Saturday, July 26, 2008

Manufacturing Defects & Making Reputable Purchases

I just couldn't resist posting this... We bought this banjo from the dealer with a factory setup. The manufacturing defects are so severe, it cannot be repaired, which also leads me to saying that it could not have possibly been setup. (Unless a factory setup means that all the parts are put together irregardless of fit!!!) This is why you don't want to purchase that "bargain" from just anyone. I've posted a few pictures and also a video clip (video clip isn't available today, but check back tomorrow. It is uploading currently on YouTube).

The major issues:
1. Tension hoop is too high
2. Wood putty was used on the rim to fill in a hole made by an improperly fitted lower coordinator rod.
3. Large hole behind upper coordinator rod.
4. Opposite end of coordinator rod is not fitted to the rim; therefore, the washer is loose and the neck will become loose.
5. The tone ring is fitted on the outside of the banjo, but not fitted at all to the inside. There is a gap that is two quarters wide that runs around the entire rim. There should be no gap here at all!!!
6. The tension hoop cannot be tightened anymore because it already lays on the neck cut-out.
7. Notch in the bridge for one string is too large, which may cause a buzz or the string to come out.
8. Coordinator rods should be directly one over the other. They are slightly cock-eyed.

Cost of repairs? More than the cost of the banjo. Price of banjo? This particular banjo boasts a full rim and tone ring, so would cost you around $600. That's a lot of money to spend on something that cannot be reasonably repaired, and especially since it is BRAND NEW!!!!

You might be asking if this is rare. Well, this is the worst I've ever seen, but I have to say that other than real high-end instruments, we do see things of this sort fairly regularly. Most of them are setup issues that I can fix myself. It is quite frustrating because as a dealer I have to make sure I notice these things right away so that I can send them back right away if they are manufacturing defects and not just setup issues. Otherwise, I get stuck with them. Would you like to be stuck with this?

Click on the pictures so that you can view the text that goes with each one.

Friday, July 25, 2008

New Athens Homecoming Parade

Once again, we invited people to join us on our yearly float for the New Athens Homecoming Parade. This is probably the biggest event every year here. They also had rides, food, games, and all the normal carnival/fair stuff available at the Community Center site in the middle of New Athens.

It was very hot again this year. The news said 100 degrees, and I believe it! The Chris Talley Trio sat in the back of the truck with the mic and PA system, and everyone played and sang "I'll Fly Away," "I Saw the Light," and "Rocky Top" for the parade route this year. We tossed out candy, Bluegrass Shack dog tags, cowboy boot cooly-cups, musical note pencils and lanyards. What a blast!! Here are some photos:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday's Jam Session

It seems like the jam sessions just keep getting better and better. We had a such a great time last night! We had visitors from out of town, as well as many of our regulars. After the jam, Stan and his wife Abby stayed around for a while and we talked until, well, too late!!! Stan and I played a bunch of fiddle duets, while Shirley and Abby listened. It was wonderful! Theresa and her husband came from out of town, and both participated in the jam. Theresa plays fiddle and is fairly new to jam sessions. She jumped right in and played great! Her husband and I played some guitar and I answered a few questions. It is really nice to be in a position to help new jammers. There are so many things to know and so many questions, and many times there is no one to ask. I am really glad that I am able to help get others started. I can't forget when it was me who was asking all the questions! Thanks to John and Irene, Ron and Lorraine, John B., Gary, Terry L., Denny, Stan and Abby, Theresa and husband, Doc, Elsie, and Shirley and Steve for coming! I hope I didn't leave anyone out!

E-mail from Alaska

I received a really nice e-mail yesterday from Jeff S. who lives in Alaska. He purchased a vintage fiddle from us over our internet site last week and was kind enough to send this e-mail to me:

Hi! I just wanted to send you a note to let you know how pleased I am with the fiddle I recently purchased from you. I bought a circa 1900 fiddle on-line. Since I live in the Interior of Alaska, I was very happy to see how well the instrument you sent was packaged. It arrived way up here in the North in perfect condition, in fact, it was still in tune! It is set-up wonderfully and I just love to play it. I was even a little late for work this morning, because I could not put it down. You shipped it promptly to me and were very helpful working with me and answering questions. I am very impressed with the service and the accuracy of the website describing the fiddle. I received better than I was expecting. This fiddle has the sweetest tone…I love it! So thank you very much. I would highly recommend anyone to do business with you. You guys are great! Keep up the great work! Bluegrass rules.

