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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:

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J-Walk - Posted - 11/08/2011:  18:11:15

Next time you're in Horsefly, play a tune on the banjo and ask those fellas what they think of that kind of music.

Or... maybe you did, and the response wasn't suitable. :)

Bastertone - Posted - 11/08/2011:  19:46:42

I'm in, the first set was terrific.

frailin - Posted - 11/08/2011:  20:13:44

New! Longer-lasting!


Dunno why, but this second series of Banjo Builder interviews seem to be meatier.  The average length of a Volume 1 interview was 20+ minutes.  With 4 now roughed out, Volume 2 Shows are easily running 24 or so.  

I do know these folks had a chance to watch the first interviews and have prepared some answers.  Their shop tours seem to be well thought out, too.  They also seem to be more detailed and articulate about both their influences (history) what they now do.  It's as fascinating as before.  

As an example of more content, my second (edit) pass at Jason and Pharis Romero's Program is now at 49 minutes (out of 130)... and I've yet to add them playing together AND "The Goods."  That's at least another 6 minutes.   I'm in trouble on that one.  But they were so darned animated, interesting, funny (and cute) in their joint discussions, it's difficult to decide what to keep and what's not as critical to their story.  I might end up putting the discussion of their music into an Extra.  

Decisions decisions.

That being said, I'd much rather have too much to choose from that just crickets in the background.   smiley




YorkshireWannabeOldTimer - Posted - 11/09/2011:  02:11:37

I'd also be on for paying upfront and taking delivery later: I thought the first set of interviews was brilliant.

BackDraft307 - Posted - 11/09/2011:  02:26:29

Well Craig, sounds like part two is just going to have to be a 4 or 5 DVD set... Then for your 61 birthday you well have to go back and make a second additon to part 1. Just like Holywood, just call the Derectors Cut Special Edition.
Cannot wait for part 2.

Shawn Hoover - Posted - 11/09/2011:  06:00:57

Heh, 49 minutes of the Romeros sounds fine to me! I imagine that's close to the number of hours I've spent staring at banjos on their web site blush

frailin - Posted - 11/09/2011:  07:14:18

I'm afraid the length of the Romero's Program is going to remain over 40 minutes.  I've now been through it 3 times and any more cutting (editing) jeopardizes the story.  I've also figgered out WHY I've run into this program length issue. 

Generally, the Builder Shows run:

   "The Conversation" - 1:1 with the Builder.  We cover their history, inspirations, etc. (8-12 minutes)

   "Shop Talk" - How it's done (6-11 minutes)

   "The Goods" - Eye candy (3-5 minutes)

and occasionally an "Epilogue" (1-3 minutes)

Total length - 20+ minutes (that's for Volume 1)

In the case of the Romeros, "The Conversation" section is really tripled.  Since BOTH are builders, there's Jason's story, Pharis' story and then the Jason and Pharis story (as builders and musicians, together... it's another dynamic at play).  ALL are integral.  If I cut too much in any area, the 3-legged stool tilts.  So, it needs to stand at that Program length.

I just want to make sure everyone watching the Programs (as well as the Builders) understand, no favoritism or preference is being shown - to anyone - in having a longer (or shorter) show.  It just works out that way.  All conversations are spontaneous. Some folks just talk more than others.   smiley

The fact that Jason and Pharis are very animated and articulate communicators, telling detailed stories is also contributing to the length.  But sacrificing relevant content to meet a somewhat arbitrary guideline makes no sense.

So this one might require two bags of popcorn going in.  cool


frailin - Posted - 11/12/2011:  19:37:14

Change is good!  Which Builder would you like to see next (for free)?


Ok.  I'm now close to finishing rough cuts of the 7 Banjo Builders I visited last month in the Pacific NW.  I can't wait to show you their shops and let you listen to their stories!  I also noticed I'm past due for changing out the FREE show at Vimeo. Thought I'd give you folks a chance to tell me to what you'd like to watch next.  

I've created another survey at Survey Monkey.  Head on over to: and let me know who you'd favor watching.  

Notice next to the Builders I've added the labels "Volume 1" and "Volume 2 - rough cut".  For you folks that have already purchased Volume 1, you've got a chance to peek in on the latest Builder entries.*  For those of you that not yet purchased V-1, here's your chance to see someone else from the East of the Mississippi DVD. 

Every Builder is clearly labeled (please vote just once).  

