That's How Our Family Had Fun - by Paul Roberts  9/2/08


Marcy Marxer Article 1Marcy Marxer is a masterful multi-instrumentalist who plays cello banjo, guitar, mandolin, hammered dulcimer, ukulele, button accordion, specialty banjos, Latin percussion and anything else she can’t resist. With her musical partner - banjo player extraordinaire Cathy Fink - Marcy has performed in many countries and produced a ton of children’s and family recordings. The duo has won two Grammy awards, plus many other prestigious accolades.


Marcy Marxer is one of a rare breed of female flatpickers. Her musical versatility keeps her busy on the performing circuit and in recording studios. There are two deluxe Marcy Marxer signature instruments currently in production. One is a Martin guitar and other is a Gold Tone cello banjo.

“I really fell in love with the guitar at a very early age,” she told me. “My grandmother would put me next to her and have me read chord charts. She worked with me until I could keep up with her.” Marcy’s grandmother played barrelhouse and honky-tonk piano and hammered dulcimer. Her great-grandmother was considered a fine fiddler in her day. Her Aunt Bess played guitar. The family all lived in the Detroit area, so it was easy to get together for musical gatherings.

“We would play and sing just about anything: jazz, swing, folk, or whatever. With my grandmother on piano, my grandfather on the tuba and some other musician friends, it was pretty wild. That’s how our family had fun.”

Many Appalachian musicians had come to Detroit to work in the automobile factories, so Marcy grew up listening to a lot of great bluegrass. “We used to hang out in the local music store in Flint, Michigan. It was called Wright’s Music. After hours on Friday, the guy would open up the shop and have a party. Musicians from all walks of life would go in there and spend the entire evening listening to each other and jamming, taking turns getting up and playing whatever they wanted to play. It was really fantastic.”

Throughout her high school years, Marcy performed in bluegrass bands and taught guitar at a community college. From the mid-1970's to 1981 she performed with the Bosom Buddies, an old-time string band that played at most of the major festivals in the US and Canada and on Prairie Home Companion. The Bosom Buddies also worked as a backup band for Patsy Montana, the first female country star to sell over a million records.

“Patsy Montana was incredible. She wrote new songs and practiced new yodels right up to the end of her life. She never stopped getting excited by the music and she really tried to encourage as many young players as she could.”

Marcy received theater training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Ringling Brothers Clown School. She began composing music for children, in 1982, while working on curriculum materials for the child development program, Head Start. Around that same time, she started performing with Cathy Fink, often in children's concerts. In 1989, they released a self-titled album, and the partnership became complete.

Marcy Marxer devotes her life to music with an enjoyment that’s instantly contagious. In so doing, she brings more happiness into the world. It’s immediately obvious by the feeling of exuberance in her music, her brimming over enthusiasm and her sense of humor (with Marcy, a hearty chuckle is never far away), that here’s a gal who is really doing what she truly loves.

[note: Marcy has set off a wave of excitement in the world of traditional music by creating a revival of an instrument that had become almost extinct: the cello banjo. You can read what Marcy has to say about the cello banjo in this article.]

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Paul RobertsPaul Roberts is a multi-instrumentalist, performer, composer, writer, music therapist
and arts-in-education specialist, whose articles and interviews are featured on and the Blog at

all articles ©2008 by Paul Roberts all rights reserved



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Interesting Tabs
Read about Marcy's adventures with the Cello Banjo in this exclusive interview Buffalo Girls & Puncheon Floor – the video that got the cello banjo re-ignited  / with 1918 Gibson cello banjo  
Kitchen Girl -  with Gold Tone CEB-4 cello banjo  



Marcy Marxer- Cello Banjo Marcy Marxer , Cello Banjo

Visit Marcy Marxer & Cathy Fink website


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