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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Banjo Builder Interviews - My 60th Birthday Present.


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/202324

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frailin - Posted - 03/17/2011:  14:33:50


As a birthday present to me, I decided to drive a total of 12,000 miles in 2 years to interview 22+ open-back banjo builders in-person. The world has never seen such a time in banjo building. Personally, I feel their stories of inspiration, philosophies and goals not to mention artistry needs to be captured. My wonderful wife thinks it's a great idea, too.



Beginning this May, I'm going to take in 16 builders in an "Eastern Swing." Along the way, I'm going to be talking to Stan Werbin (Elderly), Stu Cohen (The Music Emporium) and Donald Zepp (Zepp Country Music) about trends they see in Americana music (i.e. today's customers).

Next May I'll pickup the rest in a "Western Swing."

"Why on earth would anyone do such a thing?! is a sentiment I field quite often. I decided to put together a short video to help explain...

youtube.com/watch?v=WQ1-C3JayKY

Most likely I'll be posting these video interviews online somewhere. I'll also probably do a DVD for libraries, schools, historical societies and private folks interested in art and/or music. But I don't see it as a money-maker (like Americana music in general). Still, the artform needs to be captured for posterity. I'm hoping to win a grant to help cover costs. But I'd do it anyway. I feel it's that important.

Happy Birthday to me.

Yellowhouseroad - Posted - 03/17/2011:  14:46:07


Sounds great! These videos would also be helpful for those of us who are looking for some more input from dealers on open-back banjos and what company's and models are good for different kinds of music. I'm looking forward to seeing this! Safe travels Craig, and God bless.

jamesd - Posted - 03/17/2011:  14:49:43


Well, it sounds like a great adventure.. I think you will have a great time and learn so much from these people. I am a little jealous that someone can spent so much time enjoying themselves on such a project......

However, I will bet that you will miss all that snow........

James

pammiec - Posted - 03/17/2011:  14:50:14


What a GREAT IDEA! Looking forward to your progress!

Pam

Pluckin Mutha - Posted - 03/17/2011:  15:36:31


quote:
Originally posted by frailin

As a birthday present to me, I decided to drive a total of 12,000 miles in 2 years to interview 22+ open-back banjo builders in-person. The world has never seen such a time in banjo building. Personally, I feel their stories of inspiration, philosophies and goals not to mention artistry needs to be captured. My wonderful wife thinks it's a great idea, too.



Beginning this May, I'm going to take in 16 builders in an "Eastern Swing." Along the way, I'm going to be talking to Stan Werbin (Elderly), Stu Cohen (The Music Emporium) and Donald Zepp (Zepp Country Music) about trends they see in Americana music (i.e. today's customers).

Next May I'll pickup the rest in a "Western Swing."

"Why on earth would anyone do such a thing?! is a sentiment I field quite often. I decided to put together a short video to help explain...

youtube.com/watch?v=WQ1-C3JayKY

Most likely I'll be posting these video interviews online somewhere. I'll also probably do a DVD for libraries, schools, historical societies and private folks interested in art and/or music. But I don't see it as a money-maker (like Americana music in general). Still, the artform needs to be captured for posterity. I'm hoping to win a grant to help cover costs. But I'd do it anyway. I feel it's that important.

Happy Birthday to me.



Don't miss Arthur Hatfield!

Mutha

J-Walk - Posted - 03/17/2011:  15:58:25


Craig, that is a completely awesome project.

You'll have some raw video footage that could be edited down to make one hell of a documentary for a general audience -- similar to that "Why Old Time?" DVD. Are you shooting it in 1080p?

banjered - Posted - 03/17/2011:  16:36:53


Fabulous project!!! Shades of 1960s music gatherers (Farot etc.)! Go Craig go!!! Banjered

Alan Hill - Posted - 03/17/2011:  16:40:50


Great you will have me glued to the screen ,,a brilliant idea !

Ephraim - Posted - 03/17/2011:  17:53:08


Totally amazing. What's fascinating is that no one knows how valuable the video and documentation of these visits will become in a century or longer...

Old-timer - Posted - 03/17/2011:  17:55:22


Sounds like a blast, Craig. Us banjo-geeks will be anxiously waiting to hear about this! Say hi to Bart and tell him to keep building great banjos!

blm10jn - Posted - 03/17/2011:  17:58:22


Sounds like lots of fun. You may go right by my house in Paw Paw, MI on your way to see Stan at Elderly. You are more than welcome to stop and gab. My only claim to fame is I built the fiddles that Dan Gellert plays. While I may not be known building banjos Stan has been selling the ones I build.

