All entries filed under Television

This was one of the tougher gigs I’ve had recently, and one I lost some sleep over the night before. I am recovering from an operation the Thursday before and in some discomfort. Still, I figured I wouldn’t cancel and grit my way through. It turned out okay, but not without some dings.

Eve Russo sponsors Music Mondays every week with various Lehigh Valley musicians. I’ve been on several times, and, the last time a few years ago, I mentioned that I was working on a book. She said, “Let’s do this when it comes out.” So here we were.

Eve does her homework by sending me a list of questions a week ahead of time, so I was well prepared with what she wanted to discuss. There were questions about my impetus to form the club, was it easy to find talent, how does the club rank among folk clubs in the country. During the first segment, we sat on the couch and chatted. It went well.

The second segment was with me set up to play a song, sitting on a stool. Again, the questions went well, Eve was quite engaged as an interviewer and things set up nicely for my one song at the end of this session. I followed with John Gorka’s How Legends Are Made on my Godfrey’s Martin. I’ve been rusty recently in my guitar playing, and the GD Martin seemed stiff, so I had to really dig in to make the guitar sound good. I was thinking, ” Time to get this axe worked on.”

I got through most of Legends, but started messing with the chords (though not noticeable to everyone but me) and I flipped a few words in the next to last verse. I was feeling some fog. Otherwise, it came out well and I stuck the ending chord in style. Cut to wrap up.

I was supposed to play a short instrumental outtake ( a minute or so) but got cute. I thought I’d play some of Stan’s Giant, started to go into an open tuning, and when they came back for my tag, I was hopelessly out of tune, and spent 30 seconds tuning my guitar before I started singing “I work at a place…” . It was embarrassing and the sourness hung in my brain for the next few days. Again, there was an exhausted fog in my brain. I felt the fool.

The reactions to the interview went well on Facebook, but I knew I could and should have done better.


On the final day of Musikfest, I performed in the studios of TV-39, our local PBS station for the last day of their 10 day Summer Jam series. For me, it’s an honor to be part of this run since the other performers are, for the most part, national family music professionals. I’m still a little uncomfortable to be in this fraternity. As it turns out, the crew and staff at the station think I’m right there.

Only a few weeks ago, the sessions were scheduled to be in front of two sets of kids and parents in the studio. I did a show a few weeks ago there and it was a hoot. But, with Covid restrictions rising in the last 10 days, TV-39 switched to doing one show in the studio without a live audience and extending the show to include a live TV broadcast from the station as well as a broadcast to the big Jumbotron outside of the station.

An elegant stage set.

I got there at the proscribed 8 am for the 11 am show and the 9 am sound check. No one was there and that was somewhat expected: a Sunday, the crew knew my specs and they had everything set up for all the shows that week. I finally got in by 8:30 and went through the Covid checks. All the staff had to be masked but as the performer, somehow I got off the hook. They told me that I was going to do a 27:30 set (I had planned for 45 minutes.) and that there would be a countdown clock right it front of me. I would have a few seconds leeway at the end. No problem.

My sight lines, with my monitor to the right.

Since there was no audience to play for (drat, one of my strongest suits for television) I decided to bring out some bling – my mandolin and banjo and added them into my short set. We got a sound check on everything and I settled in for the show to start. I changed strings on the mandolin, visited the deli tray in the lounge, meditated, etc.

At 11:00 they started the show and away I we go: Peanut Butter, All God’s Critters (banjo), Giants, I’m Gonna Tell (mandolin), We Gave Names to the Animals and (with 2:30 left) I finished with an abriviated Jelly in the Dish. I worked the cameras with lots of facials, finger-pointing at the audience and as much gravy as I could muster. And, as the countdown headed to 0:00, I finished by doing a “studio fade” (softer and softer) in the studio on Jelly and nailed the time with a “thanks.” I could tell the crew loved it. It was pretty cool, I must say myself. After we went off the air, the crew cheered. They were as good an audience as I could hope for.

The show was broadcast outside the TV-39 studios to any families that came by on the Sunday morning. I have no idea how many showed up but the pictures are cool.

The crew was asked not to react during the show, in that it would sound pretty weak with only a few folks in the house. But, as I found out later, during Names, my remark about a butt-saggin’ dragon made one of the camera women laugh out loud. At the end, I thanks TV-39 and the camera crew and the “camera person” in particular for their warmth and professionality. She delighted in that I gave her a shout-out and said “camera person.”

The producer Kira Willey was there, as was Katie Brennan, the production manager. Both were very appreciative of my show and they hope to use my show to help put together a potential package for a family music series with myself and the other performers in the series. I can see something nice coming out of my Sunday morning at the station.

It was great to be treated like a professional in my home town.


I’ve been fortunate to be included in this series of children’s show in the studios of our local PBS station the last several years. Kira Willey, a wonderful family performer in her own right, has booked this ten day kids’ fest with some serious national acts, so I’m honored to be among them. I’m quite a bit different in that I’m not as presentational as these acts. I’m not as slick performance-wise but that’s on purpose. The staff at the station would agree and were impressed with how I work.

There were two sets at 10 and 11 am, and though the shows were free, it was ticketed. They said both shows were sold out, but neither show was crowded.

