|Cello Man's children try to rope in an audience for him at last year's Folk Festival.
Go down to the Farmers Market most Sundays and you’ll hear the unmistakable musical stylings of Chad “Cello
Man” Handl wafting from his usual roost in front of the post office. The deep rich tones of his cello juxtapose with
his high lonesome vocals as he belts out classics such as “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” and
“Cripple Creek.” Recently the Takoma Pork caught up with Cello Man for an interview in his cozy apartment.
He ushered us into his living room adorned with posters of Yo-Yo Ma, Itzak Perlman and Earl Scruggs. Cello Man sat on a threadbare
sofa cradling a Yuengling Lager as he discussed life as a musician in Takoma Park:
TP: You were once a top-tier cellist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and now you’re playing weddings and
birthday parties in Takoma Park. What the hell happened?
Cello Man: Try putting on a black bow tie night after night. It's murder! I needed to find a venue that was less restrictive.
I came down Takoma way to check out the “House”—you know, of Musical Traditions—and fell in love with
the people. I knew that I could find an audience here that would appreciate my inner Scrugg.
TP: And you were welcomed with open arms….
Cello Man: Well...not exactly. It must have been my second week playing the Farmers Market when Banjo Man and I got
into that duel. I guess I set up a little too close to his chalk line boundary. Next thing I know he goes all Deliverance
on me, plucking out that familiar refrain on his banjo. I’m not the type to back down from a challenge so I started
bowing it right back at him. We must have been at it for 20 minutes.
TP: Legend has it that you only quit when Banjo Man broke his last string and your bow burst into flames.
Cello Man: That’s what they say. That was the start of a real love-hate relationship. We’re good friends
now. I recently made a guest appearance on his CD, Help! Banjo Man Plays the Beatles. And we play a version of our
first duet called “Dueling Banj’ellos” on my new CD, The Cello Rose of Texas.
TP: Things have not always been so rosy for you though.
Cello Man: That’s true. After that first Farmers Market incident, Banjo Man’s chalk boundary grew larger
and larger each week. Next thing I know, I’m playing to squirrels in Takoma DC. I guess he thought I was treading on
TP: He’s rumored to have muscled former local artists Harmonica Man, Tuba Girl and Didgeri-Dude out of town.
How did you manage to hang in there?
Cello Man: Conviction. I believed in myself and stuck it out at the Farmers Market. As for Banjo Man, one rainy day
I offered him an olive branch. I set up right next to him and started right into “This Land is Your Land.” He
looked deep within himself and tears welled up in his eyes as he joined me in the second verse. By the end of the tune we
were both sobbing. The rest is history waiting to happen.