BOSTON—Truck driver and banjo player Jay "Snapbean" Holcomb was named a "person of interest" by Boston police Tuesday in its investigation of a series of unannounced and boisterous hootenannies responsible for bringing sections of the city to a virtual standstill over the past several weeks.
"Just a few minutes ago, I was on my way to Jamba Juice when I heard a high-lonesome voice yodel 'Hey y'all!'" said Credit Suisse Boston vice president of asset management Stanley Hedges, who reported that his firm has lost more than a thousand man-hours to Holcomb's random acts of old-time quick-steppin'. "Then he started that old banjo to sing; you could hear it talk, you could hear it ring. And as I felt myself start to do-si-do, all I could think was, Not again."
Holcomb, 42, known far and wide for his vigorous rolling style of picking and his good-timey, fast-tempo breakdowns, matches a description given by hundreds of eyewitnesses of an upbeat, banjo-toting, vest-sporting man with a clawhammer style that he must have learned from the Devil himself.
Authorities said that Tuesday's barn-burner claimed over 300 roisterers. Although no actual barns were burned, victims of Holcomb's impromptu celebrations say they are ill-timed and disruptive.
"These constant hootenannings must stop," said Mayor Thomas Menino, an outspoken critic since the front doors of historic Faneuil Hall were taken off their hinges and laid in the street to provide a dancing surface during a particularly spirited jamboree three weeks ago. "They're fine once in a while, like when the city brings in a record harvest, or when the schoolmarm agrees to marry Ol' Doc Blanchett. But a high-steppin' weekday ruckus is unbefittin' to a big, important county seat like Boston, and as mayor, I won't stand for these fool shenanigans."
Though the spontaneous acts of bluegrass have been characterized as "hell-raisin'," they have yet to cause significant injury, aside from damage inflicted on numerous brooms and washtubs converted into bass fiddles, and dozens of pairs of spoons bent while being repurposed as percussive aids. In addition, several clotheslines in the Beacon Hill neighborhood were trodden under by escaped hogs, at least one of which wound up wearing an area resident's best Sunday dress while Bostonians chased it through the already chaotic downtown traffic.
Despite the relatively harmless fun, many peace-loving residents now live in fear of being swept up in the exhausting yet irresistible revels.
"I was already late for work last Monday morning when that smiling fellow started that hootenanny on [Boston Common]," stockbroker Sid Daley said. "It's one thing when infectious banjo music compels you to grab the nearest washboard or empty jug and join along on a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon, but on a Monday morning, when I have meetings? There's a time and a place for letting this kind of deal go down, is all I'm saying."
Holcomb, born and raised in the hill country of Somerville, reportedly has a history of salty-dog-like behavior, beginning in his youth, when he was often reprimanded at school for rowdy folk-music-related behavior. By the time he was 18, Holcomb had joined a local gang of bluegrass boys, and started acting on his pathological hootennanish impulses.
"We think Mr. Holcomb fits the profile of a hootenanny ringleader and has the skills to pull off something even bigger," Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said. "Wingdings, shindigs, pig pickin's—we're sure he's capable of those, too. He may enlist the help of other banjoists, perhaps even fiddle players, and throw a full-blown hoedown."
"I do declare," added Davis, removing his hat and wiping his brow. "The people of Boston have to be prepared for the absolute gol-durndest."