12 Feb The Story of My Banjo
The banjo is a much maligned and misunderstood instrument. Don’t believe me? Well, here are a few common banjo jokes…
- What’s the difference between a banjo and a chainsaw? You can tune a chainsaw.
- How do you get two banjo players to play in unison? Shoot one.
- Banjo players spend half their lives tuning and the other half playing out of tune.
- What’s the difference between a banjo and an onion? No one cries when you cut up a banjo.
- I accidentally left my banjo in my unlocked car. When I came back there were four more banjos.
You get the idea. Regardless, the banjo is one of my favorite instruments and really fun to play. So when Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn performed a little over a week ago at Colorado College, we were there!
Bela is, of course, arguably the best bluegrass banjo player in the world with numerous Grammies and an illustrious career. Abigail, Bela’s wife, is an incredible claw-hammer banjo player, singer and a Colorado College alumnus …a prodigal daughter to our community.
The show was amazing an incredibly diverse. The music ranged from classical to Appalachian to Chinese folk songs to familiar Flecktone tunes. I’ve never seen so many different banjos on one stage!
My wife said at one point, “I never realized the banjo could sound so beautiful”. I took this a little personally. In fact, when I got home, I yelled at my banjo, “Why can’t you do that!?”
I really should be nicer to my banjo. It’s served me well. It’s an old 5-string clunker, but does have a bit of history to it. It belonged to the son of Vernon Grant, an artist and banjo player from my home town of Rock Hill, SC who invented the Rice Crispies mascots, Snap Crackle and Pop. He’s sort of a local legend there.
What’s interesting is that the banjo case has Vernon Grant’s signature “VG” trademark painted on the sides, but with an unusual “O” middle initial. I presume he painted his son’s initials on the case. Or maybe his son was just emulating his dad’s logo and painted them himself?
But my banjo has another mystery. On the bridge, someone carved “Lonnie -N- Cheryl”. I’ve no idea who these 2 lovebirds are, but isn’t it every girl’s dream to have their boyfriend carve her name into his banjo?
I’m gonna write a banjo tune called “Lonnie and Cheryl”, and whenever I perform it, it’ll be just like a long court trial.
…everyone will be relieved when the case is finally closed.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.