A native of north Texas, I grew up just like any normal boy from the suburbs of Dallas in the 90’s. Punk rock, skateboards, mohawk haircuts, you know the usual.
Sometime in my late teens I was drawn to a Silvertone Banjo that my Dad had in his closet. At the time, the internet was lousy, and the only form of Banjo related music that I was aware of was bluegrass.
So bluegrass it was, that is, until it got boring. So the Banjos (I had added a 70’s Japanese “masterclone” to the mix) went into their cases.
Then, some years ago, I got involved in living history (fancy words for dressing up in funny clothes and pretending it is the 19th century). At these events I was exposed to some great musicians playing even better music.
Thinking to myself, hey, I used to play the banjo, I went home and retrieved the old machine. Armed with new strings, and a renewed interest, I began the quest to learn how to play like the “old timers”
I asked some of the musicians I knew how I should go about learning historical Banjo. The answers I got were to get modern books.
Instead of going the modern book route, I decided to learn from the same sources that people used in the 19th century. I started with the early “minstrel” tutors. Eventually I moved on to the late 19th century “guitar" style.
Interestingly, the type of music I was playing did not resemble what had been presented to me as “authentic.” While I had heard “old time” music, my research provided a very progressive sound. Marches, polkas, schottisches, waltzes, Quicksteps etc.
In 2011 I made a big move to New Hampshire. I also became heavily involved with the American Banjo Fraternity (ABF). The ABF is a group with a living tradition that can trace a direct link back to the earliest professional banjoists, including Frank B. Converse. I recommend joining for anyone interested in banjo playing.