Author: Karsemeyer, John

My First Novel

I just finished my first novel. It’s called, “You’re Never Too Old For Bluegrass,” and is about a guy in his 60’s who plays the banjo.

He played part-time in bands for thirty-five years while he was working as a civil servant and raising a family. After retiring, all he did was play his banjo at home, and in four different part-time-wanna-be bluegrass bands.

His wife gets so tired of hearing his banjo playing that she gives him an ultimatum, “Stop playing, or get out!” After three months of couples counseling (two times a week), Orville Thudpucker (that’s the main character) and his wife agree that they will separate for six months.

This separation gives Orville the chance to pursue his life-long dream. It’s an amicable departure from each other, and it’s understood that after six months they will get back together. Another part of the understanding is that once they get back together Orville won’t play his banjo for one month. Then, at the end of that month they will evaluate their marriage. Oh, Orville’s dream? To play fulltime in a touring bluegrass band.

After thinking about it critically, and getting input from “The Message Board” on a prominent California bluegrass organization’s website, Orville heads for Nashville. He tried to get the band members he played with in part-time bands in California to go full time and tour.

He even had the name planned, “The Metallic All Boys/Some Girls & Persons Bluegrass Band.” The “Metallic” part applied to the bodily “mileage” wear and tear on the band members over the past sixty years or so; silver in the hair, gold in the teeth, and lead in the buttocks.

However, none of the part-time band members went for it. They all declined. All of them said they were going to be too busy watching the last year of Oprah, and who knows how many years of Dr. Phil.

So, Orville heads for Nashville, alone. He is accompanied only by his banjo (1934 Gibson, 5-string, flathead, custom “Flying Eagle” inlay).

Orville Thudpucker is already a good bluegrass banjo player when he arrives, but it’s rough going for the first two months. He discovers that the song, “Nashville Cats,” is based on fact. But finally, at the end of the third month he hooks up with a bluegrass band of senior citizens who are touring nationally, and are looking for a banjo player!

He gets the job. The band has a nice bus (rented, powered by bio-degradable fuel), and while traveling in between gigs they all watch Oprah and Dr. Phil on DVD. The band’s manager sends weekly updates of the TV shows. Orville wonders why he didn’t think of that when approaching his California band mates about going on the road full time.

To make a 365 page long story short, Orville gets good, really good on the banjo. He can leave Bela Fleck, Alison Brown, Ron Block, and the other banjo players in the “dust.” During one week that his new touring band is back in Nashville at IBMA, Orville hears through the “grapevine” that Rhonda Stringent and the Range (bluegrass band) is auditioning for a banjo player. He tries out and actually gets the job.

But as complex as life’s circumstances are, it happens to be near the end of the six month agreement with his wife. Orville says, “Thanks anyway Rhonda,” and goes back home to his wife in California.

Keeping his agreement, Orville gives up his banjo playing for one month, evaluates the marriage with his wife, and they stay together. Two months later, Orville and his wife adopt four kids under the age of seventeen, and start a family bluegrass band, based on the Anderson Family Band in Grass Valley, California (but without a banjo).

This book is “must reading,” even if I do say so myself. Yep, I just finished my first novel. Now I’m going to read another one.

Posted:  1/9/2010

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