Skip to main content

A Fall Into Banjo

The past four posts have served as an introduction to this blog and what I plan to cover in the future. I hope to present a well-rounded view of the banjo and Old-Time music. As the author, however, I can't help but interject with tales about my own adventures with the instrument.

I consider myself an experienced novice. I know just enough about the banjo to know I still have plenty to learn. In that regard, I hope my experiences will help others who might be interested in learning to play the banjo.

My decision to play the banjo came in the winter of 2007 when I contacted the writers at the Americana music blog Hickory Wind about buying a banjo, which was prompted by an article on the site about buying a guitar. After a series of e-mails and some online research, I bought a Recording King Songster in March of 2008 and started to learn Scruggs three-finger style.

Even then, I wasn't a huge fan of the high-speed banjo picking of Bluegrass music, but the Scruggs style is so popular that it was the only way I knew of to play the five-string. The three bands I blame for giving me the itch to play the banjo are the Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Little did I know that none of the banjo players in those bands played like Earl Scruggs.

As two roads diverged before me, I--I took wrong one.


Popular posts from this blog

Highwoods Documentary Not a Lost Cause After All

So, once upon a time, I tried to drum up support for a crowdfunded documentary project about the Highwoods Stringband. I donated money to help out, and more than a year later I provided an update on the slow progress. Last I heard, there was some old footage of the Highwoods they were trying to acquire. It's been three and a half years now that I first heard about the project, and I still haven't received my DVD.

I figured that's the risk you take with these crowdfunded, Kickstarter-type projects. I had all but given up the documentary as a lost cause. Until today. If I managed to convince any of you to help fund the project, I felt it my duty to pass along this update directly from Highwoods mainstay Walt Koken.
"After several delays and setbacks, we, the members of the Highwoods Stringband and Mudthumper Music have procured the vintage footage and photos in cooperation with the original producers and put them into the hands of another videographer, Larry Edelman, in …

Master and Apprentice: Banjo Builder Workshop in Historic Peninsula, Ohio

The 191-year-old Peninsula, Ohio, provided the backdrop to a parade of pedestrians making their way from station to station across the bucolic village for Music on the Porches on Saturday.

Inside the close confines of Bronson Church, founded in 1835, a master and apprentice presented a free workshop on the art of instrument building. That master being the renowned banjo builder and artist Doug Unger and his former apprentice Mark Ward.

Unger and Ward began the workshop by playing several old-time tunes, discussing their work and the music, and taking questions from the audience. Unger then invited the spectators to step up to the front to see the instruments.

Postcards: Vinyl Hunting Tour

Tuesday was a perfect day for a short driving tour to scour record stores for some vinyl. At my third stop, The Vinyl Groove in Bedford, Ohio, I came upon these two albums. The top one is Ed Haley, "Parkersburg Landing" (Rounder 1010), a selection of home recordings made in 1946 and released in 1976. The other is "Galax Va. Old Fiddlers' Convention" (Folkways FA 2435), released in 1964. Together they set me back $11 plus tax. It was a good day.