Virtual Busking


verb  UK       to play music or sing in a public place so that the people who are there will give money.

Syn.              […play music, perform, rock out, jam, improvise, accompany,
raise-the-roof (idiom)…]


In the early 1975, I found myself on the streets of Manhattan with a fiddle under my chin, a fiddle case open on the street before me, busking at the northwest corner of 53rd and Fifth Avenue with my back to steps leading to a side entrance to Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, making a living.

In the midday hours, I earned enough money in two hours of busking five days a week to make a deposit, first and last months’ rent, and feed myself to boot.

In the spring of 1976, I found myself in the same situation in Dublin, Ireland. The bank teller’s union struck and closed the banks. What little money I had saved was a little too safely locked up in the bank.

Everyone else in the country knew this was coming and had transferred money from their banks to their post office accounts, but I’d been camping and missed the news.

So, I started playing the fiddle on the streets of Dublin, in a walk through arcade at the foot of the Moore Street market or by the great arch at Stephen’s Green.

And in a much poorer country and city, I was given as much per hour for my trouble as I made in Manhattan! The Irish love good music and, catch them on pay day with money in their pockets, and they’re as generous a people as you might wish for.

It was there I first heard the term “Busking.”

It has been a long time since I’ve been out busking. I played some, more for fun than money in the French Quarter in New Orleans back just before Katrina hit. A little open-air music is good for us all now and then.

With the loss of gigs all over, right through September, busking looks like a pretty good option again. But, given the current threats to health, gathering an audience indoors–or out–is simply out of the question.

So, even our busking has moved online:

  • If you enjoy my work;
  • If you watch part of a live-streaming show;
  • If you stream my music from online sources;
  • If you watch videos of my live performances;
  • If you support my educational mission and my commitment to balancing America’s idea of itself as a mixed-race–rather than a white–culture;

Please consider making a contribution of any size to help see us through to the time
when we can gather again under the lights, the moon, or the sun, to celebrate music and life again.
Donate via PayPal or sign up at Patreon to be a patron, which opens up the library of resources we are building there.

The Cattail Music store is always open for CD and DVD sales; I’m teaching a ton of Skype sessions on blues and slide guitar technique, claw-hammer banjo, and vocal coaching (lessons from a white blues singer). All these help.

But losing the live shows has really hurt us. And your contributions–this new, gift-oriented economy–have become critical to the survival of artists, arts organizations and venues of all kinds.

So, wash-up, stay safe; mask-up, and be cool. Contribute when you can.

My thanks to each of you.

verb  UK
to play music or sing in a public place so that the people who are there will give money.

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