FRUKie’s favourite yodelling banjo player Curtis Eller popped into the vicars virtual tea garden for a chat prior to his UK tour.
Hi Curtis thanks for doing this interview for FRUKie do we find you well ?
I’m doing very well, thanks. I’ve just returned from a trip to the aquarium with my daughter.
Ah yes the georgous Daisy Josephine, I’ve seen pictures of you with her on your myspace, You always look so happy when you’re with her. I see you’re back in the UK next month, what brings you back across the Atlantic so often?
I’ve always gotten a very warm reception from British audiences…I’m not sure why. I grew up in Detroit so maybe I have an affinity for the citizens of burned-out industrial towns. Maybe they like knowing that the United States has something to offer besides bad TV and crooked politicians. Or maybe all those old George Formby fans just need something to do on the weekends. I’ll take a sympathetic ear where ever I can find it. I love playing the UK and I’ll keep coming back as long as they keep letting me in!
I’ve seen you perform three times now, your set is very physical and full of acrobatic moves where do these come from?
You can’t be a rock & roll singer if you don’t have good moves. I’m just doing my job the best way I know how. Elvis Presley, David Lee Roth and Al Jolson are all big influences. I also steal a lot of stage moves from silent film comedians like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. So far my knees are holding out.
Didn’t you travel with the circus as a youngster?
My dad ran a small local circus in Detroit when I was growing up, but it’s not like we were traveling circus folk or anything like that. He was a gym teacher by profession and circus just happened to be his obsession for a few years when I was a kid. I learned to walk on my hands, juggle fire and ride a unicycle. I haven’t really figured out how to work that stuff into my act, but they’re all good skills to maintain.
Your songs reside in 20’s America, why the fascination with this era?
I do like movies from the 20’s, but my songs aren’t really restricted to any specific time. The first lyric on my latest record mentions John Wilkes Booth, Fidel Castro, Jack Ruby, Richard Nixon and civil war general William Tecumseh Sherman…which covers the years 1865 to 1973. I try to dig up the weird stories from American history no matter how old or recent. You can never tell when there’s going to be a sweatshop fire, molasses factory explosion or circus train derailment. It could happen tomorrow…and somebody’s got to be there with a banjo to write a song about it!
You perform in New York a lot, which Venue would you recommend to FRUKie listeners who may be visiting the city?
There’s little dive on the lower east side called Banjo Jim’s that lives up to it’s name. As you might guess, that’s my main haunt these days. It’s one of the few places left in New York City where people like to sing along! There’s another fantastic joint out in Brooklyn called Jalopy. In the day it’s a music school/ukulele shop. At night it’s perfect little vaudeville theatre. A real gem tucked away under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway!
I hate the term genre but if you had to put your style in one could you and what would it be?
I reckon it’s just another kind of rock & roll music. Maybe it’s dressed up in a funny costume and photographed in sepia-tone, but it’s still just rock & roll. People tend to think it’s a lot more old timey than it really is because I sing about civil war generals and silent film stars, but the song structures are pretty modern. I might not be the most qualified to answer this question!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to FRUKie. We hope you have a great tour and you never know you may meet some FRUKie’s along the way !
Well if any FRUKie’s what to come up and say hi I’d be more than happy to meet them. Don’t be strangers ! Curtis Eller will be in the UK from the 2nd to the 13th April. If you can get to see him I assure you, you won’t regret it.
Regards from a very busy tea garden.