Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Monday, June 29, 2009
Steve on his Michael Jackson parody
I was living in alaska when this came out. It cracked me up then; it still does.
The New Yorker
June 26, 2009
Steve Martin: My Attempt at Moonwalking
As a dancer, Michael Jackson was great. He was like Fred Astaire. This video, a parody of the “Billie Jean” video, was done for “The New Show,” which was a prime-time NBC program that Lorne Michaels did in 1983-1984, when he wasn’t producing “Saturday Night Live.” This was the opening—it was the first piece on the first episode of the show. Michael Jackson had recently done what I consider to be his life-changing performance on the Grammy Awards, where he did the Moonwalk and threw his hat offstage. He was just brilliant. Then the “Billie Jean” video came out. And this was a parody of that.
I’m not sure whose idea it was; it might have been Lorne’s. Pat Birch choreographed it. The hard move was that little leg twist that he did. You really have to throw your leg. I did it a thousand times in about three days. And a couple of weeks later I noticed—er, I have a pain here. The pain lasted about two years, then it went away on its own.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Steve in free concert, San Fran in October
"Hardly Strictly Bluegrass", a free concert in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, will feature Steve Martin along iwth many others on October 2,3, &4, 2009.
More info later.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Steve Banjo Interview with Pic
Steve Martin and his passion, the banjo
By Denise Quan
updated 9:22 a.m. EDT, Tue June 2, 2009
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- We were scheduled to speak with Steve Martin just after his sound check for a concert in Los Angeles to benefit the city's public libraries. We pulled into the parking structure 45 minutes early when my cell phone rang. It was Martin's publicist.
Steve Martin has been playing the banjo for decades. His new album is a collection of bluegrass tunes.
Steve Martin has been playing the banjo for decades. His new album is a collection of bluegrass tunes.
"Hey, where are you?" she asked urgently.
"We're in the garage," I replied.
"Can you get up here quickly? He's ready."
A musician ready early? There goes his street cred.
Interviewing Martin can be like an awkward first date. Like many comedians, he's polite, but he sometimes struggles to make eye contact, gives monosyllabic answers and leaves the impression that he wants to be anywhere but talking to you.
But when the subject is his new album, "The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo," he's chatty, enthusiastic and engaged. On the CD, the comic/actor/novelist/playwright/musician shows off his picking skills as well as his ability to craft witty bluegrass songs with titles such as "Hoedown at Alice's," "Wally on the Run" and "Late for School."
It's been his passion for 45 of his 63 years. This past weekend, the ultimate Hollywood hyphenate made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry.
"The Crow" has received more than respectable reviews, but that's not surprising, given Martin's uncanny ability to excel in whatever he does -- except maybe idle chitchat. The following is an edited version of the interview:
CNN: People know you as a versatile artist, but now it's about the banjo and your bluegrass album, "The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo."
Steve Martin: I did a lot of things when I first started out. In order to be in show business, I juggled, I did magic tricks, cards tricks and I played the banjo.
CNN: You've been playing it for 45 years, right?
Martin: Yes, I have. It's a long time, and I remember when I was going through a particularly difficult time of learning, I'd go, "Well, if I just stick with it, one day I'll be saying, 'I've been playing for 40 years.' "
CNN: Picking up the banjo might seem likely if you grew up in the Appalachians -- maybe Kentucky or somewhere down South. But you grew up in Garden Grove, California. This is the O.C.
Martin: There was a lot of musical activity in Orange County in the 1960s. There were the Dillards, and Doc Watson would come by, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, all these different players. I also had this friend, John McEuen, in high school, and he played, and he actually produced this album now -- 45 years later. [McEuen is a founding member of country-bluegrass group, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.]
CNN: Isn't John the one who taught you how to do an "Open D" tuning on the banjo?
Martin: Yes, he did.
CNN: See, I read your CD liner notes. [Both laugh] There's a cute little story in there about taking a photo of the three things you love most -- your wife, your dog and the banjo.
Martin: Well, we all love more things that that. I just happened to take a photo, and there was my wife, my dog and my banjo, all in the same shot -- and I thought, "Oh, that's like a family portrait right there."
CNN: Sounds like your next Christmas card to me. ... You're playing a benefit for the Los Angeles Public Library.
