Reable’s Bender – new banjo tune from Trevor Watson

If you don’t recognize the name Trevor Watson, you surely know his banjo playing. The southwest Virginia picker has appeared on multiple projects from Shannon Slaughter, and worked with Lou Reid & Carolina for several years. Trevor was called upon to fill in for the late Ben Eldridge in The Seldom Scene in 2015 after Ben suffered a fall not long before he retired.

Watson released a solo project late last year, and has a new single on offer this month, a a banjo tune dedicated to his banjo called Reable’s Bender. As we all know, pickers love stories about their instruments, especially if they are of the vintage variety, and Trevor laid out the history for us of his trusty five.

Reable’s Bender is a song I wrote as a tribute to my 1940 TB-00 Gibson banjo that I named Reable (pronounced rebel). Reable Childs, convict #83327, was incarcerated in Huntsville, Texas at the time my banjo left the Gibson factory on April 29, 1940 and shipped to the Texas Prison Systems. She was in prison as an accessory in the murder of her husband. She played multiple instruments, including banjo, in the prison band. I don’t know if she actually ever played my banjo, but it makes for a cool name and story.”

So we know about Reable, but what about Bender? That refers to Trevors use of his Scruggs tuners throughout the tune, which Slaughter says is unparalleled.

“It’s a really cool melody that allows Trevor to use his tuners, which he is masterful at! I’ve always been impressed with Trev’s abilities on the banjo with improvisation and tuning. He really shows out here.

Trevor has been one of my favorite banjo players for over 30 years now. He’s such a talented musician, largely due to his sense of tone, taste, and timing. There’s a reason he’s played a feature role on most all my songs, and still plays in my band. Quite simply, he’s one of the best banjo players on the planet.”

With Watson on banjo and Slaughter on guitar, further support comes from Ron Inscore on mandolin, Aubrey Haynie on fiddle, Gary Hultman on reso-guitar, Tracy Burcham on bass.

Have a listen to Reable’s Bender.

You can read more about Reable Childs and The Goree Girls band from the Goree Unit of the Huntsville Women’s Penitentiary in a piece in Wide Open Country.

A sample…

WBAP, a Fort Worth radio station broadcast Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls, a weekly program that showcased the stories and talent of prisoners in the Huntsville system. Childs saw an opportunity to appeal to Texas governor W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, who had latched himself to Texas-based western swing band The Light Crust Doughboys nearly a decade earlier. O’Daniel traveled with the Doughboys, using them to hype his business and political endeavors. (If Pappy seems familiar, he was portrayed by Charles Durning in O Brother, Where Art Thou? as the fiery governor who champions the Soggy Bottom Boys.)

Decked out in gold satin western shirts, ten-gallon hats and “riding britches,” the Goree Girls performed western standards such as Way Out West in Texas and I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.

Childs, who played the banjo and steel guitar, was undoubtedly the star. She had beauty, talent, charisma and a Texas-sized backstory to rival a Larry McMurtry novel. She was sent to Goree in 1936 after she was found guilty of conspiring to kill her husband, Marlie Childs. Reable Childs had requested a divorce from her husband, but Marlie Childs refused. One night, Reable’s lover Terrence Bramlett shot Marlie Childs through the Childs’ kitchen window. Once the police learned of Reable’s affair, she was arrested and eventually sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Reable’s Bender, and Trevor Watson’s full solo project, Out of the Shadows, are available now from popular download and streaming services online. Radio programmers can get the tracks via AirPlay Direct.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.