The kids (and a few parents) sat on the rug in front of me. I had a sound system that wasn’t totally necessary (I ditched it last year) and I settled in with a good audience. The first set had one challenging boy who I had to keep my eye on – he had his eye on my guitar and mike stand, but I was able to work him into the act. Peanut Butter, Tutti Tah, Down By the Bay, Bear Hunt and more, but there were more toddlers than I expected so I had to get them dancing earlier than usual. I went to the scarves and that was a very good move. They were all up and twirling, waving scarves and was quite nice scene. I could see some of the TV people in awe of the movement and colors.   Video Aug 07, 10 35 20 AM

The second set was more of the same with one 5 year-old lad with a “Brain Power” t-shirt on coming up with all the rhymes in We Gave Names to the Animals. I brought him up with me to challenge the rest of the audience. He was great and, later on said that he listens to all my albums. This set I went with the bag of instruments instead of the scarves and, once again, there was a joyful romp of kids in front of me.

I actually sold a few CDs and had more than a few mentions about grandparents who had brought their now mid-30’s kids to my shows. That’s still cool for me.

There were some TV-39 folks who hadn’t seen me and said that I was great. I’m sure my level of interactivity and semi-adult humor that lurks beneath the surface of my patter is different than the family “shows” that the other performers do. I’m glad that my approach sets me apart from them.

I was treated well with a green room, snacks, fruit cup and more, just like the big boys. I was paid very well and had the respect of the crew. Pretty good day for me.

Thanks to the work of fellow kids’ performer Kira Willey, there is some family music during Musikfest (not at Musikfest) at the nearby WLVT-39 studios this week. She’s booked some impressive kids’ performers throughout the week and I landed the Wednesday spot. Two shows at 10 and 11 am, free to all.

I was there for load in at 8:30 pretty much before everyone else, brought in my guitar, stand, bag and CDs, ready for the 9:00 sound check. Really not much to do there. I was greeted by Katie, who was wonderfully welcoming. She informed me there was a dressing room! My goodness, such amenities. The later show would be taped.

We were all set up when Katie asked me if we could wait for a 10:05 start and there was no one there. It raised my usual doubts about playing in the Lehigh Valley, but as she opened the doors, moms, kids, toddlers and grandparents filtered in. There was actually a nice crowd with some familiar faces. Since the first show wasn’t being taped I opted for moving out from the sound stage and into the audience area with a big ole ABC rug. This was a good move. The sound man said, “TV-39 unplugged!” Me and Clapton.

I laid into my good stuff and there was a good response. About 15 minutes in, I realized that the toddlers were losing interest so I went for the scarves and it refocused the audience. I did my scarf progression that I had worked on in recent summer school shows and finished with Jelly in the Dish. Great visuals. I also did some of the new Bear Hunt verses so there was lots of new energy in the show. We finished up, lots of dancing and instrument playing and then I set up back on the sound stage for the second set.

Since this was being taped, I had to work with sound and lights for this set but that wasn’t a problem. Another good crowd came in and away we went. I repeated the scarf set, the Bear Hunt set and added a few different tunes. The scarves were particularly a nice visual for the camera men who had one on me and several on the kids. I can’t wait to see the final copy.

The staff at the station were really blown away with what I did, commenting on the great interaction, movement and on the control I had of what was borderline chaos. I get the feeling that the other professional acts do their set show and, I’m sure, involve the kids, but not the way I do it. The staff was impressed that I was able to gauge the audience and change on the fly and keep it real. I’m proud that I can do that, and it’s nice to see that recognized.

I sold a few CDs and was paid a nice professional wage, something I couldn’t have gotten from Musikfest. The station may use me for some more of their family outreach programming during the rest of the year.

I was exhausted but pleased with my work today.

I was asked back to do the Music Monday slot on WFMZ-69 again. I’ve done it several times, the last one 4 years ago for my Playground release. It involves getting to the studio at 7 am, sitting around, doing a line check and then two short sets at 8:20 and 8:50 am. Eve Russo is in charge and we had an outline for both slots. We’d talk about Troubadour for the first one, emphasising the local players and the Godfrey’s book and my Lehigh Valley Music Awards for the second one. 

I spend some of the early hour changing strings on my Martin, and got through most of them. I was hoping I could pull the strings into place and settle the guitar into tune. Mixed results.

I picked Don’t Call Me Early in the Morning for the first set, appropriately, and it’s probably one I’ve done here before. It went well, though it’s strange to have three cameras to play to, so I simply gave up on trying to frame my attention on them. I was glad I was standing for these songs, even though my hip is getting worse. (One week to hip day!)

I hung out as Eve and Alex, the two women leading the broadcast, the weatherman and the traffic guy did their spots. There was a stage manager counting down the cuts as well as several folks behind the scenes running the audio and visuals. Lots of folks to put on a morning show. They did it well. There was a new sound stage as well. Pretty sophisticated production.

Prior to the last set I mentioned the No Place for Hate show I’m doing later in April and played Sally Rogers’ We Are Welcomed, a nice positive and simple folky tune. I could hear my guitar going out of tune (though had I checked it beforehand) and resorted to leaning on the bass strings that seemed to be in tune. It worked but it affected my approach in real time for the song. I covered it okay.

They needed a minute outtro so I did Barrelhouse Blues as the show faded to black. Done by 9 am.

Eve was appreciative, saying I made the spots easy. It was cool to see the Playground cover up on TV as they were promoting my sets. There were nice comments on Facebook as well, so folks were watching. I even went to the diner next door to Godfrey’s afterwards and one of the old vets I know on the street mentioned that he saw me on TV. Street cred. That’s all I’m looking for.

I was asked to go on a local cable TV show to promote Musikfest so I taped some music for the Mike Zambelli Show. Mike is an affable host and we had a good chat about my years at Musikfest, my kids’ music and I played a couple of very short tunes. The producer invited me back for the new season in September. Whoopee!