DVD-quality lessons (including tabs/sheet music) available for immediate viewing on any device.
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/202324/16
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atleson - Posted - 01/31/2012: 14:39:59
Craig, i think i'm a late comer to this list. I just bought vol. 1 through Elderly. How do buy, i guess it hasn't been finished yet, vol. 2?
Great series, and a terrific idea.
frailin - Posted - 01/31/2012: 15:26:10
You can preorder volume 2 here: frailin.com. Look for the Banjo Builder Documentary link in main nav. That allows you immediate online viewing of the seven shows completed so far.
And when volume 2 is finished I'll send you the DVDs.
frailin - Posted - 02/02/2012: 05:09:53
I might need some help with special project related to the Banjo Builders (also a part of my BD present).
Please contact me.
PS - Ideally, you can bring your own equipment.
frailin - Posted - 02/06/2012: 05:41:44
Apparently some of us banjo-lovin' folks weren't pushin' the Super Bowl's "like" button. Yesterday's Vimeo viewership of past shows approached an all-time high.
R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 02/07/2012: 17:35:44
Excerpted from my "Cotton Blossom" tab book.
A little extra info to go with the John Bowlin video:
John Bowlin was born December 20th, 1941 in Shubuta, Mississippi. John’s father came from Alabama, and on his mother’s side, he is descended from some of the first families of Southeastern Mississippi, to include the Brownlees, and the Nettles; some of whom have made this region their home since the 1840's. A great-grandfather on his dad’s side was a Confederate cavalryman, who while participating in many of the major engagements in the region had no less than eleven horses shot out from under him. Being grievously wounded and assumed dead, John’s great-grandfather was rescued from a mass grave when a comrade saw him move. He lived into old age, attending Confederate soldier’s reunions for many years.
John has played the banjo since he was a teenager. He has been building and repairing banjos since 1960 and has been an in-demand teacher of the instrument for over forty years. When I first met John a few years ago I was amazed by his private collection that included everything from gourd banjos up to some of the finest early-1900's vintage instruments. That said, he is not the sort of collector whose instruments hang idly on the wall. This is where John’s true love for, and dedication to the banjo are most apparent- he has no greater joy than to save a hundred-year-old instrument, repair it, and help it find its way into the hands of an aspiring young musician.
A chance meeting at a house concert in the home of George Neidhart of Portland, Oregon introduced me to John Bowlin. In addition to traditional clawhammer-playing, John has a great love of, and appreciation for the great nineteenth-century banjo tradition that originated with Black Americans, and was transmitted through Joel Sweeney and others to the authors of the several banjo tutors that were published in the 1850's and ‘60's. John is well-versed in the history of the banjo, as well as extremely knowledgeable on the evolution of the instrument and the forms it has taken over the last 300 or so years. My initial visits to John’s home proved enlightening in these aspects of the banjo. John attempted to convey his enthusiasm for early banjo music to me, although initially I found it of only passing interest. By 2003 however, I had begun to consider myself mainly a solo musician. At this point, I began to recognize the potential of what John had been exposing me to.
Having pored over and read such books as America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth-Century by Philip F. Gura and James F. Bollman (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1999), and African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia: A Study of Folk Traditions by Cecelia Conway (University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1995, 1999) which John generously lent, I became enamored of these old banjos and the tradition that attached to them. I found something that approached the mystical in their sound and appearance: Their simple yet elegant design. The smooth fret-boards, stained vellums, and patina of un-plated brass acquired only through decades of personal use- each one a distinct individual. Their dark, rich sound that enveloped you with its warmth, or punched the air with its percussiveness.
It dawned on me that this was what I was looking for- a new direction on a time-worn path. Something ultimately traditional yet, for our own time, progressive. A road that had been only infrequently traveled for over one-hundred and thirty years. It dawned on me that as far as the most important aspects of the banjo went, the pinnacle of banjo evolution had been reached by 1850.
John had allowed me to play, and even for a while generously lent me one of his fretless banjos of mid-nineteenth-century design. It was then that I realized that I would be able to transfer the bulk of my clawhammer repertoire to this type of banjo.
Having resolved to do this, the next task was to obtain a banjo. Although there are currently many fine makers of reproduction minstrel banjos, I had determined that they were unsuited to certain aspects of my style and what I wanted to do with the instrument. Initially, I thought I would merely acquire a fretless open-back instrument from a modern maker. Mainly, I was just looking for a fretless that I would subsequently set up with a skin head and gut/nylon strings as it was mainly the sound I was after, and did not see myself as a minstrel-style player involved in historical re-creation. Of course, the thought of owning a banjo of the type that the first generation of clawhammer-players had played on was attractive, yet seemed unlikely.
