The "Farby" Interview
It's been almost 7 years, since 1998, since Civil War reenacting world has last heard from "Farby," the unsung and enigmatic Civil War reenacting parody artists, wrapping up his huge body of recorded work with his farewell tape "Over the Red Horizon." Strangely, I'm one of the few people who has a copy of the entire "Farby" tape collection which spans from 1992 to 1998. Even Farby himself does not own every copy of his own work. So in a recent visit to my house, "Farby" went through my collection of his work, which inspired this interview.
Jeff Hendershott: You know
Farby, many people have asked me what has happened to you since you hung up the
microphone and pen. Your "retirement" of Civil War parody song writing,
recording, singing and producing more or less correlated with my retirement from the hobby.
Farby: "I'm bumbling along, trying to make sense of this world. I still write now and again. I guess I still write just as I did then. About whatever is going on at the moment."
Jeff Hendershott: For the record, you never were a reenactor. However what was your association with the hobby from which you drew inspiration?
Farby: "I was a close friend of a re-enactor [Note: Farby and Jeff grew up - it is alleged - together]. I would have made a miserable re-enactor. I would have been waaaay too Farby"
Jeff Hendershott: It certainly
isn't for everyone. But what I think you did - if I may go back to the
music - is to interpret what we did with your first love, music, and in a
humorous way. I
remember after the first couple tapes, the guys would keep asking me "When's the next Farby tape coming?" Guys would sing the songs at events around the fire sometimes. Anyway, we always took great pride in our authenticity and performance on the field. I believed we were unique in that we could do this and earn respect, yet when it came time to "play," we had our
fun. Your music was a part of that. I can remember at our boot camp one year I took some tapes down and a boom box. You know, this wasn't a public event, so we sort of took some liberties
with authenticity at night after a hard days drilling session. We'd play your songs and I remember the captain and I having just a bit too much to drink and dancing to your songs!
Farby: "Hey, science has proven that laughter has mental and physical healing power. I'm glad I haven't devoted much of my life to making people angry and miserable!!"
Jeff Hendershott: It
impressed not only me but many guys in the group the way it would seem like
"you were there," taking something that I or we would tell you about
and man, you'd nail it as if you were there for the whole thing! What's
Farby: "I'm a psychic! I
don't really know. I suppose it is from studying psychology and observing
people. We do share some universal impulses, as you know. I'd like to think
that if I here a story first or second-hand,that I can kind of fill in the
blanks in verse, based on life experiences of my own."
Jeff Hendershott: I have
to add that there was another side to the "Farby" appeal. There
were occasions when you'd add a more serious song or two to a tape. I
thought some of those were
Farby: "Yea, I wanted to prove that there was more to me than just cracking jokes. The actual Civil War was generally a bleak time in our history and having researched it for a number of songs, I was moved and wanted to express this. I'm like everyone else, I don't go through life honking a clown horn"
QUESTION: Hey, we have
lots more to talk about. I want to cover more of the music specifically
and maybe we can list the "Tapeography" and
perhaps make them available to listeners again - those that want to hear them that is.
Farby: "Let me think on that............."
Jeff Hendershott: One thing I find kind of interesting is that some people have the entire collections of what, eleven tapes? Yet you do not. What's the story with that?
Farby: "It is art. One of a kind. I engineer a tape off of the various masters, rather than just make a copy of my finished demo for distribution. I was also too lazy to make a copy of the original for myself, probably because I was sick of hearing it by the time I sent it along. You know, I'd want to re-record something or add something or leave something off. If I simply HAD to hear something again. I could usually find it in it's unmixed form and play it through my multi-track recorder."
Jeff Hendershott: Why did you decide to not market your tapes? You would have outsold any competitor by miles.
Farby: "Marketing involves time and capitol investment. Also a band or the ability to proficiently play an instrument myself. I mainly a writer and not even very disciplined in that I must admit"
Jeff Hendershott: you were certainly the "Weird Al" Yankovic of Civil War reenacting, and that's a fact. So let's talk about favorites. Your favorite tape?
Farby: "Whatever tape I was working on at the time was my favorite. The process of creating, experimenting, researching. The mystery before the fact, was what made those moments in time interesting. As for the final products? I am kind of a perfectionist on that note. I always thought I could have done them better"
Jeff Hendershott: that's what I think the appeal of "Farby" was, not knowing from tape to tape, from song to song, and sometimes within a song, where you'd go next! You used all kinds of music, from metal to country to blues to period music. Hell, you used disco a few times! Ha ha .....
