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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Welcome to the Dirty T: Local gypsy-jazz musician emotionally reminisces on his past


    Monti Eaton plays his banjolele on Fourth Avenue on Friday, Oct. 2.

    I found Monti Eaton sitting on Fourth Avenue, singing away and playing on what appeared to be a mini-banjo, which I later found to be called a banjolele. He looked vaguely familiar to me, so I decided to try to figure out why.

    “I promise I am not that interesting,” Eaton said. “You don’t want to interview me.”

    I heard this a lot as I walked down Fourth Avenue and usually took it as a sign to bug off, but I really wanted to figure out why I recognized this man on the street. I asked him what he does.

    “I am an artist. I paint signs and murals. I am also a musician. I play the banjolele, the pocket trumpet, the saw and the harmonica, but I have only been playing for five years,” Eaton said. “I started on the street with a ukulele, and people kept telling me I was good, so I kept going. I’ve started a couple bands. I have a large gypsy jazz band in Silver City. We are called the Average Cadaver.”

    This rang a very faint bell.

    “It started with me and my brother and his wife, and within about a month we had 10 members that were all like family. We all knew each other and visited each other all the time. This was a new style of music for all of us; we call it caravan music. But it’s a mix of gypsy, jazz, pirate, folk, Americana. We pretty much all sing with beautiful eight-bar harmonies sometimes, and we all play at least one instrument. We play gigs in Silver City all the time and we are hoping to get to Tucson and Bisbee sometime around the start of the New Year. You can find us on Facebook.”

    I am from Bisbee and thought maybe that was why I recognized him. So I asked him what his connection was to the old ghost town.

    “I have a daughter in Bisbee, and I lived there for a little while,” he said.

    Bingo. I asked him if he had known a Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl, and tears were immediately brought to his eyes, and, subsequently, mine.

    “Yeah, I knew them.”

    I told him my relationship with them, that they were in some sense my mentors and most certainly my friends.

    “Damn. They were really great people.” Eaton said. “My brother played with them many times and my band used to play with them in Silver City.”

    Finally, it made sense as to why this gypsy-looking man on the side of the street playing a banjolele seemed so familiar. I think we both got a bit caught up in the fact that we had met someone else who had a similar void in their hearts, where a Nowhere Man and the ever-so-charming Whiskey Girl belonged.

    Because of this bittersweet surprise, I neglected to ask him for a piece of gypsy-like advice, but I think I can speak for both of us when I say appreciate the people that are in your lives now, because you never know when they might stop being there.

    Follow Thea Van Gorp on Twitter.

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