After realizing the sort of instrument I was looking for, John considered the situation and offered to build me a banjo. This was a unique opportunity in that I would have recourse to John’s extensive knowledge of historical banjo design and have input on the banjo from its beginning.
As we began to formulate the design for the banjo, it was decided to produce a simple yet elegant instrument that exhibited features of several authentic mid-1800's banjos. In this way, I could have many of the most attractive features combined into one instrument- the result being that the Bowlin Fretless while unique, is highly accurate to the mid-nineteenth-century.
John is a luthier of the highest caliber, and his work equals or surpasses today’s best-known and most accomplished makers. While to the untrained eye, the Bowlin Fretless may seem rather basic in design, it is John’s innate sense of taste, proportion, and knowledge of historical banjo manufacture that has allowed him to craft what to my mind is an instrument of classic design.
The Bowlin Fretless is a handcrafted instrument, from such appointments as the tailpiece and bridge, to the antiqued brass fittings. Additionally, an invaluable advantage was the fact that John tailored this banjo to my individual physique. Being a fretless banjo, measurements were taken to insure just the right scale-length so that my fingers naturally fell in the correct positions to insure accurate intonation. Because of its design, set-up, and tuning, the Bowlin fretless faithfully recreates the sound of the earliest wood-rim banjos dating as far back as the 1830's. Aesthetically speaking, the scale-length and a couple of minor features date the Bowlin Fretless to the late 1860's.
frailin - Posted - 02/18/2012: 15:01:28
I've been holding off on committing to the March schedule due to a family matter. As of today, it's a "go." Tix and schedule are now in place. Once the final 4 builders are included, Volume 2 is complete. My goal is to ship Volume 2 DVDs in June.
On March 7th, I'll know if I received my Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. There are restrictions as to how the money can be spent... and unfortunately, international travel does not appear to be on the "approved" list (I'm sorry Neill). I'm not certain of that ruling though... so, if I'm fortunate enough to be awarded the grant, that's the first thing I'll be checking into. In the event it's "no", I'll have to put "Conversations with International Banjo Builders" on the back burner for a while. Don't worry though. I won't forget.
I do have more content for a Volume (3) that I know the Grant Board will approve. I'm checking into that now. (Clearly I'm feeling positive about my grant!). Will be back and explain when I've got something substantial to report.
I do know this additional content is something you will find of interest! IF IT HAPPENS, I can tell you a part of it will involve a banjo builder, a banjo designer and a banjo historian... and some artifacts that have literally changed people lives!
(Up cliffhanger music).
frailin - Posted - 02/19/2012: 07:59:59
It starts on a friday in March at the bottom of California with Greg Deering and a trip through the amazing Deering works factory. What an experience this will be! And what a handsome guy! Oh, did I mention my wife said he looks like me.
Then on to ol' Doc Horsehair (Bob Flesher) and his entire cottage industry (of banjos, music, elixirs and general entertainment mayhem!).
Next is a long drive to beautiful Bishop for a visit with Bob Thornburg of Sierra View Musical Instruments, builder of fine old grain measures and gourds. Wow!
I'm also stopping in to Lakeport, CA to see the one-and-only Eric Schlange. No, he's not a banjo builder, but he IS the Banjo HANGOUT builder! This guy has united (well, sorta) over 65k banjo players from around the world! I'm sure he's got some FINE stories to include for a Volume 2 extra.
And last, but certainly not least is a visit with banjo-builder, boundary-pusher, Colin Vance way up in Blue Lake. I'll get to experience his eye and mind-opening work up front and personal (and take you along with me!).
I'm still taking orders for Volume 2 at: northamericanbanjobuilders.com for some idea of duplication needs. There's time yet.
Thanks as always for your ongoing interest and support.
Wow! Can't wait!!
Ho C Ying - Posted - 02/19/2012: 09:03:32
Craig, thank you for the update!
I enjoyed Volume 1 so much.
frailin - Posted - 03/06/2012: 05:27:41
California is a "go" for Thursday.
Tomorrow the MN Grant awards are posted at noon. I feel like I'm back in college waiting for my final grade.
YorkshireWannabeOldTimer - Posted - 03/06/2012: 06:40:00
Good luck, on both counts!
howseth - Posted - 03/06/2012: 15:12:14
Not to worry: It's in the bag! Or, I should say It's in the resonator - great work.
neillconnor - Posted - 03/07/2012: 06:26:48
High noon draws near, good luck Craig.
frailin - Posted - 03/07/2012: 09:24:56
I'm told the Grant Council is running behind and needs an extra day. Oh well. By that time, I'll be on an airplane headed for CA.
