Banjo Ben and Abby the Spoon Lady

Abby the Spoon Lady and Ben Shirley perform “Li’l Liza Jane”

Banjo Ben and Abby the Spoon Lady
Banjo Ben and Abby the Spoon Lady playing in downtown Asheville.
This video of traveling buskers Abby the Spoon Lady (one of the few professional musical spoon players in the country) and Ben Shirley is arguably the most popular thing ever filmed for Busk Break. It’s not because they’re playing some ironic cover of an ’90s hit or something. (Unless you mean 1890s, perhaps.) It’s because they’re both stunningly talented. Or, if you want believe Abby’s take, it’s like 35 people watching the video 1,000 times each to learn how to play the spoons.

Even with several hundred busking videos now in the Busk Break archives, very few of them could be called “hits,” and only a handful could ever be claimed to have “gone viral.” But one video in the series inarguably did: This one. As of this writing, the original version of Abby and Ben playing in low-def glory had racked up over 35,000 views. And that was without any major media coverage, Facebook ads, promoted Google links or hiring third-world workers to SPAM the YouTube account. People just loved the video, or at least they loved Abby and Ben.

It’s easy to see why. If you’re into hard-travelin’ street performers living in the tradition of early Woody Guthrie tunes, they’re the real deal. Updated for the 21st century, of course. Check out Abby’s YouTube page, and you can see her giving insights on the busking life from the back of a moving train, and you can follow her adventures regularly on her website.

Published by

Steve Shanafelt

Steve Shanafelt used to think he was a writer. Lots of other people thought he was a very good one, and they paid him to write everything from news articles to erotic comic books. Then, a few years ago, he started to realize that writing was just one very tiny piece of the puzzle. He started recording podcasts, producing field recordings of busking musicians, making short video series and learning how to make websites. Along the way, he learned lots of ways not to manage businesses and how to promote those businesses online. Now, people pay him surprisingly large sums of money to show them some of the things he's picked up.