Cathy Fink - Close-up on the Cello Banjo by Paul Roberts 9/2/08
“I think the unique sound of the cello banjo, in a new context, is a significant development for old-time music, jazz and related sounds. It's like finding a long lost instrument and bringing it back to the public ear.” -
Cathy and Marcy met in 1980 at the Toronto Folk Festival. Since then they have toured extensively, released over 20 albums for both children and adults, won two Grammy Awards, written more than 200 songs and won several songwriting awards. Cathy and Marcy have performed at the the Kennedy Center, the White House, on television and National Public Radio. Cathy and Marcy have been acknowledged in the Congressional Record for their work with children. They have produced more than 50 albums for other artists and have created instruction materials ranging from guitar and ukulele for kids, to how to sing harmony.
Recently, they Cathy and Marcy have received much notice for their musical compositions, incorporating an ancient American instrument, the cello banjo.
How does it feel to play duets with regular banjo and cello banjo?
We love these duets and have worked up about 15 of them. It's not far from the tunes we play together on banjo and mandolin. We like doubling parts in unison on the two instruments, harmonizing, alternating playing various kinds of rhythms, etc. There are many options. And it's such a big, fat sound. We're still exploring lots of new ideas.
What gave the two of you the impetus to start working with cello banjo?
It started with Mike Seeger bringing a cello banjo to our studio for the Old
Time Banjo Festival recording of “Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow,” in the summer of 2006. On that session, I played Mike’s cello banjo like a bass and Marcy played banjo uke.
When the recording was done, I handed Mike’s cello banjo over to Marcy to try and she flatpicked it like a tenor banjo. Mike loved the sounds and style. He offered to loan it to her for a few months, and she never put it down.
When Mike wanted his banjo back, Marcy scoured the country for a cello banjo and found one in great shape. It was only a few serial numbers away from Mike's vintage instrument (circa 1918).
Marcy learned lots of fiddle tunes and continued expanding her skills (she gets a great calypso rhythm on it), to get sounds of a tuba, bass and banjo. Then we began using it on lots of recordings.
May Day 2007 was the auspicious day the YouTube video appeared with you and Marcy playing The Buffalo Girls and Puncheon Floor. Your clawhammer banjo, combined with Marcy on cello banjo, was a banjo duet like I'd never heard. It was a great kickoff for a new era for cello banjos.
We posted a few duets on YouTube and Wayne Rogers from Gold Tone discovered them. We thank Bob Carlin for the connection to Wayne. Wayne was so taken with the sound that he created the Gold Tone Marcy Marxer signature model cello banjo with 4 strings (CEB-4).
Since then - as the popularity of this instrument grows in 4 and 5 string models - Marcy is constantly fielding questions, emails, threads online helping folks make the most of their cello banjo. We've posted many more YouTube videos (search for Marcy Marxer cello banjo), and continue to make it a major part of our arranging for recording and performing.
Just about everywhere we play, as soon as a good guitarist or banjo player hears Marcy play, they WANT one!
Marcy Marxer and Cathy Fink video
The Buffalo Girls and Puncheon Floor
Our Favorite Cathy Fink Videos
(Cathy's musical partner) and the history of the Cello Banjo, which Marcy helped re-introduce
|The Buffalo Girls and Puncheon Floor (with Marcy Marxer)|
|Kitchen Girl - with Gold Tone CEB-4 cello banjo|
Visit Cathy and Marcy's website http://www.cathymarcy.com/
and their You Tube Channel http://www.youtube.com/CommunityMusic