Regardless of the grant outcome, I have had some time to consider "what's next?" I have had so much fun with this project (my 60th BD present), I'm quite not ready to let it go. So the way I figger it, I've got at least 3 options for future installments:
frailin - Posted - 03/07/2012: 15:49:13
Project grants for artists at all stages of their careers, to support artistic development, nurture artistic creativity, and recognize the contributions individual artists make to the creative environment of the state of Minnesota
Number of grants awarded on March 7, 2012
Total dollars awarded on March 7, 2012
Craig Evans, Rosemount
Evans will capture the renaissance of banjo luthiers and their craft through the completion of his Banjo Builders Series. His completed series will include interviews of 24 banjo builders and has been accepted by the Smithsonian for inclusion in its Folkways Catalog. A screening of the completed series will be held in Rosemount.
pernicketylad - Posted - 03/07/2012: 15:56:33
BrittDLD1 - Posted - 03/07/2012: 16:35:44
Congratulations, Craig!!!! ....
So-o-o... Guess I'll have to go get my hair cut, and my
beard trimmed -- and brush-up on my hitch-hiking skills! ....
Ed Britt ....
(Will follow-up in next couple days with private email)
Edited by - BrittDLD1 on 03/07/2012 16:46:03
bricklifter1 - Posted - 03/07/2012: 18:02:07
congrats....cant wait for vol 2 (and in the future vol 3)
J-Walk - Posted - 03/07/2012: 18:37:31
Yowsa! Way to go, Craig.
When you finally show up in Tucson, drinks are on you!
ScottK - Posted - 03/07/2012: 18:42:36
Woo Hoo!!! Congratulations!
Really been enjoying all the Vol 2 videos posted so far. Can't wait to see the California builders.
Ho C Ying - Posted - 03/07/2012: 19:51:02
Wow! Congratulations, Craig!!
R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 03/07/2012: 20:06:56
You're my hero Craig !!!
Pine Cone - Posted - 03/07/2012: 20:08:15
That's great news!
Don't have too much fun in California... remember, it's still winter where you live.
neillconnor - Posted - 03/07/2012: 22:31:25
Excellent, well done Craig and all the builders who took part and made the series such a success.
Will1717 - Posted - 03/07/2012: 22:41:55
Well done! It was well deserved to say the least! By the way I haven't forgotten that titanium project we spoke about, I'm in the process of moving to a new shop and will get to it as soon as we get set-up.
frailin - Posted - 03/08/2012: 05:15:38
Thank you, everyone!
I leave for California today at 12:30P YEE-HAA! See you CA builders real soon!!
Waiting is always the worst part.
Greg Galbreath - Posted - 03/08/2012: 06:04:35
That's fantastic news Craig - I'm so happy to hear that you got the grant! Have a great trip!
pddngtn - Posted - 03/08/2012: 12:22:07
Well Deserved Craig!
Fair weather awaits, safe travels on this leg of your "route 60" adventure.
YorkshireWannabeOldTimer - Posted - 03/08/2012: 14:38:27
Great result and well-deserved! Congratulations.
shannonhearne - Posted - 03/09/2012: 13:17:29
The DVD's are brilliant!
A wonderful concept, beautifully executed.
I bought the initial release, and am eagerly looking foreword to the next group of builders.
I am so happy and impressed that you had the "fortitude" to follow-through on your vision, and to do it so well. My hat is off to you!
cmox - Posted - 03/10/2012: 15:40:01
Congratulations, Craig, and welcome to California. I'm so excited that you're going to interview some of our great builders. The grant is well deserved.
frailin - Posted - 03/10/2012: 16:27:07
I'm just passing through Sacramento I'll have an update later on tonight.
But in the immortal words of Steve Jobs... Oh wow! Oh wow! Oh wow!
schlange - Posted - 03/10/2012: 19:59:59
I'm excited about finally getting to meet Craig, after so many phone/email/forum conversations over the last several years! He's currently in an inn less than a mile from my house! See you tomorrow, Craig. Enjoy Lake County!
frailin - Posted - 03/10/2012: 20:49:04
I knew this Swing was going to be fun. So far it's been all that and more. Here's a quick update.
Thursday afternoon I flew into LAX and drove the 2 hours (in 4.5) to San Diego for the night. Bright and early the next morning I meet Greg Deering at his factory in Spring Valley, CA.
