DRY RIDGE, N.C. —Banjo player Dan Slugg was recently researching the history of the banjo, as he often does, and ran into this quote by Mark Twain.

When you want genuine music—music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey, go right through you like Brandreth’s pills, ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose—when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo!  “Enthusiastic Eloquence,” San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle, 23 June 1865 [Originally published in Early Tales & Sketches, Volume 2, 1864-1865]


Dan soon realized the quote would make for a great song.


“Yep,” he said. “I barely had time to set down the piece of cornbread I was eatin’ and grab a pencil and my banjo. I’ve got to write ’em down pretty quick these days since my mind ain’t what it used to be, along with most of the rest of me. The wife says I’ve started to prattle on a bit much. You know, telling the same old stories and such, but the boys in the band don’t seem to notice. Then again, they’re all at least as old as I am and maybe we’re all…”

Dan played the song last Friday night over at The Barking Spider Tavern’s old-time jam session. He calls it “Give Me the Banjo.”


Give me the banjo. Give me the banjo.
Give me the banjo, the banjo on my knee.
Smash the piana. Play Old Susanna.
Give me the banjo on my knee.

Like strychnine whiskey she’s always with me.
I keep the banjo, the banjo on my knee.
It keeps pollutin’ my constitution.
Give me the banjo on my knee.

When I play “Pop Goes the Weasel” I break out with the measles
But I don’t get feeble with the banjo on my knee.
When I get contagious, we’ll all get outrageous.
Give me the banjo on my knee.


When he finished singing the third verse, Dan cajoled the folks there into joining him in singing the first verse over again. Everyone agreed that Dan had written himself a dandy.

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