AuthorTopic: Derroll Adams Website

Fred Tosi

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Fred writes
« on: December 16th, 2021 »

From New York to Antwerp: How I Wound Up at a Youra Marcus Seminar Hosted by Danny Adams
This story begins roughly 45 years ago. Back in the mid-70’s when I was living in the Midwest, I ordered a few folk albums from a catalogue, one of which was Derroll Adams’ Feelin’ Fine recorded in England. I remembered it as being one of those very few records that you could put on the turntable and had no desire to lift the needle. I’ve gotten rid of many albums over the years, but this one stayed with me.
Fast forward to 2015 and a section of the Stevenson Trail in southeastern France. My wife and I were hiking a portion of this trail with Carl Bonn from near Bonn and his wife. I befriended Carl back in 1988 as a result of a mutual Dylan interest, but that is another story. At one of inns along the trail we met a Frenchman who’s name eludes me, possibly Sebastian, who seemed to have only one English word in his vocabulary- “Banjoman”. Somehow the wiring in my brain allowed me to make the connection which probably had lain dormant for many years and I told Carl, “He’s referring to Derroll Adams”.
Once we were back in Germany, the computer driven search began and Carl being even more obsessive than me managed to track down Danny and develop a friendship. Yet it was me who wound up tracking down most of Derroll’s albums and winding up with a Framus Adams model banjo.
This brings us to the real subject of this piece, Youra Marcus. In October of 2018, Danny hosted a wonderful two-day banjo seminar, concluding with an intimate in home concert. Youra was the last living link in the chain between Derroll’s unique style. Carl had taken up banjo a year or so before, while I knew a few chords which were of no consequence in this playing style. It was all in the strumming hand which one could watch for days, years even without coming close to mastering it. Youra was very patient with the four of us participants, only one of whom was a proficient player. Between lessons he would strum and occasionally sing songs, most of them associated with Derroll. At one point he strummed The Wagoner’s Lad and it was so beautiful I actually teared up. I didn’t record it because I thought by turning on my cell, I would somehow break the spell. He played it again for me and it was great, but not quite the same. The evening concert was wonderful with a great sense of bonding by all of us fortunate enough to be there. The entire experience was unforgettable and I’m grateful that I was there and was able to spend that time with this remarkable man.

Fred Tosi, New York
Mr. Tosi’s album, The Ravages of Time, is available on Amazon and CDBaby

Carl Bonn

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Carl writes
« on: December 16th, 2021 »

So back to Belgium for a few days. Leaving again tomorrow. But when I got to Antwerp the other day, I was walking down the city, lovely city it is, and I seen a place, it was written “Surrealist Exhibition”. I’m a smart guy and I said: “Let’s go in and see some paintings, you know.” So I walked in the hall, very narrow room and nothing on the wall and finally, right down there, there was one guy. And one painting. The guy was a painter. He had a blouse. Spotted. The painting was so cute. It was a little path going into the forest. Lovely. But not surrealist. So I told him. You know. “It’s a good job, but not surrealist.” Then the guy was so sad. He had two big tears. So he took the path and disappeared into the forest.

(Youra Marcus - Oct. 18th, 2018. Introduction to his concert at Danny Adams’s place.)