XXXris - Posted - 03/17/2011:  19:09:27


fantastic! see if you can get us some free samples along the way, ha ha ha

ceemonster - Posted - 03/17/2011:  21:01:25


don't know if you're heading to the Left Coast, but openback wizard tom culbertson of gryphon strings might have some thoughts on trends---i came across a note by him addressing precisely this topic on their site not long ago and found it fascinating; here's an excerpt:

gryphonstrings.com/pages/Annou...=1qw4a4c8

[Here at Gryphon Stringed Instruments we have sold many banjos over the years. Back in the seventies our sales were dominated by bluegrass banjos with their country cousin, the old-time open-back banjo, tagging along behind. There were a few Jazz Age loyalists interested in the four string plectrum banjo and its little brother, the short necked tenor. Now, decades later, things have changed. By an overwhelming margin our biggest selling instrument is the old-time open-back 'claw hammer' or 'frailing' banjo. The bluegrass 'resonator' model is still popular, but open-backs are outselling them by at least five to one. Interest in the four string plectrum is almost nonexistent but the short neck tenor has been reborn as a session instrument with Irish traditional players.

Why the change? An entirely new generation has grown up and taken an interest in the styles of the past, as well as employing the banjo for their own styles of music. But it's not just young people playing old-time. Folks who have tired of trying to develop their virtuoso chops for the competitive world of bluegrass have found the easy going nature of old-time music a comfortable fit. The banjo has also begun to reclaim its place as an accompaniment to singing ballads and related styles. It makes a refreshing contrast to the ever-present guitar. Whatever the reason, open-back banjos have become Gryphon's biggest seller......]

rudy - Posted - 03/18/2011:  05:45:45


Craig,
That's a fantastic endevour! I can't tell you how much I've appreciated your Webinar series, so this will be sort of like a super-sized version of that work and I'll look forward to watching your progress. It seems like a separate Youtube channel might be a good vehicle to host your travelogue / informance.
Bon Voyage!

rpmilius - Posted - 03/18/2011:  06:49:48


what a wonderful project!
looking forward to your updates!

-bob

Viper - Posted - 03/18/2011:  07:18:00


Definitely looking forward to this project and watching along. Just make sure you're paying attention to the road more than car cam ...

Cheers!

Paul R - Posted - 03/18/2011:  07:29:23


This is the sort of thing we need. Thanks for undertaking it.

Would there be any thought of transcribing, editing, and editorializing it in book form? The videos would be raw data, as would be, I suppose, some narration. However, it's up to you to provide (or not) the thread that runs through it all and to give reasons for the common threads that you find. I noticed that in the Gryphon excerpt, there's one paragraph of information and one paragraph of interpretation. There could be, at least, a really neat coffee table book in there somewhere.

frailin - Posted - 03/18/2011:  07:47:01


Thanks for the good wishes, folks. And I'm THRILLED you understand the importance of capturing this "moment in time" for others to appreciate.

J-walk, I am filming in HD (1080p). I will include as many builders as I can (there is criteria in place for inclusion).

I also feel the "trends" in banjo buying/playing are as important to this "snapshot in time" as the builder's stories... thus the need to include the notable retailers. Ceemonster, Gryphon (and others) are on my interview list for the "Western Swing" in May 2012.

Paul, your desire for a book is warranted.



Ethnomusicologist, player extraordinaire and fellow BHO member Richard Jones-Bamman (banjers51) is in the process of preparing such a worthy tome! It will be more in-depth than my interviews. You will certainly appreciate his scholarly work.

Just out of curiosity, if I do produce DVDs of the interviews (it would probably be a several volume set) would anyone HERE be interested in purchasing? And if so, what would you expect to pay?

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 03/18/2011:  08:16:56


Brilliant...absolutely brilliant! And Happy Birthday to Youuuuuuuuuuuuu!

caloscalzo - Posted - 03/18/2011:  10:20:20


Craig, ain't turning 60 amazing!!!!!????

Craig

frailin - Posted - 03/18/2011:  10:20:55


The original INTRO footage was too messy... I had to clean and tighten it up.

Here's the remake: youtube.com/watch?v=AamTSltHdz4

There. Now I feel better.

Oh. And if you want to get the full HD effect, in the lower right hand corner of the Youtube video player, click on 360p and reset it to 720p. Then expand the image to FULL SCREEN. Gotta admit, HD is cool.


