I’m not sure exactly what inspired Dewel Lawrence to have a musical instrument made from a bedpan. One tale is that it happened when he was a patient in the hospital, still under the lingering effects of anesthesia. Dewel heard melodious echoes coming from that metal chamber. He dreamed he was on center stage, making bluegrass magic with The Soggy Bottom Boys. Some people say that the nurses begged him to stop.
For most folks, this would have been just a passing thought. Dewel, however, is not a man to walk away from a grand idea. He took his bedpan to Danny Jones down in Crisp County. Danny can make a musical instrument out of anything. He added a neck, some frets, and four guitar strings. Dewel left there with a panjo, perhaps the finest one in this part of Georgia.
Dewel felt that such an instrument should not be left in some corner of his shop to gather dust. He became the founding member and lead singer of The Bedpan Band. He continues to take the panjo on an extended tour of the Dooly County area.
The band needed a guitar player, but most of the good ones were already taken. Others were nervous about the reputational risks of being on stage with a panjo. That’s why Dewel asked me to play rhythm guitar. He knew that reputational risk was not a factor. I only play in two keys, G and C. Sometimes I’m not sure which key we are in.
The banjo player for The Bedpan Pan is a whole different matter. Rodney Brannen is a top-notch musician. Earl Scruggs would not want to follow him on stage. Rodney owns the funeral homes in Vienna and Unadilla. He didn’t have much choice but to join the group. He knows that Dewel and I are both getting closer to being potential customers. It’s important to accommodate the folks you want to bury.
Rodney has the natural smile of a mortician. It’s a facial expression that is serenely pleasant, but not so happy looking that it might seem inappropriate. But when he takes off his tie and straps that five string around his neck, he quickly morphs into Banjo Brannen. I’ve seen him laugh and almost pat his foot, two things you won’t ever see at a funeral.
Playing rhythm guitar with The Bedpan Band has been quite rewarding. I was afraid the practices and performances might get too regular. We addressed that, however, by agreeing not to practice so much that it would affect our playing. The band has a very strict limit of no more than one practice per performance. That lack of preparation is evident every time we play. We believe that such consistency is critical to our continued lack of success.
Engagements have not been so frequent as to become problematic. We’ve played three times this year. That shattered our old record of two. The tricky part in scheduling shows is that we have to make sure the banjo player won’t be tied up with a funeral. That’s more of an art than a science. It’s even less accurate than forecasting the weather.
One thing I can say with confidence is that the band’s price is reasonable. We’ll play for fried chicken, or anything else that is considered a traditional southern food. If you’re serving a dish that only requires a microwave, we’re probably not the right group for your event.
Dewel wants to expand The Bedpan Band. We’ve been using the panjo as a stage prop, but he hopes to find someone to play it. I tried it a couple of times with only mediocre success. It’s hard to play a panjo wearing blue rubber gloves.
Dewel’s vision began on a bedpan, but he didn’t leave it there. He is determined to see that his dream pans out. If you’re interested in auditioning to play the panjo in The Bedpan Band, then give Dewel a call at BR-549. Serious inquiries only please.
P.S. If his wife Becky answers the phone, just hang up and call back. I’m not sure she would give him the message.