inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #226 of 284: Bill Amatneek (billamatneek) Mon 27 Oct 03 19:47
My sense is that the old folks, the folks who were there for the
liberation, have not forgotten our role and are still grateful. For the
younger folks, WWII and the liberation of France is a textbook matter
anyway, a piece of history they missed, so there is nothing for them to
forget, perhaps.

Certainly right now the French seem to be a tad befuddled over what we
are doing in Iraq and why we are there, as I hear it. The Tour de
France happened right after the war in Iraq began, as I recall, and
from what I heard from Americans who were there for the Tour, they were
treated very well, never jeered, never heckled, always treated
hospitably, which was good to hear.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #227 of 284: surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Mon 27 Oct 03 22:11
Say Bill -

You have mentioned that you are a storyteller, and I am unclear on what 
that means.  I gather there is a specific scene relating to this.  Could 
you give me more of an understanding of what you are referring to?
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #228 of 284: Bill Amatneek (billamatneek) Tue 28 Oct 03 08:19
There is an American storytelling revival movement that's been going
on for about 28 years. (Some say the art and practice of storytelling
has been dying since the invention of the Gutenberg printing press.) At
the local level, this movement is manifested by so-called story swap
groups. A bunch of folks get together once a month to tell and listen
to stories. 

Stories fall into two broad categories, traditional and personal.
Personal stories are (allegedly) true stories that happened to the
teller. Traditional stories include, folk stories, tall tales, legends,
myths, fairy tales, spooky stories (here comes Halloween) and other
types, I'm sure. 

The length and breadth of stories and storytelling is fairly
breathtaking. There are any number of tellers who can reduce an
audience to tears. Many are high-larious, others, deeply deep. The best
are magical, transporting. Certainly storytelling is NOT for children
anymore. At most storytelling events there are very few kids in
attendance, and most of the tellers do not pander to them.

There are storytelling festivals. The biggest and oldest in America
happens every October in Jonesborough, Tennesse, the home of the NSN,
the National Storytelling Network, our country's largest storytelling
organization. (Their url is From there you can
probably track groups and events in your state.) 

There are many other state and regional storytelling groups around the
country who also sponsor storytelling festivals. In California it's
the Storytelling Association of Alta California (SAAC is at

Enterprising folks also put on storytelling concerts, and workshops.
There are even a few storytelling certificate programs around, usually
attached to a local JC or college.

If you haven't been to a storytelling concert or festival, you owe it
to yourself to check 'em out. The swap groups are the easiest type of
storytelling event to access -- local, free -- but a swap can be a
mixed bag. You'll hear some great telling and some poor telling.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #229 of 284: Dave (drsmith) Tue 28 Oct 03 08:32

Oh, so, I'm guessing U. Utah Philips would be considered part of that
tradition then, I guess?

Unrelated aside -- Bill, I thought you might get a chuckle out of this:
I stopped by a coworker's office (he's a banjo player, someone I play
with occasionally), and told him, "I'm reading this book I think you'll
enjoy, stories told by Bill Amatneek."  I was about to add, "Remember,
from that first DGQ album?" but I didn't get a chance -- as soon as I
said your name he said, "A book by Wild Bill?!  I'd love to read it!"
Then he explained that he had some recordings of old DGQ concerts,
and that Grisman had introduced you to the audience as Wild Bill.

Which led me to wonder: Was Dawg calling you Wild Bill simply because
he liked to liven up the intros by giving everyone nicknames (and Wild
was just an obvious nickname to prepend before Bill),  or did you really
earn the Wild Bill moniker?  (Are we back to talking about groupies again?
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #230 of 284: Bill Amatneek (billamatneek) Tue 28 Oct 03 08:34
I'll be doing a storytelling concert at the Freight and Salvage in
Berkeley, CA, on November 9, telling stories from the book,
accompanying myself on banjo and guitar. 

Sharing the bill will be Charlie Chin. (If you've heard the Buffalo
Springfield cut, Bluebird, you've heard Charlie play banjo.) But as a
teller he is amazing. Charlie tells traditional Chinese stories in the
"teahouse" style. His stories are nested within each other.

He'll start a story filled with colorful characters. Then, one of the
characters will start telling a story, also filled with multiple
characters. Then one of the people in that story will tell a story.
He'll finish the story, which leads back to the second story. That
teller will finish the story, which leads back to the first story,
which finally finishes out. This takes 45 minutes or so. Every
character in every story is clear and vibrant. 