Martin: As you can see, it's sold out [gestures to an empty room]. ... You know, it's also a little bit sneaky, because doing a benefit takes the pressure off having to be so great. This is the first time I've really played banjo live as a concert -- ever. I mean, I've played a song or two, but I've never done a dozen songs, so I hope people will be forgiving.
CNN: Are you nervous at all?
Martin: I'm a little nervous.
CNN: Really? A little butterfly or two? I'm surprised.
Martin: No butterflies, but it's very different playing music onstage if you're not used to it. I mean, doing comedy is one thing. I used to get nervous on that, but I was very practiced. I'm as practiced as I can be. I'm performing with the Steep Canyon Rangers, a group I met in North Carolina. They're a renowned bluegrass group -- young men who play and sing really, really well. I'm lucky to have them.
CNN: You've won three Grammys and an Emmy. You do all kinds of things -- a modern-day Renaissance man.
Martin: Well, in a strange way, I don't have a job, so I have a lot of time on my hands. When I do work, it might be very concentrated, and it might be months where you're not really doing anything except maybe playing the banjo or writing something. You know, there's a lot of time in the day if you're not working 9 to 5.
CNN: Writing books, writing plays, doing comedy, writing music?
Martin: It's been a long life.
CNN: So have you decided whether you're going to embark on a full-fledged tour?
Martin: I'm kind of seeing if -- you know, I haven't really performed for a long, long time -- 30 years live onstage. You know, I've done things like host the Oscars and things like that. But it's a little different. You have to get comfortable, you really have to know what you're doing, and it has to be almost boring to you to be able to do it well. You have to be so confident. I need to get some shows under my belt just to feel really good about it.
CNN: They always say comedians are the least confident people in the entertainment industry. Do you feel like you're not confident?
Martin: No, I feel confident, but I know what they mean because when you tell a joke, it might last six seconds, and then you have to tell another joke. But a song lasts three minutes, and then you have another song for three minutes and you've killed six minutes. In that time, a comedian does 360 jokes. Might not be the right math but anyway.
CNN: When you guest-hosted "Saturday Night Live" in January, you performed one of the songs on your new album -- which you immediately made available on the Web.
Martin: It was an exclusive release on Amazon because I knew I was doing "SNL," and I wanted the record to be available, and the only way you could get it available that quickly was electronically. And now it's out on Rounder in a more normal release now.
CNN: Are you a big iPod guy who downloads stuff constantly?
Martin: I do, a lot. I find a lot of songs that way. I use the Internet a lot to find music. I always download it legally -- especially my own songs. [Laughs] I think it's very important to keep that honor among yourselves.
CNN: Who do you find a lot of your fans are musically? Are they people who have followed your career from the early days of "SNL"?
Martin: I honestly don't know. It's too new. I don't know if there are any fans. I know that the record sold really well on Amazon, but you know there's a bluegrass audience for bluegrass music, and there's probably an audience that wants to see, "OK, let's see if this idiot can play."
CNN: Can you?
Martin: We'll see tonight. [Laughs] I do have a record out.
Another Opry Article with Pic
Steve Martin Brings Banjo to Opry
Steve Martin makes his Grand Ole Opry debut on May 20, 2009. Photo courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry.
June 1, 2009 — Steve Martin is best known as a comedian, but he pulled out the banjo Saturday as he made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry, where he was so well received that he was asked to do an encore.
The greatest banjo player in Opry history is Earl Scruggs, and his influence was recognized heavily throughout the performance. Son Randy Scruggs was part of Steve’s band — along with Vince, Stuart Duncan, John McEuen and Tim O’Brien, among others — and Steve’s set list included "Daddy Played The Banjo," a song he co-wrote with another Scruggs son, Gary Scruggs.
"Who better to write a song called ‘Daddy Played The Banjo’ than Gary Scruggs?" Steve noted.
The song was one of three Steve performed from his album The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo. He kicked off his debut with "Pitkin County Turnaround" and had Vince and Amy Grant sing lead on "Pretty Flowers."
"We’re thrilled and honored to have you here," Vince told Steve after calling him out for the encore. "Let’s pay a little tribute to Earl."
They then launched into "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," one of the staples of Earl’s longtime partnership with Lester Flatt.
Steve’s Opry debut will be featured Thursday on GAC’s Headline Country at 9 p.m. ET. Others in the episode include Gary Allan, Montgomery Gentry, Miranda Lambert and the Eli Young Band.
