By Michael Hofer
© 2001



In summary Id like to close with some of the legacies of the banjo, mostly good at that. The banjo has come a long way from a calabash gourd with with a hide stretched over it and gut strings. The styles, and techniques continue to evolve and improve along with the technical advances of the banjo itself. It has both influenced and been influenced by many kinds of music.

The sound of the banjo has been heard in the cotton fields, on porches. On Paddleboats over rivers. In many parlours on sundays. It was used on cattle drives to keep the cows quiet. It has been heard in the backhills and hollers, in woods, over prairies and plains, from horseback, from rolling wagon trains. The music of the banjo was heard in the war camps of the US during its War Between the States. The banjo was a source for community get togethers, as banjo bands formed around the turn of the century, and theres a few of them still today.
Today we hear it largely in bluegrass festivals, and hay rides and square dances. When people come together to enjoy music, and company and dance. Theres a kind of magic in the air when a banjo is played, a happiness sprinkled to dance on the wind.

As I contact many banjo players throughout the world today via this internet media, one legacy that concerns many banjo players is the often stereo typed image thats is portrayed as todays banjoist. Reffered to by one of my friends as the "YEE HAW IMAGE". The Lil Abner type self effacing buffoon is a left over from Black Face days.
The banjo being such a happy instrument lends itself well to this type of comedy, and many enjoy the comedy. Unfortunately, the genius of many of these banjo comics so completely fools the audiences they actually believe any half witted hayseed can play a banjo.
Subsequently, the banjoist is left with the Rodney Dangerfield complex. "Cant Get No Respect".
In many musical circles, banjo players are not largely regarded as "legitimate" musicians. We seem to fall into the "kazoos" and "washboards" levels of music making in the eyes of many in the world.
As a long time student of music, and somewhat accomplished on several "legitmate" instruments, I know this is bunk. It takes every bit as much effort and skill and musical ability to play a banjo well as any instrument out there. I know that, and so do most banjo players.
Only recently with such innovative players as Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka, David Crissler pushing the banjo out of traditional bluegrass, the "hillbilly" music into other genres, such as jazz and other ecclectic new age, the banjo is gaining some respect as a legitimate instrument.

Despite the critics of banjos, despite the negative images the banjo player has had to deal with , it has endured and grown here in America for nearly three centuries , and continues to grow and evolve throughout the world.

There are many great banjo players out in the world today playing all styles of banjo music. Dixieland Jazz on Plectrums and Tenors, Bluegrass on the standard acoustical Five String, still dominate the majority of music genres being played.New pioneers continue to break barriers and move into new areas of music.
Additionally many banjoists today are currently studying the old time claw hammer style learning many of the old original songs, and playing them on replica banjos. The interest in the banjo and the many kinds of music that it can provide is continuing to grow both here in the US and abroad. There is something inheritantly happy about banjo music, even when a song of foreboding is played, theres always seems to be an underlying sense of hope and joy beneath.

Banjos bring a happy voice into a dark world, full of woe and lightens the path and makes life better, who could ask for more?

Good Pickin To You,
Michael Hofer

"The way I see it, every child born should be issued a banjo"
-----Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts

Earl Scruggs and Bella Fleck