Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Yodeling Ithacans - Man and Dog - on Letterman

Ithaca lovers of the yodel will find a couple of familiar locals on the David Letterman Show on Wednesday.

The tall one, at about 5'4", is Johnny Brown . The short one, at about eleven inches, is Teddy Bear, Johnny's 18-month old puppy dog.

Johnny and Teddy are scheduled to make their national singing debut on a show segment called "Stupid Pet Tricks."

Johnny taught Teddy the art of sing-along yodeling so Teddy would have something to do at Johnny's music performances. Johnny is a jug band musician who specializes in staples such as washtub bass, washboard, spoons, kazoo, and birdcalls, in addition to yodeling. When Johnny hits a falsetto in G, Teddy lifts his head and delivers a prolonged and impressive canine equivalent. He will keep on doing it, too.

It is an old bromide in show business not to perform with animals, well-known show-stealers. But Johnny is not an insecure performer. He and his friend JoMo, an accomplished 12-string guitarist and vocalist, play classic blues and rags in the great tradition of "givin' 'em what they want." The combo frequently play at street fairs and festivals where anything that draws in the crowd is bona fide. This is where Teddy comes in.

Of course, JoMo and Johnnycake, as the act is billed, do fine on their own. They have played for decades and have played with musical legends such as Son House and the Rev. Gary Davis. In recent years they have benefitted from a boom in old-timey music. In addition to street fairs and festivals, they play a gamut of clubs and bars, but also play for organizations that value their upbeat showmanship. Among Johnny's favorite gigs are shows at senior centers.

Showmanship might not be the right word when one half of the act is a dog. Together, the act is anything but. Check them out Wednesday night on Letterman. And check to see if sometime soon the band will come back to play at Small World Music, as they have done (free shows!) in the past.

Good luck, John and Teddy!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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