band purportedly to play more banjo.

The Tragic Tale of Ms Grise

The Blue Lion

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