Founding member and driving force, Christian Stanfield is the main man on stage, fronting the band like a modern Uncle Dave Macon with plenty of tall tales and hysterical establishments - uh, historical embellishments, that is. Christian eats, sleeps & breathes vintage music and culture. When not making music on stage, he makes the instuments that make the music in a wood working shop behind his house. Half of George Banjos along with Tommy George, Christian makes custom 4 and 5-string banjos, banjo ukuleles and guitar banjos, and his banjo ukes are currently stocked by Elderly Instruments in Lansing, MI and Homewood Music in Birmingham, AL. www.georgebanjos.com
Christian is married to Vera Stanfield, the hottest banjo uke player on earth. What a lucky guy!
Christian's Amazing Guitars, Banjos, Etc.
There is always a lot of interest generated by the vintage instruments that Christian plays, so we'll give him some space here to tell us a little bit about each one.
Pair of 1930 Gibson L-4 round hole archtop guitars
These two guitars, along with Vera's banjo uke, create the signature Side Street Steppers sound. It's that simple. The one on the left sports a reproduction neck made by Michael Gillentine at Main Street Vintage Guitars in Tupelo, Mississippi, and the one on the right is an all-original model that came to me via Bob Smakula at Smakula Fretted Instruments in Elkins, West Virginia. The repro neck model came to me via Bob Bosick here in Memphis, and when I first got it, it had a Martin neck stuck on it at a crazy angle. I use the original for jazz & swing, and the repro for jugband & the blues, and these two guitars come to every single show that we play. I've played hundreds of guitars in my lifetime, and nothing matches these machines for the type of music that we play. Love these guitars.
Collings MF Mandolin
My first mandolin was a Breedlove Quartz OF, and it was a great mandolin. Played hundreds of shows and made two CDs with that baby. But I had gotten to the point where I needed to take the next step, and I was drawn to the power & punch of an F model mandolin. Enter this Collings, and lord save me from a suffusion of superlatives. Let's just leave it at this: I don't think I will ever need another mandolin in my life. Period.
Bacon & Day Montana Silver Bell No. 1 Tenor Banjo
I traded a fretless banjo and banjo uke that I made to Stan Werbin (owner of Elderly Instruments in Lansing, MI) for this 1928 B&D Montana, and have absolutely no regrets. The best sounding and playing tenor that I have ever encountered. You'll notice that I say that a lot about my instruments, and I guess that I have just been fortunate in this respect. I think it was Hand Williams, Sr. who once said something like, "you don't need to worry about finding a good instrument, becasue it will find you." Whether he really said this or not, truer words have not been spoken.
Crafters of Tennessee TN-10 Resonator Guitar
Tut Taylor's son Mark's name in the music instrument business has lost almost all of its once hallowed cachet, but hey, I got one of the last good ones! Got it on clearance at Guitar Center even, and you all know that don't happen every day...
Comic Book Obsession
Among other things, Christian is obsessed with comic books, which he generally refers to as "graphic novels" becasue it sounds more grown up. Current favorites are anything Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips collaborate on (Sleeper, Criminal and Incognito), pretty much anything by Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Fell, Freakangels), and od course Batman. Christian loves Batman - Frank Miller's Batman, the Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale books, just can't get enough of the Bat.
But more than any of these, towering a head and shoulders above the rest, is The Goon, written and illustrated by Eric Powell. Rumor has it that Eric lives in Lebannon, Tennessee, which is only about three hours from us in Memphis. I would love it - LOVE IT - if the Side Street Steppers appeared in an issue of The Goon. Eric recently featured an honest to goodnes, real life burlesque dancer in his book, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility. I ahve tried to find his contact info to no avail - if anybody knows how to get in touch with this guy, please send him our way. We would totally drive out to Lebannon and play a private show for Eric and his best friends/family if he were to write us into a story...
The drawing below of a Jazz Age version of the Justice League of America is by Alex Mitchell.