Friday Morning Street Banjo Music

When I am in DC, on weekdays I go to my office near the US Capitol. It is on the Senate side, so for those who know the city I take the train to Union Station and walk a few blocks. Like many train stations, Union Station attracts street musicians.

While we all have heard the stories of undiscovered diamonds busking in the streets, the truth is many of the musicians are just okay. A lot of it is singing performed over karaoke loops. But it’s all great — as someone who has tried it himself, I admire anyone who has the courage to get up in front of people and perform. And I love music.

The unwritten deal of street music is, if you stop and listen you are honor-bound to drop a dollar (or more) in the hat. Sometimes, to be honest, I just walk on by because even though I want to support, I am in a hurry, feel stressed, the music doesn’t grab me, or I don’t have any cash on me and don’t want to break the deal.

This morning, a clear, crisp, bright Fall day, I was stopped short by this:

 

 

That’s Brian Williams, playing the banjo. I was not only moved to stop and listen, but to talk to him a while. The figure he cut, and his sound, just entered my spirit. I asked if I could video him and he agreed.

Brian is a multi instrumentalist (guitar, cello, bass, banjo) who has been playing since 1968. Recently his guitar was stolen and he was without instrument. He says he met “an Irish man in Georgetown” who was having trouble finishing a song. Brian finished it for him, and in return the man gave him this banjo. He was going to sell it, but the music store told him it was a vintage 1930’s banjo, so he kept it.

I hope you enjoy his music.

Published by

Brad Rourke

Executive editor of issue guides and program officer at the Kettering Foundation.

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