More Opry Pics
About Steve's Grand Ole Opry Debut
This site also has a picture gallery of Steve playing.
Comedian Steve Martin makes Opry debut
Posted: May 31, 2009 08:53 AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Emmy Award-winning actor, comedian and writer Steve Martin played the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night.
Martin has played the banjo for 40 years and performed with longtime friend John McCuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Vince Gill and Amy Grant.
The performance included cuts from "The Crow", his first music album, which was recorded in Nashville.
Martin talked about the opportunity to work in Nashville with artists like Gill and Dolly Parton, who sing duets on the album.
"I started my comedy career in a lot of places, but Nashville was a very big part of it because I played the Exit/In," Martin recalled.
"When I was an up and coming comedian that was one of the first places I ever sold out and now I've been selling out for the rest of my career, of course," he joked.
Martin played the Exit/In in the 1970s.
"I took the entire audience to a burger stand and I ordered 300 hamburgers," he joked, "and then changed it to one bag of French fries, but that was a long time ago."
Vince Gill said he's always been a fan of Martin's acting, and that the comedian's talent on the banjo is impressive.
"I knew that he had a musician's heart," Gill said, "as well as being one of the funniest people I'd ever seen."
"Not one of the funniest," Martin interjected.
"The funniest," finished Gill.
Before taking the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time, Martin received a framed poster commemorating his debut.
NPR and Steve at the Opry
Hear Steve talk about the Grand Ole Opry and his banjoing at NPR.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Steve makes the Pop Charts
Steve Martin hits U.S. chart with banjo music
posted: 3 DAYS 17 HOURS AGO (from June 1, 2009 1:30pm central)
By Gary Trust
NEW YORK (Billboard) - Actor Steve Martin returned to the U.S. pop album chart for the first time since 1981 with a new disc showcasing his considerable banjo-playing skills.
"The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo" debuted at No. 106 on the Billboard 200 this week, with a little help from "American Idol."
Martin performed the album track "Pretty Flowers" during the talent show's season finale last week, with contestants Megan Joy and Michael Sarver trading vocals.
Martin placed three comedic sets on the Billboard 200 from 1977 to 1979. His last entry until this week foreshadowed his current sound, even if the wait would prove to be more than 27 years. The 1981 LP "The Steve Martin Brothers" featured comedy cuts on side one and banjo music on side two.
After his "Idol" performance, Martin did sneak in one slice of his wry humor. Put on the spot by host Ryan Seacrest to predict who would take home the "Idol" title, Martin quipped, "I know it's a long shot, but I hope I do."
(Editing by Dean Goodman)
Review of Steve's recent banjo concert
LIFE & STYLE
MAY 30, 2009
Steve Martin Takes the Banjo Seriously
On CD and in concert, he plays his own delicate compositions
By JIM FUSILLI
On stage at the Rubin Museum of Art here Wednesday night, the comedian, writer and musician Steve Martin demonstrated once again what is so clear on his new album, “The Crow—New Songs for the Five-String Banjo” (Rounder): He’s written some beautifully bittersweet songs for banjo, an instrument he’s played diligently, if not professionally, since his teen years.
Though the concert was billed as “A Tentative Evening of Bluegrass,” it presented Mr. Martin as a musician, not a comedian who plays around with music. “We’re not here for comedy,” he said gently. Which isn’t to say he fully suppressed his humor. “This is what I would play sitting around the living room by myself,” he announced at one point. “So would you all please leave.” Not only were we advised to turn off our cell phones, but also not to “murmur or make any facial expressions.” He allowed that the capacity crowd of 130 at the Rubin Museum was maybe just a bit smaller than the one that witnessed his recent performance on “American Idol.”
Supported by the Steep Canyon Rangers, Mr. Martin whipped up rousing bluegrass breakdowns and a cute tune about a boy racing to get to school. But during the best parts of the evening, he offered thoughtful readings of his delicate compositions, which are supple, never morose and rich with unexpected minor chords. By playing with tender restraint, he suggested a counterpoint to his familiar comedic persona. Though his face often was knit with concentration, it also glowed on occasion with tranquility, as if he’d found moments in which he lost himself within his music when expressing its layered emotions.
Listen to a song from the new album “The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo” by Steve Martin.