Charlie studied with one of the great Chinese traditional tellers, and
is a master teller, certainly one of this country's top 3 tellers. He
is spell-binding, mesmerizing, magical. I cannot say enough about him.
If you're in the Bay Area, quite apart from my participation in this
show, I heartily recommend checking Charlie out. He is unforgettable.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #231 of 284: Bill Amatneek (billamatneek) Tue 28 Oct 03 08:42
Yes, I love Utah's storytelling. He is delightful, informative, and

We all had nicknames in the DGQ. David, of course was Dawg, though
Tony sometimes called him "Dawgie" (or however one would spell that).
Tony Rice was Tee. Darol Anger was Dexter. Todd Phillips was Pops, and
I was Wild Bill. I think Tee originally pinned that moniker on me. I
don't know what I did to deserve that nickname, but it stuck and I
don't mind.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #232 of 284: flying jenny (jenslobodin) Tue 28 Oct 03 14:35
The Freight and Salvage evening sounds great. Must get there. Thanks.
Wow, Charlie Chin! 
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #233 of 284: surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Wed 29 Oct 03 08:20
What was your process, Bill, in getting the stories to paper - did you start with them as 
oral stories and then put them on paper?  

How would you compare the process of oral storytelling vs. written stories?  What do you 
find to be the specific pleasures of each?
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #234 of 284: Berliner (captward) Wed 29 Oct 03 08:26
Good question, because I write both for print and for radio, and I
have to be very careful not to let the assumptions I use for one guide
the text for the other. 
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #235 of 284: Bill Amatneek (billamatneek) Wed 29 Oct 03 11:22
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #236 of 284: Tim Fox (timfox) Wed 29 Oct 03 11:34
So, Bill, I see you've figured out scribble.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #237 of 284: Yeah, but I'm a cute geek. (tinymonster) Wed 29 Oct 03 11:39
Heh  :)
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #238 of 284: Bill Amatneek (billamatneek) Wed 29 Oct 03 11:46
<233> <234>
Some of my stories began as told tales and some as written stories.
There are many differences between telling and writing, more than I am
consciously aware of, but I'll try to hit a few:

I had a storytelling coach who is now deceased, unfortunately. When I
told him a story that had started out as a written piece, he would
invariably say that it sounded "writerly." In writing we use
constructs, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary that we would never use in
speech. Written grammar is more formal, written vocabulary uses longer
words, more academic words, words that we would never use in speech.
Put those words and that grammar into a teller's mouth and they sound,
well, writerly, stilted, possibly pompous, like they were read off a

For writers, words, exposition, and description are important. For a
teller, moving the plot forward is the only important issue. I once
heard a great teller, Donald Davis, say the following in mid story:

"Want to know what my uncle Ned looked like? My uncle Ned was
entirely bald except for three hairs that stood straight up from the
back of his head. Now you know what my uncle Ned looked like."

This is wonderful storytelling, and would never occur in writing. In
writing, the author would have "exposed" what Ned looked like: face,
hair, body, build, clothes, ... whatever. It is the words he chooses
for the description by which we judge his writing. "Brilliant light
prose" matters in writing. 

In storytelling, it's all about plot. A teller cannot afford to waste
time and words on exposition because he would lose his audience. Davis
knows that. He took one sentence to describe his uncle, and of course
he didn't describe him. He is aware that everyone knows someone who is
completely bald except for three hairs that stick up. It doesn't
matter to him that the image you and I pull up is different from what
his uncle looks like. All he cares is that we have AN image in our
minds to go forward with as the plot moves along. 

Actually, listener participation is an important concept in
storytelling. You under-describe the scene because you want the reader
to fill in the image with his own imagination. 

I had a passage, long ago struck, in the story "Paris Remembers" that
described the carnage in a French town. It went something like:
"The town was bombed down to the gutters. Ten thousand people died,
many of them hideously burned to death in the ensuing firestorm. In
the days that followed, bodies were stacked up everywhere, filling the
air with the stench of rotting flesh."

My coach said that I had left no room for the reader to imagine the
scene on his/her own. He said, "Instead, how about, 
'The town was bombed to the gutters, ... wiped out.' "

How the story sounds to the ear is also important to me as a teller.
For this reason, rhythm is very important to me, as is internal rhyme.
Rhyme pricks the ear, makes the listener remember. Rhythm brings the
listener along, as a wave brings the surfer along. Blank pages, blank
spaces, page breaks, drop caps, photos, even the use of the ellipsis,
are all part of bringing rhythm to the printed page.

>What do you find to be the specific pleasures of each?
Well, I enjoy public speaking, public storytelling. Telling -- once I
get rolling, relax and slow down -- is pleasurable to me. There is
pressure to remember all the important details that must be covered
for the end to arrive with a bang, and as I age my memory is not
necessarily improving. Certainly an impending big gig, such as the one
at the Freight, does make me nervous. So, that's not fun. BTW, that the
story must be told -- never read -- is the one and only rule of

Telling is closer to speaking and that's easy. Writing can be like
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #239 of 284: Bill Amatneek (billamatneek) Wed 29 Oct 03 11:47
Yeah, I composed a post in Wurd, copied it into the response box and
posted it. All the apostrophe's had been replaced with question marks.
There were other substitution errors. So, I scribbled. Pretty cool.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #240 of 284: from MARSHALL FREEDLAND (tnf) Wed 29 Oct 03 12:13

Marshall Freedland writes:

Bill, your book brought back so many memories, even memories I never
had!  Thank you for dipping into that well (in both meanings of the
word) and sharing your experience with us.