Jeff S.
Fairbanks, Alaska

Contest Pictures

Okay. I finally made some time to go through the contest pictures so that I could post some of them. First of all, I want to say a BIG thank you to Barb for taking these for me. I gave her my camera at the beginning of the contest and she did a wonderful job of capturing everyone at their finest!

I also want to say thank you to the Hall Family for coming early to help me get everything set up and ready to go. I could not have done it without you!

Thank you goes out to the judges Bill and Iggie. There would certainly be no contest without judges! Also to Carla (my mom), who takes care of the registration and scorekeeping.

Putting on a contest takes lots of time, money and skill from a lot of people. It is definitely not a one-person show. The contestants spend hours preparing, and we appreciate their efforts and talent, and that of their parents, friends and family. This was a wonderful contest and I am so proud of everyone for getting up there and putting forth their best effort. You all made this a wonderful day!

You can make any picture larger by clicking on it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fiddle Contest Results

Hi Everyone! We had another fantastic Youth Fiddle Contest! A total of 25 contestants from 3 to 18 years old competed in three divisions. I will be posting pictures later, but here are the results:

12 & Under
1st Place - James Ryan
2nd Place - Paige Johnson
3rd Place - Veronica Steibel
4th Place - Rosemary Hall
5th Place - Stella Doty
*Most Entertaining - Stella Doty

13-15 Years Old
1st Place - Emily Ryan
2nd Place - Ashley Heyen
3rd Place - Makayla Smith
4th Place - Angela Winkeler
5th Place - Charlie Hall
*Most Entertaining - Charlie Hall

16-18 Years Old
1st Place - Rachel Neel
2nd Place - Jake Hammel
3rd Place - Joy Winkeler
*Most Entertaining - Joy Winkeler

Friday, July 18, 2008

Youth Fiddle Contest on Sunday the 20th

Just a reminder to everyone of our fiddle contest this Sunday, July 20th, at 1:30 p.m. Immediately following the fiddle contest will be the parade lineup for the New Athens Homecoming Parade. You can join us on the float if you want to. We hope to see you at both events!

Visit our previous post for the flyer:

Mascoutah Visitor's Center Performance

The Chris Talley Trio performed last night at the Mascoutah Visitor's Center in Mascoutah, IL. We had a great time, and they told us that we had the largest crowd of all the bands that had performed there. The whole second half of our performance was all requests from the crowd. Many thanks to our guest performers James (on banjo) and Lydia (on fiddle). They both did a great job!

Also, thanks to 5-year old Laura for helping us out singing her request, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

Visitors from Ireland!

Last year, I met Gordon and his family at the 16th Annual Old Time Music Fete in Cahokia, IL. They were on vacation from Ireland. We did some jamming and had a lot of fun just talking, and in the end, we traded e-mail addresses. Gordon sent me an e-mail several weeks ago letting me know that they were all coming back to our area on vacation again, and that they wanted to come by our shop. We had a really great visit, they bought Cieren, their son, a vintage violin, and we played a little bit. Here's a picture of Gordon's family and me, and a video clip of Gordon and me playing "McLeod's Reel." He's a really good fiddler, don't you think?!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Chris' Upcoming Workshops: Fiddle, Banjo & Guitar

Saturday, August 9, 2008
Our Lady of the Snows Shrine
Belleville, IL

This is the big event of the year for the Gateway Dulcimer Society, but there are other workshops besides dulcimer. (Of course, dulcimer players, you will certainly want to get on this one!) For registration information, go to

I will be teaching the following workshops:

Fiddle 1 (Nov - Int): Bowing Techniques; Straight vs. Swing; Song: Stone's Rag
In this class, we will discuss differences in bow grips and techniques, shuffles, accents, and straight bowing versus swing bowing (for rags). We will learn the song Stone's Rag.

Fiddle 2 (Int - Adv): Vibrato; Slow Backup; Harmony; How Singing Can Help; Song: Amazing Grace
In this class, we will learn the difference between arm and wrist vibrato and how to do both, how to play backup for slow songs, and how learning harmony and singing (in private, not public performance) can help with slow backup. We will play the song Amazing Grace in the Key of G.