Greg was gracious, articulate and though-provoking... but the factory - oh my - THAT was mind-blowing! You'll understand what I mean when you see the sophistication of the proprietary equipment, from the mind of Greg - a true production engineer. Then there's the people! This place is a-LIVE with energy! Over 80k banjos in 35 years. Think of the musical influence this company has had. Thank you Greg and Janet!
Two hours later, up the road in Merino Valley, I finally got to meet a friend of mine. Bob Flesher's banjos and style of play are both legendary (he's won first place 8 times at Galax). To meet the man in person and discuss his philosophies in banjo building was indeed an honor.
Bob is also a gentle, unassuming sort that delights in fine detail and lively instruments. He's working on a new model called a Savannah (you get a peek at it here). I got to play the prototype. If you're in the market for a classy, warm sounding, LOUD woody, he's got a winner. He's also getting into thin-rimmed, 12 inch pots.
In addition to great craftsmanship and looks, expect even more musical artistry from Bob.
Next stop: Bishop, CA and Bob Thornburg.
Saturday morning, a couple hours after witnessing the sunrise of the century (that's the moon you're looking at), I knocked on Bob Thornburg's door and was met with a hot cup of coffee and the warm hospitality I've come to expect from the banjo builders.
Bob is a retired teacher having spent his entire career with kids in Bishop. It doesn't take much conversation to figure out Bob's teaching extends far beyond the classroom. Bob is a student of life. In addition to banjos, Bob loves cultures and peoples, nature, and especially, ancient symbols and petroglyphs. I'm sure there's much more he's conversant on, but that's all we could fit into 2 hours. Can you say "fascinating?" At some point, you'd think I'd get used to banjo builders as the unique group they are. But clearly, it NEVER gets old. What a great learning experience.
Bob showed me all sortsa fascinating work. Yeah, it's all based around a banjo, but once you see how he's incorporated some of his other interests in the banjo, you too will want to share in the fun. Here's a sample.
This little gem is a square box banjo. Bob wasn't sure of the exact date of the boxes he uses, but they're old. Probably late 1800's. Some carry bold print on the outside announcing their contents. There are some delightful offerings like: Deodorant and Expectorant, One Gross Handy 10 Cent Tins. And my personal favorite, The Grand Old Chew - For Particular Chewers. These little banjos sound as good as they look, too. Oh, and the necks are wooden beams from local mines (probably for gold). Can you say character? At bit like their builder. What fun!
That's three down and one more builder to go to complete Volume 2. I see Colin Vance in Blue Lake on Monday. But TOMORROW, I finally get to meet MR. BANJO HANGOUT his'self, Eric Schlange. I owe Eric a debt of gratitude. If it wasn't for both him and Banjo Hangout, Autism Hangout wouldn't be the helpful resource it is. Tomorrow I get to thank him in person for doing what he does so well.
In the meantime, I need sleep. These long driving adventures - 1,200 miles in 4 days - are for much younger individuals. I'm turning 60... not 30.
Good night, all.
Edited by - frailin on 03/10/2012 21:04:10
DEmery - Posted - 03/11/2012: 08:14:37
Craig I look forward to viewing Bob Flesher's interview. Having owned several of Bob's banjos and owning his first release of the Jubilo he promotes as his top presentation banjo; I have always found Bob to be a stand up guy. His record of championship playing from Galax to Uncle Dave Macon Days stands on its own. Happy travels. David E.
Jubilo by Flesher
Jubilo built by Bob Flesher
Jubilo by Flesher
Jubilo by Flesher
Jubilo by Flesher
frailin - Posted - 03/12/2012: 20:47:53
So here I sit at Ludy's BBQ on Main Street in beautiful downtown Woodland, CA. I'm having a celebratory dinner of hot-HOT chili and a cold brew. Tomorrow I fly back to Minneapolis. But today I passed milestone worth celebrating. I feel there's a story to share... but I dunno anybody here to tell. So I fired up my computer and found a wi-fi signal capable of connecting me to the world. Hello Banjo Hangout.
I figgered there's really no one else I'd rather share this evening with anyway than you good folks at BHO. After all, you've been with me, following/supporting and encouraging me for the past 12 months as I took this little birthday adventure. And for that I'm eternally grateful. So after 32 nights out and approximately 10,000 miles across this beautiful country, I'm pleased to announce the field work for the first two Volumes of "Conversations with North American Banjo Builders" comes to a close. Tomorrow I'll be home, back behind my computer putting together the final 5 shows of Volume 2. Yippee!
