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The Banjo Bug

By   /   May 7, 2012  /   Comments



I have to blame all of this on my blacksmith friend Lyn Belcher.  Mr. Belcher had a blacksmith shop in downtown Sasser, Georgia, and I often enjoyed going there.  The ambiance was nice.  He had created a rustic look in his showroom to display his metalwork, and he had Bluegrass music piped in via satellite.  I talked to him one day about the music and he said that he considered Bluegrass to be about the only true American art form for music.  Conversation turned to the old show Hee Haw, and he told me that reruns are still being played on RFDTV.  I could not wait to go home and check out Bluegrass Junction and RFDTV.

Unbeknown to me, the blacksmith had planted a seed that would eventually grow into a wild hair.  Now I am not talking about the kind of wild hair that you might find growing out of a mole on the back of your aunt Bertha.  I am talking about the kind of wild hair that constantly nags at you to go somewhere or do something.  This wild hair was not on me.  This untamed lock was growing on my son.

Since we have started listening to Bluegrass, he has had a desire for a banjo.  It must grate on him night and day because about eighty percent of our conversations together somehow turn into, “…if I only had a banjo.”  These wild hairs are not uncommon, and I suspect that they run deep on my side of the family.  Someday I am going to turn my old popup camper into a teardrop camper, get my old MG-Bs running again, restore an old sailboat that I have stored in the in laws’ yard, etc.  So I know a thing or two about wild hairs.

In trying to do some research on banjos, it appears that there are several different styles.  Some have four, most have five, and a few have six strings.  Some are open backed and are used for clawhammer style.  Some have a closed back and are used more for a Bluegrass/Earl Scruggs style of picking.  Some are inexpensive and some will cost about the same as a new car.  There are even one stringed instruments called Canjos and three stringed banjo ukuleles.  Neither of these last two will satisfy the bug.

My son has gone off on other tangents in the past.  One time he wanted to play the bagpipe so we got him the practice chanter and a year of lessons on CD and booklet.  There are not many people in our area that teach the bagpipes.  A few months ago, he wanted to make his own arrowheads.  Following advice from the blacksmith, I am starting to see a trend here, we collected a bucket of flint by the river.  That bucket has been in the garage for several months.

It is important for kids to try new things.  What would have happened if Earl Scruggs never got a banjo?  It could become a skill that he carries with him for the rest of his life or it could become a decoration for the corner of his room waiting on “someday.”  We are still pondering what to do with this new obsession and wondering if extra hold gel might tame this wild hair.  It sure would be a lot cheaper than a banjo!


billwallerWritten by Bill Waller. Mr. Waller is a author and contributor local blog, Southwest Georgia Politics. He enjoys writing, traveling, and researching history. He currently resides in Albany, Georgia.

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