Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Billy Faier the Banjo Legend
Every year for nine years in a row, Andy has performed at the Texas Cowboy Poetry gathering in Alpine, TX. Two years ago after one of his shows, a man by the name of Billy Faier introduced himself to Andy. Immediately, he recognized the name - it was Billy Faier from Ramblin' Jack Elliot's song "912 Greens", the incredible banjo player. Last year when we were in Alpine we stopped by Billy's house in Marathon (just 30 minutes from Alpine), but Billy had just had heart surgery, so we didn't stay too terribly long. However, I was extremely impressed with this 77 year old man who played Bach on the banjo.
This year, however, we had the great privilege of spending extended periods of time throughout the weekend with Billy. Billy joined Andy on stage at his gigs in Alpine, we went with Billy to his gig in Marfa, and we had a great jam session at his house. During this time, we heard stories about folk musicians Billy knew and knows, including Woody Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Pete Seeger, Mississippi John Hurt, Leadbelly, and many others. We heard traditional folk songs the way they are supposed to be heard. We heard stories of the Dust Bowl, the Civil Rights movement, and the rise and importance of work unions in our country, and the importance of American folk music in all of these things. Not only is Billy an incredibly talented man and fascinating (he hitchhiked all across South America and is an expert juggler), but he his also a very kind man. We spent the weekend with a piece of American history. I am now privileged to call this piece of American history my friend.
I highly recommend checking out his website, www.billyfaier.com, and buying some of his albums. Pete Seeger once introduced Billy as "the best banjo player I have ever heard." I agree with this.