Other Early Contributors
A few other banjoists are worth mentioning here that helped to shape
the future of banjo players in America. We begin with Don Reno.
Don Reno was born February 21 1927 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. By age nine
he was playing guitar and by age 12 he was playing on the radio regularly.
At 14 he began a musical apprenticeship with he worked with Arthur Smith
and the Cracker Jacks along with the Morris Brothers at WSPA. The Morris
Brothers introduced him to Mountain Music, a cousin to Bluegrass. Don
learned many genres of music. He learned to play the fivestring banjo
in the style Snuffy Jenkins had been playing.|
Bill Monroe asked him to join his band
in 44, but he opted to enlist in the war instead. After he finished a 2 year
hitch, in 47 after Earl Scruggs left Monroe, Don with his banjo
walked out on stage to a delighted Bill Monroe who said "Where ya been
I been looking for you boy". When Flatt And Scruggs invited Bill Monroe to make an appearance
on their radio show on WCYB, in an effort on their part to help him promote his
showdates, and cool his animosity towards them, Don himself tried to foster more goodwill and offered to swap Earl his 33/34
Gibson Granada for Earls RB3, and the trade was made.
Don played with Monroe about 2 years.|
honed his banjo skills and also his guitar playing. He was an excellant
flat picker, and was dubbed "King of the Flat Pickin Guitarists".
He was better known for his banjo playing as the banjo half of
a group called Reno and Smiley. In 1955 Reno recorded a song called
"Fueding Banjos", this song became "Dueling Banjos" in the Deliverance Movie
in the early 70s.
Dons guitar playing influenced his banjo work too. He began experimenting
with things Earl didn't, in the three fingered style. As mentioned on Earl's
page, the three fingered style Scruggs developed worked around the system
of roll patterns, Don stepped out of that a bit, as in the song "Feuding Banjos"
where he used ascending melodic scales, not one melody note and 3 fill ins
but several melody notes one after the other. He introduced a way of
playing on a single string that helped to build a new way of playing
the banjo, this based upon his work on the guitar. He and Eddie Adock
(another of Monroes banjoists) were masters at this, and their
work was a forerunner of the melodic style that would follow.
This groundwork would
be built upon by banjoists coming up, and much like Hammett and Brooks,
most of the credit would go to another man for popularizing it.
After Smiley died in 72 Don continued to work with his sons. He has recorded
on King, Jayln, Starday, King Bluegrass and CMH labels. Don himself passed
away in 1984, but his sons recently released a new recording with him
playing the guitar on King Records.
The Stanley Brothers Ralph and Carter began their
band in 1946 following the success of Bill Monroe
and many consider this band second only to Monroe
in the pioneering and promotion of this new sound
Bluegrass and the subgenre related to it Mountain Music.
One thing is for sure, Ralph Stanleys longevity in this field
spanning more than 50 years, speaks of the popularity of this banjoist
and his music.|
Ralph Stanley was born February 25, 1927 in the Clinch Mountains of Dickenson
County Virginia. Along with brother Carter, their band worked
on radio station WYCB in Bristol Virginia where they became an instant
sucess and worked steadily for 12 years. |
Like many bluegrass bands slowed up considerably by Rock n Roll
in the 50s, they were saved by the new resurged interest in Folk and Bluegrass
music beginning in the early 60s. Working alot again, another blow
came to the band when in 1966 brother Carter passed away from cancer.
Ralph continued with the band.
The Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys have entertained
for more than half a century. They have influenced the careers of
former band members, Ricky Skaggs, Larry Sparks, Keith Whitley, and
Charlie Sizemore, just to name a few.
Ralph plays on a rather unique banjo, called a Stanleytone made by Fred Neat out of Kentucky.
Its design is unique as its an archtop as opposed to the flathead
banjos used by most banjoists today. Its also expensive as it is gold plated.
The rumors about Eddie Peabody selling banjos is also associated with Ralph Stanley.
According to this researchers information though, the only other banjo
Ralph played on aside from these Stanleytones were Gibsons RB5, and 250
and Stelling, and all were archtop. Ralph credits learning banjo from
his mother Lucy, however listening to his music, its clear he like many
others was greatly influenced by Earl Scruggs.
Ralph currently records under the Freeland Record Label, but has also
recorded under the Rebel Label. Ralph's band has recorded over 150
albums. His accalades include,The National Endowment for the Humanities
Traditional American Music Award, presented in 1985 by President
Ronald Reagan; Honorary Doctorate of Music from Lincoln Memorial
University; five Grammy nominations in the last five years;
International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Honor inductee;
and performing for two Presidential inaugurations (Jimmy Carter and