Steve Martin and Martin Short, along with the Steep Canyon Rangers, entertained the crowd at the Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Center in Oklahoma City with a captivating performance of comedy, laced with extraordinary bluegrass music.
Photographs were flashing like a time machine on the big screen above Martin and Short’s heads. As they took the audience along the road of their now famed comedy hour, laughter was the only sound you heard.
Immediately after Short had the audience in stitches, HE took center stage. That he was Steve Martin, which was my reason to attend this show. Martin with his “clawgrass” banjo by Deering didn’t fail to entertain.
According to Deering’s website, the clawgrass is:
“An open-back with punch! Features a wider neck and a bronze Deering -06- tone ring. This banjo can be played for bluegrass, clawhammer, or a blend called Clawgrass, named after the style created by Mark Johnson. For modern clawhammer style players, who enjoy jamming in any style of music, this powerful openback banjo can hold its own with a loud, clear bell like tone normally only found in resonator banjos.
The hardware is black nickel plated and engraved. This banjo also features 24 karat gold accents, a hand carved heel, abalone trim, and ivoroid binding. This is a show piece banjo that is as stunning as the beautiful sound it creates.”
He frailed and rolled with such ease, that each of the spectators was in total awe. Then out from behind the blue curtains came his 6 piece band, Steep Canyon Rangers. Martin stated that he had written over 500 banjo songs, and as he walked up to the microphone, he began to pick one called, I Can Play The Banjo.
The Steep Canyon Rangers hail from the roots country of bluegrass, western North Carolina, however, it was in 2004 that Nicky Sanders, a Californian, approached the band about a full-time fiddling position. In 2005, the Steep Canyon Rangers won the Emerging Artist of the Year award at the International Bluegrass Music Association awards. In 2007, after release of their 5th album, the band received nominations for two more awards for Best Album, and Gospel Performance. In 2010, Sanders tune,Mourning Dove, was nominated for Instrumental Song of the Year by the IBMA. It was in May 2009, when Steve Martin asked that the SCR share the stage with him as a sextet. Then in 2017, the Steep Canyon Rangers released The Long-Awaited Album with Steve Martin.
As the night progressed, laughter and bluegrass intertwined with foot tapping, and the man in front of me jumping to his feet as he exclaimed, “thats what I mean!” as Sanders went jigging across the stage.
In closing, Martin sat down at the grand piano, and as he gracefully played Send in the Clowns, Short sang it with hesitation to make room for Martin’s jibes. Finally in exasperation, Steve Martin stood up, and with his ever so hilarious presence, shouted “Bring in the ******* Clowns!”
After 3 encores – yes 3 – the curtain closed. A lone clown entered the stage, dressed in lime green with his vibrant orange hair, walked across the stage, as the moment ended. It was not only a tremendous night of comedy, but a definite night of outstanding bluegrass entertainment as well.