Bill, isn't there more of an openness among bluegrassers than among jazz
players?  I can recall going to Sunset Park on Sundays, driving there
two hours from north of Philadelphia, where I lived when I was in high
school, and actually talking with people like members of Monroe's
band(s), Jim and Jesse's band -- and even with them. Monroe was not very
open to picking and frowned or prohibited band members from picking in
the parking lot.  Yeah, out in the parking lot, behind the stage area.
They were... so accessible.  Jazz players at clubs?  I can't imagine
them being as open, but maybe...?  Does it matter?  Probably not.  The
music these 'folks' made is what matters most, jazz and/or bluegrass.

Again, thank you for sharing your experiences.  Great book, Bill.

--//arshall in //ia//i  ©¿©¬

"Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize."  - Tom Lehrer

This tagline was selected at random by the computer from a huge list.
Wednesday, October 29, 2003  12:20 PM
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #241 of 284: Bill Amatneek (billamatneek) Wed 29 Oct 03 13:34
Well, Marshall, I think you're right on both counts. There are zero
degrees of separation between professional bluegrass pickers and their
audiences. Both are just folks and they hang together all the time.
Although pro jazz players are for the most part friendly I'm sure, this
practice of hanging with their audiences, playing together at
festivals in the parking lot, ... I don't believe goes on like it does
in bluegrass.

And, does it matter? As you said, probably not. It just points out
that these two musics are, in many regards, different American
cultures. And I love 'em both.

Thanks for your kind words, Marshall, I appreciate that.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #242 of 284: surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Thu 30 Oct 03 09:34
I had a similar impression about there being a stronger sense of community amongst 
bluegrass players - or at least the community is more visible.  On the other hand, I 
mostly play in the jazz scene and when my truck was stolen while it had some gear in it I 
got a lot of offers of help from all sorts of musicians - jazz, rock, what have you.  Many 
of these offers were from fellow bassists. I think bassists tend to be supportive people - 
after all, it's our primary musical role.

I haven't seen any jazz potlucks and very few parking lot jams.  I was very surprised a 
few years ago to meet some of the best Bay Area rock musicians and find they were totally 
thrown by the idea of a pickup band meeting on the bandstand and playing decently - we 
were doing this at a memorial for Neal Schon's dad, and Schon sat in on a couple of tunes.  
He asked us how long we had been playing together, and I looked at my watch and said "45 
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #243 of 284: I yam what I yam (nboy) Thu 30 Oct 03 10:18

When I had my Ibanez L-5 stolen about ten years ago, Tony Marcus just gave
me a guitar to use.  I ended up buying it and now recentlyt selling it.
Musicians I think are supportive people.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #244 of 284: surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Thu 30 Oct 03 10:31
Yeah, that sounds right.  I was more surprised by the supportiveness of bass players since 
it's relatively rare to meet other other jazz bassists - we all tend to be on different 
jobs, so there's rarely more than one of us in one place at one time.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #245 of 284: John Ross (johnross) Thu 30 Oct 03 11:05
There's certainly a long tradition of "after-hours" jams among jazz folks,
wandering in from their own gigs to sit in with others. But that's not
exactly the same as the bluegrassers' parking lot sessions, which tend to be
much more open to pickers with varying skill levels.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #246 of 284: Not that I really KNOW anything, but... (tinymonster) Thu 30 Oct 03 11:49
Maybe it has something to do with the bluegrassers being closer to the
tradition of Irish sessions?
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #247 of 284: Berliner (captward) Thu 30 Oct 03 11:54
Nah, it has to do with them being rural, rather than urban, musicians,
I think. 
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #248 of 284: "Am I in Sync?" (tinymonster) Thu 30 Oct 03 12:05
(Oh, going way back to <139>:  Thanks for asking.  I tend to be more
involved in the organization than in the composing itself, but I've
done some small chamber pieces, and I have a few pop songs from back
when I only knew how to write a melody line and lyrics.  I'll probably
go back and arrange them at some point.

In the meantime, I sometimes help out at our concerts by playing
piano, singing (alto), or supplying a little percussion.)

Slipped by Ed with another likely factor.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #249 of 284: Tim Fox (timfox) Thu 30 Oct 03 12:27
For what it's worth, in the Gypsy jazz community, at Samois and the
various Django fests, these things are apparently non-stop, all comers
welcome, djams.
inkwell.vue.198 : Bill Amatneek, "Acoustic Stories"
permalink #250 of 284: I'm on the Chet Atkins Diet. Pass the BBQ, please. (rik) Thu 30 Oct 03 12:58
There a "cutting" culture amongst a lot of jazzers, and a lot more
macho competiton.    A parking lot bluegrass band will slow down so that
those with lesser chops can keep up.  Jazz jams can be a bit more heartless.


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