continued from yesterday: Music Merit Badge, Interm. Level

Interesting facts about George are as follows, in no particular order other than their fascinating-ness:

  • Born in 1898 in Brooklyn, New York to Russian immigrant parents, Morris and Rosa
  • Real name? Jakob Gershowitz
  • You may have heard of his famous brother, Ira (Morris and Rosa must have been proud!)
  • George quit school at age 15 and took a job as a pianist for a publisher on Tin Pan Alley
  • His first hit was “Swanee” (1918)
  • In 1936 George was commissioned by RKO Pictures to write the score for the movie, Shall We Dance? with Fred Astaire (ahhh, even swoony-er) and Ginger Rogers
  • George died at the young age of 38, following a brain operation
  • Some of George (and Ira’s) most loved hits, songs, and musicals are Porgy and Bess, Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Funny Face, Someone to Watch Over Me, Our Love is Here to Stay, Lady Be Good, and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

And you are welcome for getting some fabulous melodies stuck in your noggin!

My musician?

Steve Martin

  • Steve was born in 1945 in Waco, TX
  • As a teenager he performed magic tricks and sold guide books at Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm (I bet he was one entertaining adolescent, don’t you?)
  • He was a writer for the Sonny and Cher Show (’72-’73) but found instant stardom when he guest hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live in ’77.
  • Steve became a famous actor, writer, and comedian, but how many know of his musical talents? (Other than playing the demented dentist in Little Shop of Horrors, I mean).
  • Steve first picked up the banjo when he was around 17 years of age. He has claimed in several interviews and in his autobiography, “Born Standing Up”, that he used to take 33rpm bluegrass records and slow them down to 16 rpm, all while tuning his banjo down, so the notes would sound the same. Steve was able to pick out each note, and perfect his playing.
  • The banjo was a staple in Steve’s stand-up shows and even on his comedy albums. In fact, turn over his last comedy album, The Steve Martin Brothers, (1981) and you’ll hear Steve playing banjo with a bluegrass band.
  • In 2001, he really got groovin’, and won Best Country Instrumental Performance at the Grammy Awards in 2002.
  • He then won another Grammy in 2010 for Best Bluegrass Album.
  • Steve has performed with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Steep Canyon Rangers, Edie Brickell, and Dolly Parton, and has been on the Grand Ol’ Opry and A Prairie Home Companion, not to mention on lots of television appearances and on tour.
  • In 2010, Steve created the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, an award established to reward artistry and bring greater visibility to bluegrass performers. The prize includes a $50,000 cash award, a bronze sculpture, and a chance to perform with Martin on the Late Show With David Letterman.

What a couple of amazing guys, huh? Makes me want to brush off the ol’ musical instrument and get to making some sweeeeet music … or is that the Expert Level Badge? I hear it calling me: it sounds like a banjo playing Lady Be Good.

I’ve always wanted a theme song.


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I always wanted to learn the banjo. The Steele strings make it hard to use until you can get the hang of finger picks and thick callouses on your fingertips! Love those bluegrass pickers who can really make the instrument shine.

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