Welcome to the web site of the Back Bay Strummers. The Back Bay Strummers was started in 1996 by four individuals who enjoyed playing the banjo and were interested in getting together to jam with each other. The group gradually grew in size and now includes other acoustical instruments including the guitar, mandolin, ukelele, accordion, and bass. The current group consists of twenty-five members ranging in age from 40 to 92 years old.
The Back Bay Strummers play at private as well as public engagements such as birthday parties, anniversaries, clubs, parades, festivals, and other events. They are an all volunteer, non-profit group, and ask for a donation when playing. Over the years, they have donated over $8,000 to local and national charities.
The members practice each week on Thursday evenings from 7 PM to 9 PM at Conley's United Methodist Church hall near Angola. New acoustical string players are always welcome. For further information, or to schedule the Back Bay Strummers for your event, call Herb Crowe, Director, at (302) 945-8337.
Len Conover and Russ Payne decided that there must be a couple of guys who lived in lower Delaware that had a guitar or banjo in their closet and would like to try some playing. So they each put a little squib in their community's newsletters. Somehow Herb Crowe got to see one of them and called.
On January 24, 1997, Herb Crowe, Russ Payne, Len Conover, and Mario Sgrignioli got together and it was then that Herb found that he was the only real musician in the group and the others had only advanced to being able to remove the instruments from their cases.
At these early sessions, Herb had to play the melody, sing the words and call out the next chord to be played...all at the same time! Later he told us that on the ride home each night, he would say to himself,"What did I get myself into?"
As time went by, Herb discovered that some of us had no idea when to play the next chord (he would, naturally, call it before it was to be played). When asked how will we know when to play the chord, his answer was "It Will Come". What faith he had in us. In fact, some of us didn't even know how to form a chord. His answer was, "It Will Come". We found that "It Will Come" was to become the truth, but only if we put in the time practicing. No banjo or guitar will play itself and if it's to be played well, it's up to us to do it.
We tried to type the chords for the songs with dashes after the chord to indicate how many times to play the chord before the next change. It was a failure - because trying to form the chord and then count the number of dashes proved to be disastrous. It was tough to try to discover which dash the other guys were playing when you finally formed the chord. and sometimes when you formed the chord, Herb was playing the next one.
Our next attempt was to type the chord and then a number behind it to indicate how many times to strike the chord. It worked a little better, but we had yet to come upon the real answer. Had any of us been able to read music, none of this would have been necessary, but Herb was dealing with musical dummies.
Our next try was to type the words and have the chords above the word where the chord was to begin to be played. This allowed us to keep track of where the tune was and we would be able to see when the next chord was to be played. Even if you formed the chord a little late you were still able to join in. When new chords were to be played and you didn't know them, you could strum an air chord (pretending to strum, but not hitting the strings)and wait for a chord you recognized to come along.
Learning 'half time' was a time for lots of laughs and snickering.... There was one among us who used to repair grandfather clocks and was used to hearing the 'Tick Tock' of the clocks. So when the rest of the group would play what sounded like the Tick he would follow with the Tock. Trying to play 3/4 time for that person was just out of the question and brought about much good natured snickering and some outright laughing.
It's only because of Herb Crowe's talent, perseverance and patience that we have become "THE BEST DARN STRING BAND IN SUSSEX AND KENT COUNTIES". Written by Russ Payne