Edited by - frailin on 03/18/2011 10:22:34

banjo bill-e - Posted - 03/18/2011:  11:57:38


Craig, once again you are an inspiration to me. So let me say here, thanks for all you do for the frailers of this world.
---and oh yeah, Happy Birthday!
Bill


Edited by - banjo bill-e on 03/18/2011 11:58:21

ceemonster - Posted - 03/18/2011:  16:49:00


well, if you're going to be around the Left Coast in May, there is the 6th Annual Los Angeles Oldtime Social, a long weekend of oldtime concerts, workshops, square dance, etc, thursday through saturday, followed sunday by the topanga fiddle/banjo festival and competition....

triplechickenfoot.com/laots.html

rider - Posted - 03/18/2011:  16:49:03


Great project Craig!! I certainly would purchase a DVD at a price you feel fair for all the time and work you will put into this project . Frank

ceemonster - Posted - 03/18/2011:  16:50:46


whoops, that was a dated link....here is a current link for the 2011 LAOTS activities....

oldtimeisagoodtime.com/?page_id=669

Viper - Posted - 03/21/2011:  06:55:44


quote:
Originally posted by frailin

Just out of curiosity, if I do produce DVDs of the interviews (it would probably be a several volume set) would anyone HERE be interested in purchasing? And if so, what would you expect to pay?



But of course we'd be interested. I'd think $10-$15 per disc, depending on packaging, etc.

frailin - Posted - 03/21/2011:  17:00:56


OMG! I just noticed Banjo Camp North is taking place two days after I'm up in MA visiting Will Fielding and Stu Cohen at the Music Emporium. And the roster of teachers is a "who's who" of banjo playing.



I gotta see if I can swing this. I'd love to get some of those amazing, seasoned players commenting on the banjo and its builders. I found Mike Holmes phone number and email address. Does anyone here know him personally?

Wow!

frailin - Posted - 03/23/2011:  07:55:32


I just formally met Mike Holmes, the organizer of Banjo Camp North (among worthy gatherings for other instruments). What a gracious, interesting man. A stop is now on the agenda.



Mebbe I'll get to meet some of you BHO folks there.

Craig

BruceB - Posted - 03/23/2011:  11:04:08


Whaddya think - $3 million in hardware in that pic? Hard to tell how far back in the woods that crowd goes.

frailin - Posted - 03/23/2011:  11:10:49


quote:
Whaddya think - $3 million in hardware in that pic? Hard to tell how far back in the woods that crowd goes.
BruceB

frailin - Posted - 04/04/2011:  19:05:53


Last Friday I did a "trial run" banjo builder interview with revered (yet incredibly humble) northern Minnesota guitar/mando luthier, Lloyd LaPlant.



Lloyd is 82 but acts like he's in his 50s. He's as full of energy and encouragement as anybody I've ever known. He's also a very well-loved, long-time member of the MBOTMA community. Besides wanting to document his story, I thought he'd make a fine subject/candidate for this little shake down exercise.



Everything went (mostly) according to plan. I can get in and out with all the good stuff in-between in under 2 hours. I also learned I'll be dividing the banjo builder programs up into 3 sections:

* The "Conversation"... the formal 1:1 interview where we discuss philosophies, influences, preferences, etc
* "Shop Talk"... where the builders take me into their inner sanctum to share more stories, maybe even secrets
* "The "Goods"... where we closely look over some of their most recent work. This may or may not be about the actual conversation taking place (at the time). In Lloyd's case, the music worked better. The members of Monroe Crossing play both his guitars and mandolins. I'd like to get a builder to play, too (if they're willing).

I'm thinking the final length of the interviews will now probably be between 10 and 15 minutes.



Here's a link to the show I did with Lloyd. It's in HD so, crank it up to 720p and go full-screen for maximum effect.

youtube.com/watch?v=m_EOLuc8u5U



This was taken April 1st (April Fools Day) just outside of Grand Rapids, MN. While I was up there filming Lloyd, I decided to finish off the "Why are you doing this/Intro" segment. I just added a section on the end. That's here:

youtube.com/watch?v=Ttq3mH5J-wI

Road trip in a little over a month. Can't wait.




Edited by - frailin on 04/04/2011 19:08:11

Viper - Posted - 04/05/2011:  07:22:10


Craig, that turned out great! Lloyd is an interesting guy. Cheers!

rendesvous1840 - Posted - 04/05/2011:  19:53:22



Thanks,Craig, I enjoyed that. Can't wait for the next one.



Paul


rudy - Posted - 04/06/2011:  05:15:12



Sweet, Craig.  Nice interview with Lloyd.



Really a nice format, you've obviously put a lot of time and thought into the editing process.  Couldn't be better!


frailin - Posted - 04/06/2011:  06:10:03



Thanks for the input, folks. 



I am SO excited to finally meet and chat with these guys!  I really don't know what their stories will be, but as with Lloyd, I know their drive/motivation and passion for the instrument will be nothing short of inspirational.    smiley



 

banjered - Posted - 04/06/2011:  16:10:56



 



Thanks Craig! That came out great! I think the techno is going to be fine. We'll all be vicariously traveling with you. Good questions.



