An adventure in “Reverse Busking”

[As reported on 4/9, “Fiddling in the DC Metro“, the Washington Post ran an article on violinist Joshua Bell busking in Washington DC. The following is a comment on posts made to Fiddle List a few days later.]

I have greatly enjoyed all the posts stemming from the WP article on J. Bell’s DC busking experience. As I thought, the amifications go wide and deep and several of you have pointed out very interesting ways of looking at this situation, so ingrained in folk fiddle musics.

While I haven’t done much busking myself, I’d like to share one experience from a few years ago that has stayed with me.

Fiddler Byron Berline lived in the Los Angeles area (Van Nuys) many years, and returned to his youthful stomping grounds around the turn of the Millenium. Before he went, we did a number of shows together. We were hired to play the Santa Monica Pier on a Sunday afternoon (it happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, so Byron had Bette tape the event to watch later – they’re both sports nuts).
Byron Berline & Peter Feldmann
Anyways, we played as a duo; Byron on fiddle and myself on guitar – a program lasting about 2 1/2 hours with a midway break. It was on an outdoor stage on the pier, and we got a pretty good audience – they applauded at the right places, etc. At the end of the performance, I believe Byron finished up with his “Sally Goodin”, and the crowd loved it. Many came up to say hi, perhaps buy a CD, etc. One person, obviously a man of the streets in a ragged jacket and pants and baseball cap, came up to the stage front and said nothing at all, just stood there, beaming. He emptied his pockets of all the small change and bills he’d collected that day – leaving us with a pile of cash, turned around, and strolled off, as if he were a millionaire returning to his limo.

I don’t think either one of us will ever forget him.


About Peter Feldmann

Peter Feldmann has long been a musical mainstay in Santa Barbara and Southern California. Besides actively performing bluegrass and old time music with a variety of groups, Peter is also known as a bluegrass historian, collector, music consultant, teacher, and producer, both of live concerts and radio/tv programs throughout the area. His music has been heard in clubs, concerts, saloons, universities, pre-schools, at weddings, wakes, parties, barn-raisings, calf-ropings, rodeos, auctions, fund raisers, wine tastings and chili cook offs. Peter founded Santa Barbara's Old Time Fiddler's Convention (1972), UCSB's Old Time Music Front (1964), and The Bluebird Cafe (1971). Through these and other outlets, he was the first to bring many prominent folk, blues, and bluegrass artists, including Bill Monroe, Mance Lipscomb, The Stanley Brothers, The New Lost City Ramblers, Fred McDowell, Furry Lewis, Rose Maddox, the Balfa Brothers, and many others to the Santa Barbara area. Peter also helped others access the music by teaching privately, and in group classes for Santa Barbara Continuing Education, UCSB Extension, and McCabes Guitars. He was the first on the West Coast to produce and market instruction Lps - three on How To Play Country Fiddle, and one each on Clawhammer Banjo, and Maybelle Carter Style Guitar. He still presents lectures on country music history at UCSB, Santa Barbara area libraries, and for various interest groups, festival workshops, etc. In 2006, he presented his monograph titled "The Big bang Of Bluegrass Music" (describing the origins of bluegrass 1938 - 1946) to the worlds first International Music Symposium at the University of Kentucky at Bowling Green. He has also been very active in radio, television, and film work, producing weekly shows on country and bluegrass music over a 21 year period on various commercial and public stations. Peter currently maintains three music-related websites, a music blog, and an entertainment service company, "BlueGrass West!", based in the Santa Ynez Valley in Southern California. Peter performs tunes and songs from the heart of America's musical treasure chest. His shows can include fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Well-known as a historian and teacher, Peter is first and foremost an entertainer, sharing his respect, energy and love for the music with his fellow musicians, friends, and audiences.
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