Since I've not yet completed all the interviews for Volume 2 (only the California Swing remains), I'm listing the 7 new Builders as "rough cuts."  These Programs have not been sound sweetened (yet).  There are also a few images in as just "place holders" until I take my own (i.e. pics of the Builders in California).  There'll be some other minor changes too, but the core stories are there. 

I'll leave the survey up for a coupla weeks.  I'll also post the results from time to time.  

Thanks again for supporting the Banjo Builder Project!


*For you folks that already own Volume 1, I will soon be setting up another Paypal button at where you can PRE-ORDER Volume 2.  As with Volume 1, once you order I'll send you Passwords so you can watch ALL the rough cuts from V-2.  Then, when V-2 is complete, I'll send you the hard copy (DVDs) with the Extras.  Note: I'm not putting any Extras from Volume 1 online.  



frailin - Posted - 11/13/2011:  07:08:07

Looks like the Romeros are off to an early start with over 50% of the votes.  

Edited by - frailin on 11/13/2011 07:10:25

picker1 - Posted - 11/13/2011:  09:01:09

Hi Craig

 I ordered Volume One last night and I will be ordering Volume 2 when it becomes available. Thanks for your hard work.



frailin - Posted - 11/14/2011:  13:41:40

Another "two (popcorn) bagger."


It looks like the Ome Show with Chuck, Tanya and crew is also going to run over 40 minutes.  There's just too much history and discussion... not to mention, incredible shop tour.  

All I can say is wow... just wow!   smiley


Edited by - frailin on 11/14/2011 13:46:18

BNJOMAKR - Posted - 11/14/2011:  13:52:13

I don't think you will have any complaints!

bricklifter1 - Posted - 11/14/2011:  20:22:32

longer is better.....more to experience



cmox - Posted - 11/14/2011:  20:59:01

YES....longer is better. Can't wait!


frailin - Posted - 11/15/2011:  08:15:00

Free Show Update


Jason and Pharis Romero are still in the lead with 56%.  But Doc Huff, Jim Bowlin, Jason Mogi and Chuck and Tanya Ogsbury are also being requested.  

For Volume 1 contenders, Bart, Chuck Lee and Doug Unger have been nominated.  

Still time to vote.  Head on over to Survey Monkey and let me know which Builder you'd like to see (for free) next.  

Here's another direct link:



pddngtn - Posted - 11/15/2011:  10:25:10


Just finished interview #5 of CD 1, vol 1. Savoring every moment of each nightly personal episode with a builder. Personally I really love the format, it is very much like just sitting in the room with you and the builder(s). That said, I am not in any particular hurry and will let the voting alone.

So glad to hear that you are being flexible with the length. Some stories are long some are short, it is just the way life is.

Thank you so much for doing this!



frailin - Posted - 11/15/2011:  10:30:00

A "message in a bottle"... and more from Brooks.


You get used to expecting surprises around Brooks.  He's just that way.  It makes for light-hearted fun.  What you don't expect is discovering the thoughtful, compassionate and deeply driven human being underneath.  Remarkable. 

Expect the unexpected in Brooks Show.  


bricklifter1 - Posted - 11/15/2011:  13:04:54

Brooks Masten is one of the builders in whose show I am most interested.


Can't wait

frailin - Posted - 11/18/2011:  14:32:15

Volume 2 Banjo Builder Interviews Now Being Posted!  


Yepper.  Been burning the midnight oil and got some GREAT PROGRAMS to show for it!  Within the next 2 hours, I'll have 2 new Builder Programs up on Vimeo.  These first ones are representative of the rest of the Builders in the NW Swing (all of 'em are amazing!).  

Why not start with Jason and Pharis showing you around their home in Horsefly?  It's a friendly little place.  Lots of wonderful banjos will come from that shop over the next coupla decades.  Maybe more!  There'll certainly be music.  Even the Hooker brothers made a cameo in their Show (not to mention Billy... the wonder dog).  

And Doc's amazing story is, well, amazing.  See for yourself.  And then experience his amazing banjos.  


For those of you that are wanting to PRE-ORDER Volume 2, you can watch both of these show right now!  Simply:

1 - Head over to:

2 - Scroll down the page, PAST the VOLUME 1 Builders and LOOK for the PRE-ORDER VOLUME 2 BUY IT NOW button.  

3 - Click on VOLUME 2 BUY IT NOW and place your order.  It's the same price as Volume 1 ($30 + $4 s&h). And I'll ship outside the US to the same approved countries as before (see the list at the website). 

When I receive notification of your purchase, I'll send the Passwords back to you on that invoice.  And you're in!!  Watch as many times as you want.  When the whole Series is complete, I'll ship you the DVD set.  

