Veterans Day at the Kensington

By John Greitzer
Photos by Bob Nelson

The East Bay Banjo Club provided Veterans’ Day musical entertainment at the Kensington senior community in Walnut Creek on Friday, November 11. Some 19 EBBC members participated in the event, receiving warm applause from appreciative audience members who sang along on several numbers.

The program began with five military songs, one for each branch of the Armed Forces. We started with “Marines’ Hymn,” then “Caissons Go Rolling Along” for the Army vets, “Anchors Away” for the Navy vets, “Semper Paratus” for the Coast Guard vets, and the “Air Force Song.” Following those numbers, the club played songs highlighting each geographical area of the country, from “Give My Regards To Broadway” to “California Here I Come” to “St. Louis Blues” to “Alabama Jubilee” to “San Francisco Bay Blues” and many places in between. “This Land Is Your Land” and “God Bless America” also were performed.

Participating musicians and singers included Guy Black, Rich Combs, Betty David, Don Granberg, John Greitzer, Karen Hefter, Red Higgins, Ardie Jarrett, Garry Kerr, Chris Lardge, Kit Nelson, Bud Pearce, Larry Risner, Jan and Slavka Ruzicka, Jack and Diana Starr, and Sheila Welt. Bob Nelson took photographs of the event.

The club has performed at the Kensington several times now, and we hope to make plenty of return appearances.

Annual Picnic In The Delta

By Diane Malucelli
Photographs by Bob Nelson

On Saturday, August 20, we had our East Bay Banjo Club picnic at Landers Landing in Tracy. It was a cool morning on the Delta with a nice breeze off of the water as we all arrived to enjoy the day. Phil and Linda Myers and Karen Hefter started playing banjo songs on the deck. When they took a break, Bob Ehrhorn, Diane and Bob Malucelli played ukuleles and sang songs.

Don Granberg played his piano keyboard and Larry Risner, Bud Pearce, Richard Combs, Phil, Linda and Karen and Bob Malucelli played banjos. Slavka Ruzicka played her autoharp and Jan Ruzicka played his guitar. Kit Nelson sang many of the songs. Jim and Angelina Blankenship, Dianne Risner, Sandy Ehrhorn, Lito and Darlene Calimlim, Bernadette (Don’s wife), Mary and Guy Black, Bob Nelson, Gloria Pearce and Michael Stein and his wife were all there. The lunch featured sausages, corn on the cob, lettuce, fruit and pasta salads and lots of desserts.

Our host Bobbie Landers’ daughter, Holly, and friend David, took several people out on boat rides. One of our younger banjo players, Connor Calimlim, went on a ride with his brothers, Aaron and Sean and their friend, Madison. Bud and Gloria Pearce’s grandchildren, Aiden and Maya went boating. All the young people went out later on a paddle boat and kayaks.

It was a fun day at Bobbie’s home on the Delta and we thank her and her family so much for inviting us and for organizing the picnic and the food.

Live Oak Lodge Crab Feed Playout

January 16, 2016

By:  John Greitzer
Photos by:  Bob Nelson

The East Bay Banjo Club gave a two-hour performance January 16 to about 100 people at the annual Live Oak Lodge crab feed at the Oakland Masonic Auditorium.

The audience dined and chatted while EBBC played many of its most popular numbers. Banjo players were Garry Kerr, Phil Myers, Linda Myers, Tom Brunetti, Chris Lardge, Ardie Jarrett, Kit Nelson, Betty David, Karen Hefter, Sheila Welt, Don Granberg, Bob Ehrhorn and John Greitzer. Bassists were Guy Black on electric and Terry Horner on gutbucket. Vocals were handled admirably by Kit Nelson, Sheila Welt, Don Granberg, Chris Lardge and Bob Ehrhorn. Karen Hefter and Phil Myers took solos on some of the songs. Bob Nelson served as photographer for the event.

The club closed the show with its usual rousing version of “When The Saints Go Marching In”. Attendees at the crab feed said they enjoyed the music.

 

Harry Higgins and Georgette Twain – In Memorium

January 11, 2016

By: John Greitzer

The East Bay Banjo Club lost two four string banjo legends and members over the holiday season. Harry Higgins passed away on December 23rd at age 81 and Georgette Twain died on January 4th at age 90.  The banjo community lost two of its long-time leading lights with their passing.

Harry-and-Daniel Edfited Final

Harry Higgins

“Legendary” would be an understatement in describing Harry Higgins.  From his 17 years leading the Dixieland-style band at the original Red Garter in San Francisco, and band leading at Kezar and Candlestick parks for the San Francisco 49ers and Giants, to his more recent years with the East Bay Banjo Club and playing at Peet’s Coffee in Walnut Creek, Harry left his mark on countless delighted audiences over the decades.  He reflected recently on how lucky he was to have been the bandleader at the Red Garter.  “I just fell into it,” he said.  “I was able to earn a living with it.  I was really lucky.”  Of course, it was his immense talent as much as luck that brought him that long stint as Red Garter bandleader.  Harry was elected in 2008 to the National Four-String Banjo Hall Of Fame.

As a recent active member of the East Bay Banjo Club, he was well-loved both by long-time EBBC members and by newer ones as well.  Even some of our most recent members have stories about how Harry helped them with banjo-playing tips, showed them how to replace a banjo head, or talked about chord-melody theory with them. For Harry, the club was a family affair.  He would lead the club in songs sung by his wife of over 60 years Elinor, known as “Red” to EBBC members. But by far, his greatest delight was mentoring his granddaughter, Danielle, playing the banjo next to him, and encouraging her to sing many of the songs he loved. We are all certain that when Harry left us, he was hopeful that Danielle will continue his legacy in the world of the classic plectrum banjos.

Georgette TwainGeorgette Twain

The “Queen of the Banjo” and a lifetime member of the EBBC, Georgette Twain was a leading four-stringer since the early 1960s and continued touring the country until her recent illness.  In recent years she performed with her daughter Cecilia, an accomplished violinist.  Though Georgette moved to Nevada years ago, some of our long-time EBBC members still corresponded and visited with her up to the time of her death.

Her father encouraged her take up the banjo when her singing career was ruined by polio. She was a student and prodigy of Eddie Peabody, and became widely admired for her incredible technique and showmanship.   Georgette was named to the Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame in 2007.

Her influence on the EBBC goes back many years when she taught many club members how to play the banjo. In fact our current Music Director, Betty David, and our newly elected President, Jack Starr, both took lessons from Georgette in their early playing days.

EBBC will miss both Harry and Georgette.  We wish their families well.