Banjo Is The Mojo Of The Day

The title of this week’s post comes from a song by Tony Trischka entitled “Ladies Of Refinement.” It’s an original song so it really doesn’t fit in with my mission here at Cover Freak, but it’s a nice little minuet played on the banjo that includes the sentiment you see above. It popped up on my iPod shortly after I saw the video below from the dynamic Mister Squid. He made himself a banjo out of odds and ends he found at the World’s Longest Yard Sale. So I was inspired to pay tribute to the banjo this week.

Tony Trischka “World Turning” (Fleetwood Mac)
I like the way this guy expands the palette of the banjo. He does creative stuff with the instrument without making everything into a generic bluegrass song. This one’s quite a banjo-and-fiddle driven hoedown that still keeps the spirit of the original song.

Hayseed Dixie “My Best Friend’s Girl” (The Cars)
This is a small step up from those “Pickin’ On” albums that feature bluegrass covers of popular artists, if only because the band has a name. This sort of thing is funny for a song or two but it gets old in a hurry if you try listening to a whole album’s worth of it.

Patti Smith “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nirvana)
The banjo is not the primary instrument here though the plucking gives a weird feeling to the song. This is one of those songs that changed everything and consequently has been covered way too often. But you can depend on Patti Smith to do something different with it. The poetry she adds to it fits right in with what Kurt Cobain wrote.

Petty Booka “Downtown” (Petula Clark)
Allow me to once again declare my undying love for my Tokyo Bluegrass Honeys. They’re so cute, so charming, so talented on their ukuleles. I’m terribly disappointed that they’re not coming over to the U.S. for this year’s Japan Nite tour. I’ll probably still go, those shows are a hoot.

Run C&W “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” (The Undisputed Truth)
I asked Mister Squid for some banjo covers and this is one of the songs he coughed up. From what I can tell these guys specialize in bluegrass covers of Motown and soul songs. I really like how they use the harmonica and jaw harp to simulate that Motown wah-wah guitar sound.


  1. Dave, it played fine on my computer but didn’t seem to work as a download for some reason. I slapped it around a little and reupped it. The song seems to be working now, let me know if you still have problems.

    It’s worth the effort, trust me.

  2. I’m not threatened at all by your undying devotion to those cute little Japanese girls. (sniff, sniff). But I do like to hear them.

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  4. “Papa was a rolling stone” is a song by The Temptations, not The Undisputed Truth.

    Great Site!
    Keep up the good work.

  5. Ken, you’re mistaken. According to Wikipedia:

    “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” is a soul song, written by Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong as a single for Motown act The Undisputed Truth in 1971. This version of “Papa” was released as a single in early 1972, and peaked at number sixty-three on the pop charts and number twenty-four on the R&B charts.

    Later in 1972, Whitfield, who also produced the song, took “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and remade it as a twelve-minute record for The Temptations

  6. Thank you so much for this! Sometimes it feels like I’m the only person under the age of 80 who loves the banjo. I will have to play these for my friends so they will stop thinking I’m crazy when I get mine out.

  7. Stacey – I love the banjo and I love covers too!

    Some of my favorites are on the Son of Rounder Banjo, etc. compilations, like Wynn Osbourne doing “Tequila”.

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