Though he incorporated the banjo into his comedy act as far back as the mid-’60s and originally released five of his compositions that appear on “The Crow” in 1981, on his album “The Steve Martin Brothers,” the 70-minute show here was only Mr. Martin’s second full-fledged concert as a banjoist; he played a fund-raiser at Club Nokia in Los Angeles on May 11. He’s considering a tour, but he told me he’d make a decision after the three-show stand here and two sets Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. After the sales bump from “Idol,” the concerts fall somewhere between a road test and a labor of love; as he told the audience at the Rubin Museum, “If everything sells out . . . I will only lose $12,000.”
When we spoke by phone on Memorial Day, the 63-year-old Mr. Martin said he’s long been self-conscious about his banjo playing, at least when measured against the likes of Earl Scruggs, Tony Trischka, John McEuen and other masters with whom he’s played. He said he largely gave up his dream of becoming a top-shelf banjo player back in the late 1960s, when he was writing comedy for TV variety shows that featured musicians such as Glen Campbell, John Denver, the Smothers Brothers and Mason Williams.
“They didn’t even know I played,” he said. “Eventually the banjo moved into the background for me. It was kind of, ‘Well, I’ll never be a banjo player. The best work at it every day and I don’t—I work at comedy every day.’”
Still, Mr. Martin had written songs, beginning in the mid-1960s. When I mentioned that composing interesting material to play can trump technical expertise on an instrument, he said, “That’s what my shrink says,” adding, “I doubt my technical abilities, though they’re there.”
Growing up in Garden Grove, Calif., Mr. Martin taught himself to play banjo with records as his guide. “I had an advantage: I had no instructor,” he said. “I was on my own working out the songs.”
Country music wasn’t his primary influence. “I grew up with a different sound—those were the folk days,” he said. “I liked a lot of esoteric albums.” He mentioned “New Dimensions in Banjo and Bluegrass” by Eric Weissberg and Marshall Brickman, as well as the work of the Dillards, Billy Faier, Dick Weissman, Flatt & Scruggs, and the Mad Mountain Ramblers, who played Disneyland while Mr. Martin worked in its magic shop. “There were lots of different styles. That’s how I began to understand that the banjo had a wide range of emotions.”
On “The Crow,” support is provided by the likes of Vince Gill and Dolly Parton, who duet on “Pretty Flowers,” and Tim O’Brien, who sings “Daddy Played the Banjo,” which also features Mr. Scruggs and his son Gary, who co-wrote the tune. Other guests include Mr. Trischka, Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and mandolin, and Mr. Martin’s high-school pal Mr. McEuen, formerly of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, on several instruments. The stately Irish folk singer Mary Black joins Mr. Martin on “Calico Train.”
But here at the Rubin Museum, Mr. Martin was without such notable guests, though the Steep Canyon Rangers are a highly capable bluegrass quintet with three albums under their collective belts. They followed Mr. Martin’s cue, playing with spirit on the up-tempo numbers but exploiting the delicate contours of his quieter songs. “Words Unspoken”—an appropriate title, Mr. Martin said, because the song has no lyrics—began with Mr. Martin playing a spry riff in unison with Woody Platt on guitar and Mike Guggino on mandolin before the band joined in on what settled into a wistful love song.
Mr. Martin told the crowd that “Daddy Played the Banjo” began as his attempt to write a bad poem on purpose; later, he realized, “this may be bad poetry, but it’s a pretty good country song.” In fact, Mr. Martin’s lyrics for the tune hold a surprising twist: The narrator, who claims to have taught his son to play the banjo, reveals he doesn’t have a child and is looking back on a time, as Mr. Platt sang, “when memories of what never was become the good old days.”
As demonstrated on “The Crow,” Mr. Martin’s instrumentals seem to have a similar narrative flow in which the tender and the unexpected meet to reveal a sentimentality not usually associated with banjo music.
“There’s drama in the songs whether it’s a big emotion or small emotions,” he told me. “With the banjo, you can take the same song and play it in an upbeat style or play it with soul in it.” For all the upbeat moments on “The Crow” and in his performance on Wednesday night, it was when Mr. Martin led with soul that his music found its transcendence.
—Mr. Fusilli is the Journal’s rock and pop music critic. Email him at or follow him on Twitter@wsjrock.