Farby: "That was actually the intent all along. Farby was supposed to be out of character. His un-authenticity was what made him authentic. As you pointed out, it was the genre variation that, hopefully at times, added to the humorous intent of the lyric. It was good to insert a period piece of music now and again though, just as now and again a reenactor would have that transcendent connection back to the wartime period they portray"
Jeff Hendershott: I
remember your parody of the Sullivan Ballou letter from the Ken Burns
documentary. I'll never forget the first time I played it for our
captain. We were driving to class
when we were getting our masters degrees together, and he damn near wrecked the car laughing. I don't think I ever seen that man laugh so hard!
Perhaps I should have considered slapping one of those warning's on my songs.
"Do not partake while operating heavy machinery."
Certainly did! You did that at the beginning of "Hard Boiled Farby."
Hey, we are out of time and still have not gotten that much into the particular
songs. How about I ask
Jonah if we send him the "Farby Discography?" You interested in making any of this stuff available? Providing anyone is still interested?
Farby: "I dunno. I wouldn’t be engineering it. So much of what I wrote back then was dropping names all over the place and of course as I have said all along, there is the whole rights infringement of borrowing music without consent. I realize it isn’t selling a product, but it is still altering the original artist's intent. I've never had a lawyer tell me nothing would ever happen. I would have no control over what the unknown person would do with it, but it's still ME on there. Do you think my concerns are unwarranted?"
Jeff Hendershott: I believe they are. But it's your call. How about we just leave it at that for a while and let you think on it some. We can always get back with Jonah in terms of making these tapes available again.
Farby: "Yea. We
are all a bit older now. Wiser too. Let's leave it at that."
Farby and Jeff Hendershott would like to give a hearty "thank you" to Jonah for allowing this interview to take place. We will keep you posted on the availability of the tapes. But please DO drop Jeff Hendershott a line if you'd be interested in hearing the tapes. Let us see if there is any response or interest before Farby makes a decision.
If you are interested in certain cuts from tapes, please contact me at email@example.com. All those who write will also be put in touch with "Farby's" email address so you can communicate with him also.
THE FARBY TAPEOGRAPHY
Bluebellies and Graybeards
Release Date - May, 1992
For Bob Lee (Not!)
Old Dan Tucker
Glory, Glory Halitosis
Lincoln and Mary Todd Too
Glory, Glory Halitosis (Reprise)
Hey Mr. Pork and Bean Man
Release Date - August, 1992
The Boys are in the Ivy Again
I Skipped the Drill
Release Date - March, 1993
Gettysburg - Porta Pisser
Lady of the Tennessee Farm
The Lonely Zouave
Ode to a Nuclear Reenactor
The Sutler Blues
Like a Rollin' Stone
The Mother Load
and Ice (Sample Tape)
Release Date - May, 1993
Dawn of the Dead
The Muck of Reconstruction
Release Date - August, 1993
Old Dan Sutler
Farby's in the Blue Camp
The Carbine in My Life
It's a Surgon's Life
Flamin' Hoop Skirts
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Foot Soldier's Lament
(Sherman) The Man With The Matches
Release Date - June, 1994
A Pond Song
Gold and Pearls
Bitch and Moan
Sniffin for Apples
For our Children's Children
Enfield on my Shoulders
Fought With Elvis
Barrel of Will
Release Date - September 1994
Abe Lincoln Limbo
Stock and Barrel
Release Date - Summer, 1995
This tape is currently on loan, but contains the song from Jonah's website "Piss on your Buttons."
Release Date - March, 1996
Rebels Don't Die
(Won't Stand) Down Wind From You
Release Date - October 1996
Last Powder Blast (Released
as "The Artist Formerly Known as Farby"
Release Date - January 1997
Sgt.Carter's Grouchy Fresh Fish
No Happy Campers
You Call This Attack (Longstreet's Song) - written by Jeff Hendershott
Tip-Toe (Through the Bullchips)
Let My Hair Grow
Tubby Bearded Guy Lament
Checkin In - Checkin Out
I Ain't Galvanizin'
the Red Horizon (Released
as "The Artist Formerly Known as Farby"
Release Date - January, 1997
Blow Me Down (Popeye's Rag)
Free Soil Country Side - written by Jeff Hendershott
I'm Outta Here!
Mr. Bones and Me