Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Sunday, June 19, 2005

Steve will be playing banjo at New Yorker Festival

Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
June 16, 2005 Thursday, Home Final Edition
Curtis Schieber

Tony Ellis was born in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Sylva, N.C., and was raised in Lynchburg, Va.

The masterly banjo and fiddle player moved to Circleville in 1990.

Yet he credits New York for the three high points of his musical career: He played Carnegie Hall in 1962 with Mac Weisman's band; he performed at the reopening ceremonies for the Statue of Liberty with the Ross County Farmers, a trio from Chillicothe; and in September, he will contribute to the annual New Yorker magazine festival in a banjo showcase put together by comedian and banjo player Steve Martin.

"Earl Scruggs will be there; Peter Wernick will be there with a group called Hot Rize, (and) a fellow named Charles Wood," Ellis said from Braeburn Farm, his home near Circleville.

"There'll be five banjo players, including Steve Martin, but he said he didn't want it to be a hootenanny. He wanted it to be a discussion about the banjo and why we do what we do."

Ellis will celebrate the release of his new album, Quest , at two performances this weekend.

Ellis got his start in music the old-fashioned way: His grandmother taught him banjo; his grandfather, the fiddle; and his mother, a pump organist and classical violinist, an appreciation for church and parlor music.

"I picked up the fiddle shortly after I picked up the banjo," he said. "Because it seemed the banjo and fiddle went together so well, I decided to learn to play both of them. My sister played violin in the school orchestra. I would sneak her fiddle out to the garage or chicken coop or barn and play it."

Ellis has played in Central America, Cuba, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Under the auspices of the Ohio Arts Council, he also traveled to Japan.

"A group of people in Japan love the banjo," Ellis said. "They like the sound of the banjo; they have an instrument that sounds similar in tone (the shamisen ) but is played very differently. We've had wonderful reception there and made a lot of friends, and I've written some tunes as a result of visiting Japan."

One, Suzuka Lullaby , is part of the new album. The songs are performed with his son, guitarist William Lee Ellis, who also composes; his wife, Louise Adkins-Ellis, on keyboard; and friend Larry Nager, who plays bass, mandolin and washboard.


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