Billed as Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers (performing an Evening of Bluegrass & Banjo), comedian Steve Martin entertained a large Chastain Park crowd Friday night, October 9. The opener was singer and banjo player Abigail Washburn, wife of Bela Fleck. Both artists combined musicanship with humor. Martin is touring as a concert act for the first time, promoting his critically acclaimed album “The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo,” which features vocal contributions from Dolly Parton and Vince Gill. The album marked his first appearance on the U.S. charts since a comedy/banjo hybrid in 1981. It recently won two prizes — for graphic design and the expected humorous liner notes — at the International Bluegrass Music Awards in Nashville. Most of the tracks are instrumentals, and Martin wrote all but one of the 16 cuts, some of which date back to the 1960s. “I can’t imagine what my life would be without the banjo,” Martin told Reuters.
In 2001, Steve Martin played banjo on Earl Scruggs’ remake of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”. The recording was the winner of the Best Country Instrumental Performance category at the following year’s Grammys. Along with the other writers for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Steve won an Emmy Award in 1969. In 1978, he won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for Let’s Get Small, and in 1979 for A Wild and Crazy Guy. In August 1989, Martin received the first honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from California State University Long Beach, where he studied philosophy 1964 to 1967 before transferring to UCLA for theater.
On October 23, 2005, Steve Martin was presented with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He was honored in 2005 with a Disney Legend award, acknowledging his early career at Disneyland and connections with The Walt Disney Company throughout his career. Martin was honored at the 30th Annual Kennedy Center Honors on December 1, 2007.
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(Photo Credit: Lisa Keel/ www.robbsphotos.com)