From time to time the banjo makes an appearance in a movie. Opening this Friday, June 20, 2008, The Love Guru, starring Mike Myers, is the latest movie to contain a scene with some bluegrass music and a banjo present.
The song of choice is Foggy Mountain Breakdown. From what I understand, Myers would have used the original Flatt & Scruggs recording, except the demands of surround sound production ruled out that option. They needed a new recording, but one that sounded like the original.
Myers is a fan of the indie powerpop group The Apples in Stereo. Robert Schneider, a member of the group, has a brother-in-law, Craig Morris, who is involved in the Kentucky music scene. When Craig heard of the need for a new recording of Foggy Mountain Breakdown, he suggested The McKendrees, a native Kentucky, bluegrass family band. Schneider stepped in to engineer the recording at Morris’ studio in western Kentucky.
The players on the recording are Josh Coffey (of Bawn in the Mash) on fiddle, Justin McKendree – mandolin, Jason McKendree – banjo, Ricky McKendree – guitar, Ron Barnett – upright bass. Jason told me this inside story about the kick off.
I had to go back in after the initial recording because they wanted a “sneaky 3 note banjo intro” which was very interesting. Craig and I went in one day and recorded about 30 different 3-note intros being as sneaky as we could, so I guess they used one of them. We’re intersted to see how it all turned out.
I guess we’ll have to wait and watch the movie to see just how “sneaky” Jason was able to be. The song is featured during a bar fight scene in the movie, with Schneider making an appearance on screen, as the banjo player. The McKendrees are not visually present in the movie though. From the preview I’m guessing there are no close ups of the banjo/band. It looks like the band is far in the background during the scene, and the music is surely overlaid with dialog, so we’ll have to be intentional about hearing Jason’s contribution.
Still, getting to perform for a movie soundtrack is something of a thrill I’m sure. Jason seems to feel that way.
I’m not sure how close we got it to the original (probably not very…hah), but we recorded the song and they got it back to Mike and the music people for the movie and they loved it, so it all worked out really well and we were thrilled to be a part of it.