I'll be adding the remaining builders to Vimeo as I get their final materials (update to follow).  Many are close to being completed. 

NOTE:  The Passwords for Volume 2 are not the same as Volume 1. I have to change them out from time to time. All of you Volume 1 buyers have your DVDs now anyway.  

For those of you wanting to watch the Banjo Builder Shows one-at-a-time via PPV, GOOD NEWS!  Eric has prepared the code.  It's up to me now to build the page.  That might take a few days, but I will get to it.  

Ok. I need to get up and stretch a bit.  These 11 hour edit sessions are a real toe-number.  smiley

Edited by - frailin on 11/18/2011 14:35:31

frailin - Posted - 11/19/2011:  06:41:50

Got up early today and finished Brooks Show.  

Brooks is indeed a one-of-a-kind.  big

His show features music by our own Adam Kiesling.  

Should be up on the Vimeo Volume 2 Banjo Builder Page by 10A CST.




Shawn Hoover - Posted - 11/19/2011:  06:50:02

So so so good! Nothing could stop me from watching the first two last night. Both programs are fascinating and could go on forever. All three of the individuals blow me away with their fascinating views, many endeavors, and the excellence with which they execute seemingly everything they do. It's inspiring and depressing! Doc better make sure no one knows where he lives and comes after that wood cache. It would've been neat to meet Doc's family as well.

As with Volume I, the comparison and contrast from show to show is just as fascinating as the shows themselves. Excellent work, Craig!

ScottK - Posted - 11/19/2011:  07:49:15

I only had time to watch the Romeros last night and it was great!  Loved it that you got them playing Cumberland Gap together on the video.  I've been hooked on their arrangement ever since they played it at this year's Portland Old Time Music Gathering.   Can't wait to watch Doc's video this afternoon.  Been visiting with Doc at northwest festivals for years and he's one of the most gracious guys around.  In each of the last couple of years he has donated a banjo for raffle to help support the Centralia Campout which is one of our local old time music gatherings.   Might not get to watching Brooks' video until tonight, since the Oregon vs USC game is on this afternoon.  smiley


ramjo - Posted - 11/19/2011:  08:01:43

Just as I thought, Craig, you've ruined any thoughts I had about getting off the couch! I watched the Romeros last night, and look forward to Doc as soon as I have a minute or 40 today. (Maybe right after Car Talk.)

Seriously, DVD #2 looks to be a stellar continuation of your noble project. The interviews give us a great sense of the depth and breadth of these marvelously creative people. And I mean the builders and yourself. Thank you again for your work.


neillconnor - Posted - 11/19/2011:  08:11:47

Ordered my volume 2. !!!

neillconnor - Posted - 11/19/2011:  10:07:50

Just watched the romeros video, ...superb, what an idyllic life style and what superb banjos. Only problem Craig is I want some many more beautiful banjos from these talented builders.......

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 11/19/2011:  15:35:59

I have now watched both videos, Jason R and Doc.  Both films revealed very interesting comments by the makers on their operative motivation for electing to build, and on their devotion to a way of life that is distinctive and admirable.  Both discussions were very comfortable chats, deftly managed, with the questions stacked to elicit information of interest to banjoists but also organized in a way that drove the discussions quietly toward the character, interests, and very human core of these three people.  Craig, you're picking up steam.  Builders are obviously familiar enough with your effort to have given some thought to their banjo industry, and as a result at least some builders seem to have figured out what they might care to say about what drove them to build and why they are living the unique lives they've selected. 

And the Pirate Shirt was much less noticeable this time...



hweinberg - Posted - 11/19/2011:  15:49:38

Inspired idea! Let me know if you need an editor. I know a few.

bricklifter1 - Posted - 11/20/2011:  06:08:51

woke up,

bought volume 2,

went potty

fed the dogs

kissed my wife

made us  breakfast.......


it's official, I'm the biggest fan of this series....I ordered it before anything else i did on a sunday--bodily functions, sustenance, animal husbandry (no cracks y'all) etc......

priorities,  schmiorities.....


Eagerly awaiting password......





frailin - Posted - 11/20/2011:  06:29:59

Impressive Chris.

Check your mail. :)

bricklifter1 - Posted - 11/20/2011:  14:18:14

Just watched the three advance documentaries on vimeo:   



                 WOW !!!!!!!!


The details of construction and choice of background info are well chosen.  The longer format is PERFECT--these makers have so much to contribute--20 minutes is too short.  I really liked the longer format!


I'm gonna watch these 3 again.......


