Saturday, May 27, 2006


Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

As you know, I took up the BANJO a few months ago. The idea was that I would give my brain a new challenge at the age of 40, fulfill my dream of strumming along with a Dixieland band, and just be stupid with my BANJO.

When I went in to buy a 4-string, tenor banjo, I thought the nice kid at the best music store in the area sold me one, but when I got home I counted five strings, not four. I figured this must be some esoteric BANJO thing I didn't understand, but as it turns out, I can count to five just fine. He had sold me a regular bluegrass five-string.

The owner of the store, one of the sweetest and coolest guys around (he goes to my church sometimes, and he plays with Jimmy Buffet, so he's 11 on the 1-10 coolness scale), explained to me that tenor banjos are really rare and he hadn't seen one for at least a decade. He was sorry for the misunderstanding.
I was a little crushed but figured hey, my cute instructor can make my new five-string sound like a Dixieland banjo by teaching me to play it in plectrum tuning (a little BANJO LINGO for you musicians out there).

A few weeks after I started my lessons, the store owner greeted me with a special smile when I came in one afternoon. "Wait 'til I show you this." As it turns out, a man from a neighboring town had just that week brought in a beautiful honey of an antique tenor banjo that had been in his family for probably about 80 years. It needed some restoration, but as soon as I held it in my tiny hands I knew it was MY honey for all time. I love music people: as I held my little BANJO, all the guys who work at the store stood around and grinned like fools. We all grinned like fools.

So today I got to play my restored antique Orpheum BANJO for the first time. It sounds just right: all twangy and Dixieland and it feels just right on my lap. There she is. Isn't she beautiful? Did you see the mother-of-pearl inlays?

You can say "mazel tov" if you want.


Blogger Lizard Eater said...

Mazel Tov, PB! I play guitar and have been loudly sharing my wishes for a banjo for a coupla years. Maybe this will be the year; I have a bday coming up.

That's a beauty ... play it in good health.


Blogger Kim said...

Mazel Tov, PeaceBang!

Blogger Peregrinato said...

My first year at Wesley I got the notion that I was gonna play me the geetar and strum along to some Johnny Cash. I I took lessons from the House of Musical Traditions. It lasted about six months. I still have the guitar. Mebbe I'll pick it up again one day.... GOOD LUCK!!!

Blogger fausto said...

i'll have to play my recording of the Yale Alumni Banjo Club for you sometime. Two dozen geezers playing football songs on their tenor banjos. AS an ensemble. Words fail.

On another track of the same LP, it's got Bill Coffin yodeling. Other UUs may have books he's autographed, but I'm the only one I know who has an autographed Coffin yodeling soundtrack.

Blogger Chief_Bubble_Chaser said...


On my short list of things to do when the "mom-intense" years pass is to learn how to play the banjo. I watched a segment on the Travel Channel this weekend which featured the interworking of the Deering Banjo Company. . Very Cool!

Blogger David Dodd said...

Nice to read this from a fellow UU banjo player. I play mountain-style (clawhammer) banjo, or should I say, BANJO. Thought about joining a fellow church member's Dixieland band a few months back, but the rehearsal was pretty intense--they are very good.

Blogger Myra said...

Deering Banjo Company makes tenor banjos. I tried the Goodtime tenor banjo at Mandolin Brothers in Staten Island.

I actually play bluegrass banjo on the 5-string, but I'm also fascinated with tenor banjos especially in Dixieland or Louis Armstrong types of music. I like Banjo Kings music. I also like the Banjo Prancing which is a Christmas CD by the artist who I forgot the name.


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