This Year’s Events
All events are open to the public and even if you don’t play a tenor guitar, or any instrument, you are encouraged to come and enjoy this unique, fun, quirky, informative musical experience. “An Evening of Tenor Guitars” is only $15 and the tenor guitar workshops, all four of them are only $60.
The four day tenor guitar weekend starts out THURSDAY, MAY 31 at 7pm at The Sand Trap in Gearhart where THE WANDERERS will perform from 7pm until 9m.
ON FRIDAY, JUNE 1, we will be meeting in front of the Bridgewater Bistro at 10:30 am to get on the 11am Trolley followed by a tenor guitar lunch buffet from 12:30 until 2:30. There is limited seating and a fixed menu so you need to make a reservation by calling 503-325-6777 or 877-357-6777. Not only will you get a great meal for only $20 (beverages not included) but you will hear Lowell “Banana” Levinger of The Youngbloods, play his five string tenor guitar and perform songs from his latest album, “Even Grandpas Get The Blues”.
Tune in to KMUN between 3 and 4, and listen to Carol Newman’s show “Arts Live and Local” to hear tenor guitarists talk about….tenor guitar.
That same day, Friday, there are two more events planned. Doors open at 6:30 pm at The Astor Street Opry Company Playhouse, who have been very gracious about providing their wonderful space for a sing a long – play a long fundraiser to support KMUN. A donation of $5 or more will get you in to play and sing all kinds of fun folk songs, or whatever songs we can figure to play. It’s going to be one big fun hootenanny. Bring your voices, instruments, and maybe some lyrics would help. The event ends at 9pm.
But Hazel’s Tavern has THE RENEGADE STRING BAND performing from 10pm until midnight with tenor guitar players sitting in. So we’re heading over there right after the sing and play along!
Saturday, June 2, at the Performing Art Center starting at 9am and ending at 4pm, will be four tenor guitar workshops for $60. That comes to only $10 an hour. The workshops are open to the public even if you don’t play an instrument, you will learn a lot, get to ask questions, and hear inside information from Lowell “Banana” Levinger, Spider Murphy and Mark Josephs.
The four day Tenor Guitar weekend culminates on Saturday evening with AN EVENING OF TENOR GUITARS featuring the greatest line up of tenor guitar players in the world. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, for $15, to hear Josh Reynolds and friends, Spider Murphy, Lowell “Banana” Levinger, Myshkin, The Renegade String Band, The Wanderers, Mark Josephs, and special guests for a wonderful evening of tenor guitar music from 7pm until 9:45pm.
Then we are all going over to The Voodoo Room to hear Spider Murphy and his band play from 10pm until midnight!
On Sunday, June 3rd, the fourth and final day, we will meet at The Coffee Girl to jam from 9am until noon. Myshkin, as part of her tenor guitar world tour, will be performing at The Ft George on the last night from 8pm until 11pm.
If you would like to support the Annual Tenor Guitar Gatherings in Astoria, Oregon you can visit: http://www.tenorguitargathering.com/ and buy your tickets to AN EVENING OF TENOR GUITARS, TENOR GUITAR WORKSHOPS, and buy this years T-Shirt!!!
A Brief History of The Tenor Guitar
In the 1900’s the most popular stringed rhythm instrument was the four string tenor banjo, tuned like a cello, CGDA. The tenor banjo added a percussive rhythm sound to large orchestras. As the guitar gradually replaced the tenor banjo in popularity, a simple solution was to put a tenor banjo neck on a guitar body to produce a “guitar like” tone. Part tenor banjo, part guitar, this hybrid instrument, the “tenor guitar” was born out of necessity.
Because the tenor guitar had four strings, people would sometimes tune it like a baritone ukulele, or the top four strings of a guitar DGBE. Nick Reynolds, of The Kingston Trio, did this. Nick was the first inductee to the Tenor Guitar Hall of Fame in a ceremony held here in Astoria in 2011. He is the most well known tenor guitar player of all time.
Tiny Grimes, a jazz player, also tuned his tenor like the top four strings of a guitar. He had small hands and liked the feel of a smaller neck. Some people tune it GDAE, an octave below a mandolin. The shapes of the chords are the same, but their names change.
The Annual Tenor Guitar Gatherings
The Annual Tenor Guitar Gatherings started in 2011, has brought new focus to the instrument. There are many groups and individuals who use the tenor guitar to achieve their musical “voice”. I became aware of Robin Hunte, from Barbados, for example, who started a group in 1962 called The Merrymen. Robin drives the group with his four string tenor guitar. He recently acquired a new Blueridge tenor guitar, made by Saga instruments, one of a small handful of companies that offer new tenor guitars.
I can tell you that more and more people, once they hear and play and learn about a tenor guitar, fall in love with the small size of the instrument and the beautiful sound that comes from it. Accordions, Didgeridoos, Guitars, Harmonicas, Autoharps all have their own festivals. A “Tenor Guitar Gathering” had been long overdue. Astoria and tenor guitars have become a perfect fit.
Tenor Guitar Capital of The World
Astoria, Oregon has become the “unofficially recognized” tenor guitar capital of the world. This year will mark the 3rd Annual Tenor Guitar Gathering and will bring together more tenor guitar players, performers and workshops than ever before. There will be a tenor guitar lunch buffet at the Bridgewater Bistro, a sing a long fundraiser for KMUN at the Astor Street Opry Company Playhouse, workshops and An Evening of Tenor Guitars at The Performing Art Center, tenor guitar music at The Ft George, The Sand Trap, Hazel’s Tavern, The Coffee Girl and The Voodoo Room. We’ll be playing tenor guitars on The Trolley and may be jamming at Gordo’s Astoria Guitar Company.
