Skip to main content

Riley Baugus: The Excerpts

The April 2012 issue of the Banjo Newsletter includes my article about Riley Baugus in the quarterly section Old-Time Way. Baugus is a considerate and insightful musician and gave me so many thoughtful answers that I couldn't possibly include it all in the space provided. Here are some excerpts from the interview that didn't make the cut:

On his uncle, who was one of his banjo teachers: "I had an uncle from Sparta, that played in an old-time stringband when he was a young man. He moved up to Fredericksburg, Va., in the early 1960s with his family. He followed some friends there to cut timber. Their plan was to stay for six months. Just long enough to cut one tract of timber and then come back home to the mountains. He and his family still live there. He's 85 now. He played guitar mostly, but got a banjo back in the late ‘60s and learned to play it pretty well, two-finger style. I loved the sound of the banjo. It was incredible. He taught me a bit."

On his early days: "Of course my playing was pretty rough at first when I was trying to learn tunes, but I played almost all the time. If I had free time, I'd play. I used to take my banjo to school so that when there was a free moment or class period, I could play. I just loved to play."

On his ideal playing venue: "My ideal playing venue is wherever people gather that want to hear old-time music being played."

On his banjo preferences: "I like a banjo that is loud, but mellow, with a deep tone, sort of 'thuddy,' but with good cut. I don't like them to sound too muddy or damped, just rich and loud with all the overtones taken away, and solid, not metallic or jangley."

On building banjos and a busy schedule: "I do build banjos when I'm not out playing or recording or working on other parts of the music. I don't take orders for banjos anymore, as it would be impossible to fill them with the limited amount of time that I have to actually work in the shop. If people want one, I have them send me a request via e-mail and then I put their address in an e-mail list that I send out when I get one completed. That gives everyone a fair chance at getting a banjo without having to wait for years after they've ordered one and having it take an excessively long time. I really like making people happy, but that becomes more difficult when they're waiting for an instrument that you can't get finished."

In the BNL article, available to read here, Baugus shares many more insights about his playing, the elusive "Round Peak style," and old-time music in general. Be sure to check it out, and forgive my shameless plug.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Getting Blitzed with Tom Collins

A little more than a year ago, Salem, Massachusetts-based banjo player and teacher Tom Collins embarked on a yearlong project he called Banjo Blitz. The weekly YouTube series provided short banjo lessons on technique. Each video is about five minutes long, give or take, and presents a short pattern — or “ostinato” — designed to teach and improve a specific aspect of banjo playing.

The mission was to get the audience “to practice clawhammer in discrete chunks every day without the burden of trying to memorize tunes,” Collins says. He wanted to build skills rather than repertoire.

“Let’s take the tune off the table,” says Collins, who has been teaching banjo for 11 years. “Let’s focus on a simple, mantra-like ostinato that can train your body how to execute a technique properly, while training your ears how to hear it properly. Let’s also make it so that you can do this every day without it sucking every spare minute from your life. The big dirty secret about learning how to play an ins…

Clawhammer Picks and You: A Review

Clawhammer picks are a useful tool for increasing volume or to overcome fingernail challenges, such as broken, too short or weak nails. There are all sorts of commercial and homemade solutions available for banjo players, but it can be difficult to decide which options to choose. Thankfully, I've already done some of the work for you.
Just to be clear, I prefer my natural fingernail for frailing. However, there was a time when I experimented with regularly using a pick, and there are instances now where I find that a pick is necessary. Today, I'll take you through the five options I've tried. These are all available online at prices ranging from about $1 to $13.

Reversed/Reshaped Dunlop Pick ($0.75)
This was the most common suggestion before other companies started addressing the gap in the clawhammer pick market. Take a bluegrass pick, flatten it out and wear it backwards. The problem is that it's hard to get the fit right. While Dunlop picks are cheap and readily avai…

The Ongoing Search for Ohio's Old-Time Fiddle Repertoire

Since the beginning of my journey into old-time music, I have sought to find a connection to my home state. After studying the recorded repertoire of a dozen old-time fiddlers who spent a majority of their lives in Ohio, I have compiled a master list of more than 300 tunes. By cross-referencing this list, there were 12 tunes that I identified as “common,” based on their appearance in the repertoire of at least three fiddlers. The results of my findings follow.

This is far from a scientific method or academic study. I do not claim to be a musicologist or folklore scholar. I welcome any feedback.

Common Tunes:
Arkansas Traveler BirdieCumberland GapDurang’s HornpipeForked DeerGrey EagleJune AppleLeather BritchesMississippi SawyerRaggedy AnnTurkey in the StrawWild Horse At some point I would like to put together a list of tunes that are unique to Ohio or have a particular connection to an Ohio locale, such as Lonnie Seymour’s “Chillicothe Two-Step” or Arnold Sharp’s “Anna Hayes.” However,…