Way back in 2016, my friend Fred Tosi from Queens in New York City introduced me to the music of Derroll Adams. Right away, I was fascinated by the style of Derroll’s playing the banjo. By accident, I met Danny, his widow, launching the release of a Derroll Adams LP in a little brasserie in Antwerp.
Unfortunately, there are just but a few snippets of filmed material to be useful for the scholar of Derroll’s techniques. But the footage to be found on YouTube emphasizes more or less on Derroll’s way of singing and performing, rather than to his style of playing the banjo. As easy as it seems, the Derroll Adams Style is a very distinctive combination of different licks and techniques, a style only Derroll himself was able to play and that seemed to have been taken into oblivion with his passing.
Walter de Peuter who had known Derroll in those days, has come up with some extraordinary tabs of Derroll’s songs that were released on Derroll’s homepage, although he frankly admitted that the maestro’s style and his way of playing the banjo was never really fully revealed in detail at all and maybe was lost forever.
Now, way back in 2018, Youra Marcus, a French banjo picker of high reputation and a long time friend of Derroll’s, had come to Europe for a short visit, arriving from his exile in Thailand. As Youra seemingly was the last one to really know how to play like Derroll did, he intended delivering two Master Classes to Derroll’s scholars, one to be held in a village in Brittany/France, the other one at Danny’s home in Antwerp.
Now, this was a long way before Covid and a long way before the world as we once knew it, came to an end.
By sheer accident, Fred was visiting me just around this time and together we joined Youra’s Master Class. Knowing this meeting to be historical, I asked Fred to film Youra during these classes as good as it could get, trying to catch both of his hands playing at the same time. Filming the Derroll Adams Style for posterity, During the first two days of Youra’s classes, we had a real warm Indian Summer in Antwerp with temperatures way up in the eighties, which is not too bad for October. But on the last day you could feel that the weather was about to change, with autumn time finally getting closer, although we were still able to have a last morning session outside on Danny’s veranda.
That morning, just before finishing his Master Classes, Youra had a session with Wim van de Weeg, a wonderful banjo player in his own way. Wim was the only one of us attending the classes who was really leveling with Youra’s skills of playing. The rest of us were just novices ... if at all. This fact must have been rather discouraging for the old fellow.
It was after this session that he played this fascinating rendition of The Valley - to be found in the footage attached. I guess this is the definite version of this song, just like Derroll himself would have played it, had he still been alive. Fred did a great job filming these historical moments.
In the meantime, Danny had stuck a sign in her window, saying “Tonight performing: Youra Marcus. Home concert.
Then Patrick Ferryn, the famous Belgian stage director, had arrived, carrying two huge pots of soup for the guests attending Youra’s concert in the evening.
After the last session, Danny and Youra went shopping in the city, as the Frenchman wanted to get some new cowboy boots to take back to Thailand. Unfortunately, the Western Store was closed. When Youra came back, he seemed to be very depressed about this.
As for the concert, I have never experienced music more intense as on that evening. It was just like “in the old days”. People from all over Europe had arrived at Danny’s place, sitting on the floor, leaning against the walls, stunningly listening to Youra’s sheer breathtaking performance ... maybe this was the last concert he gave in his life.
Anybody attending was blessed.
It was with great sadness that I heard of his death in 2020. His passing went along with a second spell of Covid infections. In the whole wide world, the death toll was getting high and higher. So in late autumn of that year did we not only lose a friend and a great musician, we were also facing a change of times.
I was in Belgium for a few days and when I got to Antwerp, I was walking down the city, lovely city that is, and I saw a sign in the window, saying “Meditative Banjo Concert Tonight.”
I’m a smart guy and I said: “Let’s go and listen to some music, you know.” So I walked into a living-room, very narrow room that was and there was this tall wiry guy with white hair. The guy was a musician. He had a banjo in his hand. His playing was so cute. When he played, he was sort of throwing notes all around the room that were somehow clinging to the walls. I told him, “You know, I like your music, but is it really meditation?”
It was after the concert that the guy got up. He looked so sad. He had two big tears in his eyes. He packed his banjo in its case, turned around to the wall and disappeared in his notes.

Carl Bonn, Germany

Wizz Jones

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Wizz writes
« on: August 2020 »

Meeting with Derroll Adams and Jack Elliott at the Yellow Door in London in the late Fifties
On a very early Sunday morning in the late 1950’s we were emerging blearily out of Ken Colyer’s Jazz Club after an all-nighter. Usually about a dozen of us would detach ourselves from the crowd and head towards Waterloo to catch the early morning “milk train” to Brighton, toting Guitars, Washboards and Kazoos ready for a day of busking fun at the seaside.
“Let’s not go to Brighton today” a friend suggested as we crossed Hungerford Bridge “Why don’t we go down to The Yellow Door and see if Jack and Derroll are still there.”
As a young budding guitarist obsessed with Woody Guthrie and all things Folk America I had been following Jack Elliot and Derroll Adams and had made it to practically all of their shows in pubs around London (apart of course not to The Blue Angel Nightclub where we were told they had a regular gig).
“Where’s the yellow Door?” I asked “Oh it’s a dump in Bayliss Road but there’s always something happening there!”
Somebody leant out of a top floor window as we knocked on the ramshackle yellow painted front door and seeing this ragged crowd of young layabouts he shouted “Piss off!”
As we were about to give up, the door slowly opened and there stood Derroll Adams! He was always the most genial and approachable of the duo whilst Jack, back in those days had carefully built himself an inscrutable James Dean persona, (Derroll told us once that they had actually known Dean).
“Hey you kids – what are you all up to?’ ‘We’re going down to the pub, d’ya fancy coming with us?’ “OK” said Derroll “I’ll go and find my banjo!” As we left he told us that Jack might come on down later. Which of course he did - wearing an old furry “yogi bear” type coat over his pyjamas.
It seems that some friends with me knew all along that there was usually a regular Sunday morning session going on at the Spanish Patriot pub and this one I believe became quite legendary.
Just ask anybody who was there that day!

Wizz Jones