Can't wait for the rest.....







Edited by - bricklifter1 on 11/20/2011 14:22:12

mworden - Posted - 11/20/2011:  15:50:37

Just (pre)ordered Vol 2.  I'll be eagerly checking my email for the preview passwd!  Can't wait.

frailin - Posted - 11/20/2011:  15:59:07

Oops.  I was busy watching the Romeros (for at least the 10th time).  Ok.  I admit it.  I'm a banjo (builder) geek.

But I think you all probably already knew that.  smiley

Check yer email... and enjoy!


StraitsBlueGal - Posted - 11/20/2011:  17:27:25

We're all geeks here, it's OK.

Got my email, off too look...  I think Pharis is way cool.  I want to be her in my next non-egghead lawyer life.

cmox - Posted - 11/20/2011:  18:27:37

OK...just watched Doc Huff. Very cool. My husband was also a Medic in Vietnam and when he came home he became a nurse. On to the Romeros.


unclekurty - Posted - 11/21/2011:  15:50:15

I just watched the Romeros interview and look forward to Doc's and the rest next. There's so many interesting things in these volumes. I especially enjoy the shop tours. The luthiers all have a different way of doing things. Just great. Thanks Craig.

Bastertone - Posted - 11/22/2011:  06:22:26

Craig, Couldn't stop myself and watched all three interviews. The extra time is a good thing. Your doing a terrific job on these, keep them coming.

frailin - Posted - 11/22/2011:  06:39:05

Again, thanks for the kind words, folks.  

I'm just so grateful you all like coming along with me to meet these extraordinary people!!  big

frailin - Posted - 11/22/2011:  08:50:43

Banjo Builder Programs via Pay-Per-View Now Operational!


Big news this morning for folks not wanting/able to drop $30 into a DVD set!

Our own banjo-playing techno-wizard Eric Schlange (and right-hand man, Jorge) has modified Banjo Hangout's terrific video lesson capability to play the Banjo Builder Interviews one-at-a-time!

BHO PPV is now operational!  Yee-haa!  So... for $4 a pop (about the same as a fancy Starbucks or, depending on where you live, a beer), rather than just sit and watch people come and go... you can NOW enjoy 20-40 minutes of quality, banjo-buildin' entertainment watching our own Banjo Builders!  


Check it out here!

And, of course, a portion of all proceeds go back to help keep the lights on at our favorite banjo-lovin' forum.

Thanks, Eric!!

unclekurty - Posted - 11/22/2011:  10:20:03

Just watched Doc and Brooks. What great guys. I was lucky to get to hangout with Doc at a festival and play his banjos. it was a great time. I wish I had one of Doc's banjos. I'm lucky to have one of Brooks. It's a great banjo and I play it a lot. I keep two nylon strung banjos in my living room that I'm always picking on and one of them is a Brooks. I'm glad he sent me this one and didn't substitute another. LOL. He's a funny guy. And I relate the most to his shop. Out of all the builders so far his shop was the can I put this positively...the most free. I think I saw someone's lost banjo in there somewhere. Great stuff Craig. Thanks!

frailin - Posted - 11/22/2011:  14:27:49

The Official Banjo Builder Page at Banjo Hangout.


Here 'tiz!  -

If you're looking for background on the project or some detail on an individual Builder's Program, go here.  It's also an access point for the PPV Shows.  

Thanks Eric (and Jorge)!


neillconnor - Posted - 11/23/2011:  11:39:47

Just watched the Brooks Masten tape, what a funny but inspirational guy. I've watched the Romeros about three times now, and docs twice, they've all got great stories to tell. Can't wait to see the others on series 2.
Don't know if we have the same characters over in Europe you have in the States, but we've certainly got some banjo craftsmen.sooooo, when you coming to Europe Craig?.

Edited by - neillconnor on 11/23/2011 11:46:08

frailin - Posted - 11/24/2011:  05:05:37

I would need you Brits to help me figger out who in England needs to be recorded.  My hunch is, there's probably someone in Ireland, too.

Ok, here is my list of European Banjo Builder candidates:

* Hugo Valcke in Belgium

* Johannes Bonefaas in Sweden

* Jaroslav Prucha in the Czech Republic

* Philippe Ravel in Lyon France.  


Neill, if I could get BHO folks to house me and transport me across England and Europe (so I don't have to drive), I would be very excited about the possibility of capturing the European Banjo Builders (probably Volume 3). 

But travel across the US is difficult enough... and I KNOW this country! In Europe, I'm afraid I'd be asking for trouble.  