What People Have To Say
“The 4-string tenor guitar has made a significant contribution to American music and culture. Historically, C. F. Martin & Co. is proud to have defined the tone of tenor guitars for the world and we are excited that there is a resurgence in popularity of these unique and fun instruments.”
Museum, Archives and Special Projects
C. F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, PA
“My Dad, Nick Reynolds, used to say, “It’s all about the music.” I am proud to help support the Annual Tenor Guitar Gatherings in Astoria. The music of The Kingston Trio continues to touch people all over the world. My Dad was a wonderful performer who gave his very best every time he played his tenor guitar and sang with the Trio. It’s comforting to know that he is recognized for his achievement, albeit inadvertently, for his playing of the relatively unknown four string tenor guitar.”
“When The Brothers Four started out at the University of Washington in Seattle we were totally “powered” by the Martin Tenor Guitar. It was the sound of our first 2 or 3 albums recorded for Columbia Records., including our first single release, “Greenfields”. As I think back on it now it seems likely that the trademark sort of open-stringed arpeggio introduction to that recording would have not been possible on anything else but those two Tenor Guitars. A lucky moment!”
The Brothers Four
“I’ve been playing a 1954 Martin Tenor Guitar since 2006. A bout with tendonitis in the left elbow caused me to quit playing the six string guitar for about a year. I bought 1954 Martin to see if the smaller instrument would help with the elbow. I always loved what Nick Reynolds played on his tenor guitar, so it was an easy decision for me to try one out. The elbow healed, the 1954 Martin is fine, and singing partner for the past 53 years, Bill Murlin and I have worked the Tenor into our Wanderers act full time. We look forward to bringing the Martin to Astoria in June!”
Carl Allen, The Wanderers
“I came to tenor guitar through mandolin, after playing guitar for 15 years I picked up a mando and started writing songs on it, then began to do solo shows again and wanted to play those songs, but not so tiny-sounding. My vintage Martin Tenor has a lovely deep tone for such a small instrument, and I swear it is haunted, in a good way, by whatever songs got played on it in it’s youth (the ‘30’s and ‘40’s.) I have written a few songs on it that feel like they were given to me by the instrument, most especially the song Ruby Warbler, that I named my band after. So glad to be coming back to the Gathering, a great chance to get together with other fans of this sweet instrument.”
“The more people are talking about tenors, the more people are playing them. I’m spreading the word everywhere I go. I’m at the Jazz Festival in New Orleans right now, and I can tell you that everyone here loves the tenor.”
“The two most common questions I’m asked about the tenor guitar are, “Why a tenor guitar?” and “What’s the difference between a tenor guitar and a 6 string?” The answer is an easy one. The tenor guitar has a clear, sweet voice of it’s own. It works beautifully as a rhythm instrument, as part of a section or as a stand along solo instrument. I play a Martin size 5 or half size tenor from 1929, a new Martin Custom tenor, a National Reso-phonics tenor with a steel body and an archtop electric tenor made by Paul Lestock of Arrow Guitars and Mandolins. Each guitar has it’s own personality and history.
I went to the Library of Congress and The Smithsonian to research tenor guitars and players when the tenor first grabbed my attention and heart. About 75% of the players I found were black musicians from the early black string bands from the 1920s through about 1935. They were centered in the Midwest around Chicago and St. Louis and also in Louisiana and Alabama.
I’m thankful for the players and builders who are breathing new life into the instrument today. The tenor guitar is a voice from our American past that reaches beautifully into the future. It’s a voice that could have been lost but thanks to the efforts of Mark Josephs, Paul Lestock, Josh Reynolds, Dick Boak and many others in the modern music community the tenor guitar will be with us for a long time to come.”
Marcy Marxer – Two Time Grammy Winner
Tenor Guitar Gathering Organizer
I GREW UP IN ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey and started playing guitar in 1960 when I was ten years old. Playing chords came easy and I evolved into a sought after rhythm guitar player. I played rhythm guitar and sang in a four piece rock band called “the Super Jam Blues Band”, and later, “The Whazooz”. We played for High School dances and private “sweet sixteen” parties. When I graduated from High School I graduated to playing in bars. In 1974 I joined a swing trio and we were an opening act for Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, Horace Silver, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee and numerous others. I met Johnny Shines, Professor Longhair, Walter “Shakey” Horton, Bucky Pizzarelli during that time and learned a little bit from observation. It was a magical time in my life, “pre straight job”, so to speak.
My Mom bought me a harmonica when I was 18. I learned what I know today from meeting harp players much better than I, who took the time to share invaluable techniques that you can hear in my recordings and live playing. When I was 40, I started playing the ukulele, similar to guitar but very different in the musical approach….and bought my first tenor guitar when I was 50 years old. I just finished an album that’s all about the tenor guitar. It’s called “TENOR ELEVEN”, fifteen songs played on tenor guitar with vocal and harmonica accompaniment.
I never saw myself as a promoter, and still don’t, but I do feel the desire to bring tenor guitar players together at one time and one place, and that place is Astoria. Music continues to be special to me. It has opened doors to new friendships and improves the quality of my life. I have worked in Los Angeles as a clerk at an Outpatient Cancer Center and will bring my uke in and play for patients. It makes them sing and smile and forget where they are for a moment. It is uplifting to them and to me as well.
I spoke to a stranger on the phone recently who’s coming to this year’s gathering. He told me he plays baritone ukulele and is thinking about playing the tenor guitar. When he searched the web for information he came across the gathering. He booked himself into the Hotel Elliot and is very excited about attending. That’s the kind of thing that makes me hustle to make these gatherings happen, and the fact that they’re a lot of fun for me and everyone who attends. I think that everyone in Astoria has worked together to make this quirky event come to life, it’s not unlike a band that rehearses for hours and then gets on stage and puts that wall of emotion out there as if it was all so easy.