Banjo: (Nov - Int): Basic Backup; Basic Fill-in Licks; Fake Breaks; Anticipating Chord Changes; Songs: Long Journey Home, Hot Corn Cold Corn
In this class, we will discuss how to start playing with others. We will learn basic backup techniques, how to anticipate chord changes, how to use the capo, the difference between a fake break and a real break and how to do both. We will work on two songs: Long Journey Home and Hot Corn Cold Corn.

Guitar: (Nov - Int): Strumming Techniques; Flat-picking Techniques; Basic Runs; Song: Cripple Creek
In this class, we will discuss several different strumming techniques: Bass note accent vs. strum accent, and down stroke vs. down-up stroke. We will learn the basic G, C & D runs, plus several different G licks. We will learn the difference between flat-picking and cross-picking, and we will learn both versions of Cripple Creek.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In The Studio

The Chris Talley Trio is back in the studio this year. We are recording not one, but TWO CDs! We are just about done with the traditional CD, but still have several more songs to record for the gospel CD. Hopefully, we'll have these completely done and ready for the public by mid-September. It all depends upon how fast we can get back into the studio. This is our busy time of year with bookings, vacations, and just having some summer fun. Here are a few pictures of us hard at work in the studio. Notice Jack, our trusty engineer, was trying out a new hairpiece made from fiddle bow hair. (It's my NEW line of sales. Interested in buying one???)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Uncle Dave Macon

We are fortunate to have the grandson of Uncle Dave Macon in this area. Dave plays banjo as well, but a different style than Uncle Dave. Dave is, of course, very proud and interested in his Uncle Dave and anything that he appeared in or on. Several years ago, as a gift to him, I fixed up an old wallhanger guitar and drew a picture of Uncle Dave on it. I painted the guitar white so that it would stand out. I also put the words "UNCLE DAVE" on the fingerboard for the inlays. Here are a couple of pictures of it.

Stelling Banjo Picks

I got to see something I never knew existed this past week at our Tuesday night jam session. Stan and his wife, Abby, came for our jam session. After the session was over, we got to talking and Stan showed me a set of Stelling banjo picks he bought many years ago. They were handmade for Stelling Banjo Company by a Canadian jeweler named Ellington. The picks are sterling silver and have several really neat features built into them. For one, the inside of the picks are rough so that your fingers won't slip out of them. Next, instead of just round holes in the picks, there are designs in the holes. There is a tiny musical note in the blade part of the picks, and there are other designs cut in the bands of the picks. Each pick has an engraved "S" on it. The picks were sold in sets, with one pick having a small, additional hole below the engraved "S" so that you knew which pick went on which finger. The old National fingerpicks are nickel silver, as are every other silver fingerpick that I know of. These are the only picks I know of that are made from Sterling silver. Any way, I called over to Stelling banjo company and Sherry (Geoff's wife) told me that the picks had not been made in years due to Ellington being very ill. Stelling doesn't have any more of the picks and they are hard to come by. (Yeah - especially since people don't know they exist!) It looks like Ellington is better now and may begin to make more picks for Stelling. If you want a pair, you'd better get them quick!

Here are some pictures for you. The first is of Stan and Abby. The rest are the Stelling banjo picks. The colors on the picks are reflections from our neon sign.

Fiddle Tailpieces

Every once in a while, we run across a real interesting tailpiece. I guess you used whatever you have when there isn't a repair shop around. I have seen tailpieces made from forks and spoons, carved from wood in all kinds of shapes, and then this mostly wire tailpiece that incorporates the tailgut into the actual design of the piece itself.

These are some inlayed tailpieces:

This is a marble-ized plastic tailpiece that came on an older fiddle with matching pegs:

Riley Baker Banjo - Old and Cool!

I was going through some of my pictures of interesting instruments and accessories and ran across some stuff I thought everyone would be interested in.

This first set of pictures shows a Riley Baker banjo and case. It is a British-made banjo from the late 1890's. I don't know a lot about the banjo, nor could I find much on the internet, but this particular banjo was in great shape and I was able to play it, too! I don't know if J. Gravity still owns the banjo, but he was kind enough to let me see and play it when I was in his store several years ago.

Some interesting things to note about this banjo would be its all-aluminum construction, and five tuning pegs on the peghead. Click on the photo to enlarge the front view of the peghead. You will be able to see the 5th string enter a tunnel in the peghead of the banjo. So it would appear that Scott Vestal's Stealth banjo was not the first to use a tunnel for the 5th string. Kind of amazing to think that this was a design from the 1800's, huh?