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Book (Forthcoming) About the Fiddler/Banjo Player/Cartoonist Jim Scancarelli

Posted by brooklynbanjoboy on Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Dear friends:


in late January 2021 I put my book length manuscript about Jim Scancarelli in the hands of McFarland and Company, a publisher in Jefferson, North Carolina. 


Jim is an American cartoonist who, from 1986, was one of four writers and artist drawing the syndicated comic strip Gasoline Alley for Tribune Media Services.  He found employment as a freelance magazine artist in the 1970s and began his professional association with Gasoline Alley as an assistant to Dick Moores in 1979.  He also collaborated on the cartoon Mutt and Jeff.  He succeeded Moores in 1986.  In 2018 he ushered Gasoline Alley to its 100th anniversary.  Jim continued to work as writer/illustrator for the strip through 2020, into 2021, and showed no signs of running out of great puns, zingers, new jokes, and the all-important old jokes - enough to fuel decades and decades of future Gasoline Alley strips.   


He is also a prizewinning fiddler and a banjo player with a long history of association with string bands in North Carolina from the 1960s to the early 2000s.  In the late 1960s and 1970s, Jim recorded the Union Grove Fiddlers' Convention band contests for the Van Hoy family and produced annual recordings that captured the music at ten years-worth of Union Grove conventions.  In the 1970s, he founded the Kilocycle Kowboys and played banjo in a band called The Mole Hill Highlanders that consisted of Clyde Williams (fiddle), Mark Wingate (fiddle), Chuck Dunlap (guitar), and Jim Whitley (bass).  He teamed with the fiddler Tommy Malboeuf in a band called Sanitary Cafe.  Through the early 2000s, Jim played local contradance music with a local band, and continued to show up at the fiddlers' conventions in the area.   


Jim did me the honor of memorializing my plans for the book in a 17 January 2021 Gasoline Alley strip:



The manuscript actually does not contain any revealing information about the connection between Dracula and the Mole Hill Highlanders; actually, the only indexable use of the name "Dracula" occurs in the last chapter, referencing this Gasoline Alley strip. 


When I finished my last slash-and-burn proofing of the manuscript on 18 January, I told Jim that I thought the manuscript does a good job of capturing who he is.  I told Jim that if I were just a reader, and not the writer, of this book, at the end of the read I’d probably like him, and I might even try to call him on the phone, to hear more of his stories, get folded into the embrace that melodious North Carolinian voice, listen to his memories of friends, musicians, railroad men.  Heck, I might even try to borrow money from him. 


So, the manuscript is now in the hands of the publisher.  I continue to call it a manuscript because it is not quite to the point of being a book.  First, the publisher has to lay hands on and work their editing and production magic.  So, until then, it is not a book.  In fact, I usually avoid saying I'm writing a book during the process of working up a draft.  I prefer to say I'm working on a manuscript because before it actually does get published, all I'm doing is typing. 


In the end, when it does come out sandwiched between covers with a title, it will tell the story of a gentleman who old-time revival string bands and bluegrass musicians knew as a fiddle and banjo player who drew cartoons - and who cartoonist colleagues knew as a writer/artist who played fiddle and banjo. 


In this FHO blog, I'll dole out morsels that might sustain interest in this book until the point at which it is published.  I'll do this based on stuff from the cutting room floor, dribs and drabs of notes on Jim's creative trajectory - so that you get to join me in the long wait between the point at which I submit the manuscript to the publisher to the point at which a book appears. 


I'd appreciate your company.


Take care.  Stay safe and healthy,


Lew Stern

Reston, VA 

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