Wearing sunglasses at 10:50 p.m. upon being picked up at the Peoria airport, Jack Chernos arrived for Knox College’s event-packed Earth Week. He plays guitar but is first and foremost a banjo player. A “punk-folk” banjo player, as he described it.
Coming from San Francisco, Chernos said his music is “political protest music, and I play banjo in a somewhat nontraditional way. It’s a little more energetic and more modern than a lot of protest singers.” He goes to protests with songs prepared and has a lot of songs that are good for a lot of different situations.
“When I gig, I play harmonica, banjo, and guitar. I basically play almost everything except drums and violins,” he said. Chernos also seems to be a collector of old instruments, saying that even though he cannot play violin, he has a 100-year-old violin that he’s proud of, as well as a 100-year-old piano that he bought for a mere $200. His website, department-of-justice.org, states, “Jack plays guitar, bass, lap steel, keyboards, trumpet, peck horn, saxophone, flute, and harmonica.”
He has written several famous protest songs, but among the most notable are, as stated on department-of-justice.org, “‘The Union Grand,’ theme song of the Million Worker March on Washington, D.C., ‘The Silence of Good People,’ which has been performed at a number of the recent large anti-war rallies and was inducted into the National Civil Rights Museum, and ‘Sold Down the River,’ the anti-WTO song played in continuous-loop from the Steelworkers’ billboard truck in Seattle.”
Though he mostly sings at protests, he said, “I’m recording with a band in New York, [and] I’m working on an album.”
This is his first time visiting Knox. “You guys are really the next generation,” he said. “It’s really heartening. I think Knox College is a really cool place.”
Jack Chernos will be playing at the Earth Week open mic on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at The Box, near the corner of Kellogg and Simmons. His music is available to listen to at www.myspace.com/jackchernos and also department-of-justice.org.