I don't know what I'd add for questions, you asked 'em all. letmethinkhere -  How is your banjos different from what is out there?



What do you strive for in making yours unique? What do you find is important in producing a good tone? Volume?



Wait - I think you asked all these. Good job!!!  Banjered


frailin - Posted - 05/09/2011:  18:22:23



Today is Monday, May 9th.  Here are some snapshots from my first 5 banjo builder interviews. 



The incredibly productive (3,500 banjos to date),  Bart Reiter.





 



The meticulous artist, Doug Unger.





 



The playfully creative, Jeff Menzies.





 



The driven romantic, Bill Rickard.





 



The innovative craftsman/artist, Jim Hartel.





 



 



 



Edited by - frailin on 05/09/2011 18:31:46

J-Walk - Posted - 05/09/2011:  19:16:13



Man, this is gonna be good.



Love those photos, Craig.


R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 05/09/2011:  23:26:59



Craig, you're my hero !



 


frailin - Posted - 05/10/2011:  03:37:29



smiley  



I knew their stories would be interesting, but what I'm experiencing is amazing!  As a banjo geek, it's delightful... just sitting and talking with someone that not only shares your (rabid) enthusiasm for the banjo, but has dedicated a significant portion of their life to creating it.  In most cases, as you'd suspect, it based on love/passion for the instrument and the music genre.  There will be some surprises.  



You won't believe how animated these guys can get!



Now this is gonna take me a while to finish the shows.  Many of 'em are talking for 60+ minutes.  What a surprise, huh?  smiley  I'm going to try and edit the raw footage into a 10-20 minute program (for each).  But I need to do it carefully in order not to lose anything significant.  



Ok.  It's off to visit with Will Fielding this morning.  



$4.25 gas sucks.  It's a good thing I get 35 mpg.  


frailin - Posted - 05/10/2011:  09:54:15



And here's Will Fielding.








Spockears - Posted - 05/10/2011:  10:45:19



This is so cool and it's great to put a face to the names of these legendary (almost mythical to someone this side of the pondwink) banjo makers.



 



Thanks Craig!


Shawn Hoover - Posted - 05/10/2011:  12:16:23



Maybe if we take turns driving him around, Craig can edit video in the car and we can see these videos sooner!


johnv - Posted - 05/10/2011:  16:03:52



I am so envious of those that can attend and greet and meet. Wish I could be there but alas  that is life. Cheers to all


Pine Cone - Posted - 05/10/2011:  20:45:12



If the interviews are anywhere as good as the photos it's going to be an incredible project.  Thanks for the effort and for sharing this.


michael6 - Posted - 05/11/2011:  17:42:44



Thanks Craig. Great photos.


pastorharry - Posted - 05/12/2011:  23:16:36



Craig, great project!! Sign me up for dvd's, and any sample products you may pick up along the way,(hint, hint...after all I'll be 60 in July myself.)


GSCarson - Posted - 05/13/2011:  06:37:50



Great pictures and story Craig.  Really looking forward to meeting you tomorrow, we're hoping to have you sit in with the band for a few tunes if you arrive in time, get ready!


BANJOJUDY - Posted - 05/13/2011:  07:40:12



Your posts sure made MY morning.  I am very much looking forward to more!



 



Judy


frailin - Posted - 05/13/2011:  13:40:01



Banjo Camp North today!  Weather is perfect!  The choice in teachers to interview for this documentary was equally as sunny.  





I cornered the following "performer" folks... told 'em I was interested in learning:



 



1 - What's important in your selection of a clawhammer banjo?



2 - Who are some current builders you admire?



3 - How do you feel when you play the banjo for a crowd?  



4 - What are you trying to communicate to your audience through the banjo?



5 - What contribution has the banjo made to culture/society?  



There were other questions too, but this got them started.  Here's the roster of conversations so far (several more planned):



 



The AMAZING Paul Brown.





 



The vibrant Steve Arkin





 



The ONE AND ONLY Jim Mills.  I decided to pass on the "what's important in a clawhammer banjo" question.  





 



The incredibly thoughtful Riley Baugus.  How can you NOT like this guy!?





 



And fellow Banjo Hangouter Greg Toth was hard pressed to get his brand new, just delivered Will Fielding "A" scale away from these two shady characters.  He's not lookin' too troubled, though. 





 



Talking with Bruce Molsky later today.  Hopefully, Howard Bursen tomorrow.  I'm feeling like a kid in a candy store with a pocket full of quarters.  :)


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