Unless there were good local BHO folks to be my guides.  smiley


neillconnor - Posted - 11/24/2011:  13:17:36

Craig, I'd happily transport you across England to uk banjo builders. I work for myself and can get the time off. I havnt been to much of Europe, and when i have it's been by train, but I've got a European loaded sat nav so I can't see to much trouble getting around. I'm in for the ride.

neillconnor - Posted - 11/24/2011:  13:23:01

I can't think of any open back banjo builders in Ireland. There is Boyle and clareen but I think they mainly build tenor banjos with clareen just doing one or two open backs.
England has Griffin, Davidson, Dave Stacey and probably others I don't know about

I bet there are a few, just need uk hangout members to name and shame them!

neillconnor - Posted - 11/24/2011:  13:23:16

I can't think of any open back banjo builders in Ireland. There is Boyle and clareen but I think they mainly build tenor banjos with clareen just doing one or two open backs.
England has Griffin, Davidson, Dave Stacey and probably others I don't know about

I bet there are a few, just need uk hangout members to name and shame them!

frailin - Posted - 11/25/2011:  04:47:42

More on consideration of and updates to a possible Volume 3:


Thank you for your generosity and assistance, Neill!  That weights heavily into whether or not this next series of interviews can happen.  For Volume 1, I grossly UNDER-estimated the physical demands of extensive travel.  At the same time, I woefully OVER-estimated my own physical stamina. That trip was a haul!  smiley   Had I really been thinking about it, rather than just reacting to the excitement of the project, I probably would have chosen a much more reasonable number of Builders to interview (i.e. 12 instead of 25).


Which European Builders?

Wolfgang wrote and added Eric Stefanelli to the list.  

Here's the criteria for all Builders to be considered for inclusion in the Series:

* Now be producing banjos full time (not just as a hobby). Preferably, as a livelihood. 

* Have built banjos for over 5 years

* Have produce a minimum of  20 banjos

Having LEARNED first-hand "I cannot get them all" through the experience of Volumes 1 and 2, I'm going to physically limit the number of V-3 Builders to 10.  That's probably as many as I could fit into a 10 day European Swing. 


frailin - Posted - 11/25/2011:  10:35:31

Jason Mogi's Program is now being uploaded to Vimeo.

Give it about another 30 minutes and it should be available for viewing.


Meet Jason Mogi (and Kim Trenerry) of Port Angeles, WA. As a professional musician, Jason was first drawn to traditional Americana music through Jerry Garcia's bluegrass banjo. Now he's becoming recognized as a first-class builder of open-backs.

Jason's banjos are simple, dynamic and powerful... like his music with Deadwood Revival. Some great music in this Show as well. 


Not sure which of the last 3 Shows will be next up... I'm awaiting "banjo beauty shots" from them all (John Bowlin, Mark Platin and Chuck & Tanya Ogsbury).  Their Shows are pretty much done... just needing the final eye candy.  smiley 

Stand by... They're all worth waiting for.  big


neillconnor - Posted - 11/25/2011:  15:22:22

Here's another one Craig, Titan banjos in the uk. Think Syd Payne was the1st chap to put titanium tone rings in a banjo. He and James collaborated in the early days

YorkshireWannabeOldTimer - Posted - 11/26/2011:  01:22:13

Greatly enjoyed viewing the Doc Huff and Brooks Masten instalments over the last couple of days, Craig: excellent interviews! I'm looking forward to viewing the Romeros soon. On them, I was listening to the radio yesterday night and a world music programme came on BBC Radio 3 - one of the major public radio stations in the UK - and lo! the first song which they played was a nice one by 'Jason and Pharis Romero, of Horsefly Canada, performers of old-time music and makers of fine banjos' or something very close to that.

There's a banjo maker called Helmut Rheingans who lives in the Peak District; he also makes violins and his website ( describes an instrument that he's invented which blends the banjo with the sitar (the 'bansitar'!). I've never seen or played one of his banjos, but people have spoken well of him on the forum - you'd be welcome to stay with us nearby in Sheffield. 

frailin - Posted - 11/26/2011:  05:00:38

This is timely!  Two weeks ago a Facebook friend in Africa wrote me about BBC Radio 3.  He thought they would have an interest in the Banjo Builder Series.  I wrote them immediately.  In my correspondence I spoke of several builders, but in that they were both PERFORMERS and Builders, I mentioned Jason and Pharis Romero in particular.  

Maybe it's just coincidence, but I'm THRILLED those 2 are receiving global recognition!!  smiley

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