Banjo & Book

Just over half a century ago my father came home carrying a 5-string banjo. I totally flipped out over it. He had apparently noticed my reaction to watching players like Earl Scruggs, Roy Clark and Larry McNeely when they occasionally appeared on TV variety shows and televised concerts. What he couldn't see were the tingling sensations racing up and down my spine whenever I was able to listen to them playing. It was just a cheap Japanese-made Prairie brand banjo but it played in tune most of the way up the neck and was just fine for a me.

We already had a Flatt & Scruggs album with Foggy Mountain Breakdown on it. Slowing the record down on the turntable I listened to it repeatedly and meticulously picked out each note as best I could to learn how to play it.


This went on for a couple of weeks as I worked each afternoon until suppertime and more after supper into the night until ordered to go to bed, listening and learning to play it on the banjo. A few weeks later I had it figured out well enough to play it for the first time in front of family and friends and was amazed by how much they enjoyed listening to me play it. I had also learned to play Cripple Creek and a few licks of Some of Shelly's Blues off of the new Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Uncle Charlie album after a friend from theatre group turned me onto that.


I was hooked and started going to the local music shop to find out more about playing the 5-string banjo. At that time I was also building an electric guitar in wood shop at school and had become acquainted with the music shop owner while shopping for hardware for that project.

He turned me onto the Pete Seeger red book titled "How to Play the 5-String Banjo" and I began working through lessons. Then a copy of "Earl Scruggs and the 5-String Banjo" appeared on the book rack at the music shop and I snatched that up before anyone else could.


And there in the pages of that wonderful book I learned all I could have hoped to learn about the 5-string banjo and how to play tunes as Earl Scruggs would play them. That book burned in the fire which destroyed my home this spring and it was the first music book purchased as I wrapped up rebuilding my music making kit and studio. I had already read it many times but I knew I needed to have it again.


Fortunately, this first-edition copy just like the one I bought so long ago and still in great shape from cover to cover was available on EBay for $10. I had expected to have to pay much more for it, if any still existed out there at all. It's so good to have it back in the studio.

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