“Yep, that was 35 years ago,” Martin quipped.
When introducing the Steep Canyon Rangers, Martin said he doesn’t “ think of them as my band, I look at it more like I am their celebrity.”
In the past few years comedian, writer, actor, musician, director, and renaissance man Steve Martin has performed at the White House, late night television talk shows and even at New Orleans’ Jazzfest and even “walked off with a Grammy.”
Later, I found out I had actually won it,” he commented semi-seriously.
About the performing in the White House, Martin said it had to be one of the “highlights of the President’s life.”
“I saw my name outside on the drive to the theater tonight,” Martin told the enthusiastic crowd, “with the words ‘sold out.’……and then I thought…HOW RUDE!”
People expecting to hear “King Tut” his 1978 mega-hit, or see a stand-up routine with an arrow in his head, soon realized Martin has evolved into something much more, and appears to be enjoying it with the passion he deserves to experience.
Martin admitted even his manager was bewildered when he announced he wanted to tour with his banjos and the North Carolina band.
He compared it to someone opening the morning paper and saying, “Oh look, honey … I see Jerry Seinfeld is doing an evening of original songs he’s written for the bassoon. We’ve got to go see that! Because that’s what he does best!”
Born in Waco, Texas, Martin said he moved to California when he was five “leaving behind a wife and two kids.”
As a teenager he learned to pick the banjo in two styles which he was “demonstrating tonight.”
“One is the three-finger in the style of Earl Scruggs and the five-finger claw hammer, which sounds a bit like a Kuma Sutra sex position,” he explained.
All kidding aside, Martin was not kidding about playing the banjo and proved beyond anyone’s doubt that his creative talents go way beyond comedy and screen writing. He is absolutely among the best at banjo.
He also was not kidding about picking the best bluegrass band to tour with. The Steep Canyon Rangers consist of an extremely talented Nicky Sanders (fiddle), Graham Sharp (lead banjo),Woody Platt (guitarists and vocalist, aka Babaloo Torquemada, according to Martin), Mike Guggino (mandolin), and Charles Humphrey III (bass).
“People come to me and they say, ‘Steve, why a music career? Why now?’ And I say, ‘Hey, you guys are my band!’”
Almost all the songs performed, like "Pitkin County Turnaround," "Daddy Played The Banjo," "Great Remember," and “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs,” were written by Martin.
“Jubilation Day,” “Go Away, Stop, Turn Around, Come Back,” and “Wally on the Run” were also offered.
Rare Bird Alert, the band and Martin’s collaborative album, earned them several nominations from the International Bluegrass Music Association.
“It went to No. 1 on the bluegrass charts,” Martin bragged, “and on the pop charts it went to No. 10,227.”