Here's a coupla shots from yesterday and today's conversations.
You know him. You love him. And it it weren't for him, we wouldn't be knowin' each other. Folks, here's the incredible Eric Schlange.
No, he's not a banjo builder, but he IS the Banjo Hangout builder. And because of that enormous contribution (uniting our disparate group of 70k irascible characters) I felt him worthy of an "extra" in this series. And I trust you too will find his thoughtful contribution as valuable and interesting as any other builder. I had the good fortune of seeing him present the music at his church on Sunday. I know I know, that's not a banjo he's holding... but it DOES have 6 strings. Therefore, by the Taylor Swift principal, it (sorta) qualifies him.
Today took me to Blue Lake, CA. Gorgeous country! I can see why folks wanna live 'round here.
So lucky #25 (in the interview sequence) was the youngest of all the Banjo Builders, 30 YO Colin Vance.
Colin is friendly, thoughtful, curious and has a creative intensity about him that manifests in the freshness and originality of his work. Having come from Mark Platin's Wildwood school of banjo building, Colin spent time sharing his bench with friend and fellow builder Jason Romero. They were even in a band together (the Compost Mountain Boys). And like Jason, Colin credits Mark's generosity and teaching style with his ability to not only create a fine instrument, but to build it in a most productive manner.
Banjos are his focus... he's really into OT music and community. But he's bold enough to venture into other instruments as well, adding his creative flair to each. Expect amazing work from Colin. His story is convincing in the depth of his roots, creative dedication and future direction. Wow. What a great way to end the North American Series.
So there you have it. In a few weeks I'll be shipping Volume 2. It's a bittersweet dinner I'm having. This was literally the trip of a lifetime. I'm relieved it's over, but know I will miss the energy and fun. Oh yea, I've got Volume 3 to produce in May, but next fall... hmmm. I'm too young to stop now.
Back to you all soon when I've got some new Shows for you to see... and another Volume to ship. Thank you again, one and all. You've made this more fun than I ever could have imagined. I'm one blessed guy.
rpmilius - Posted - 03/13/2012: 07:59:00
Thanks, Craig! I just watched Vol 1 last weekend, and have prepaid Vol 2 and can't wait to see more. This work has opened my eyes to many banjo makers I really didn't know much about and perked up my interest in their work. Great stuff!
bricklifter1 - Posted - 03/13/2012: 21:10:33
what is the verdict on the subject of volume 3?
would love to see historical (eg akonting, banya)
Viper - Posted - 03/15/2012: 08:51:34
Sounds like an amazing trip, Craig. What an awesome way to say happy birthday to yourself. Cheers!
frailin - Posted - 03/15/2012: 11:45:05
I was at Deering last Friday. The following Wednesday, Bela Fleck stopped in.
Oh well. At least this way we were all less distracted.
Thanks again for the kind words, everyone.
frailin - Posted - 03/20/2012: 11:26:09
I've got two shows roughed out so far... Colin Vance and Bob Thornburg. Since you asked for it, I am making them somewhat longer with more conversations. True to the Series, there are some great stories of personal inspiration along with banjo building insights. There are also some incredible instruments to be heard.
Today I start Bob Flesher's Show and early next week, Greg Deering's. Eric's Program will also (hopefully) be done by the end of next week.
I would like to have Volume 2 out the door by mid-May. It may also have a new look to it. The Smithsonian Folkways logo needs to be added to the Shows and the DVD packaging. They'll be taking delivery of this batch (and Volume 3).
I'm still coordinating May's shoot at the Smithsonian museum with Greg Adams, George Wunderlich and Ed Britt. That promises to be a most exciting day! More on that later.
Back to editing.
frailin - Posted - 03/27/2012: 17:54:37
For those of you with standing orders for Volume 2, I'll have a few shows to watch (on Vimeo) within the next few days. They won't be FINAL final, the sound stills need some tweaking, but you'll be able to enjoy the stories.
Pretty sure you're going to like these folks every bit as much as the others.
Winged Words - Posted - 03/28/2012: 02:39:13
I love the longer format in Vol 2. Just watched your visit to the Romero's and totally captivated by the workmanship and just how much those two cram into their life. I'm not going to watch any more previews, I'll wait and look forward to the new set.
One thing I've noticed, and I wonder if you in the USA realise this, is that these people work in such beautiful places. No wonder they seem so contented - I'm sure it comes out in their work. I want to climb Buckeye Mountain!
frailin - Posted - 03/28/2012: 12:41:56
For those of you that have already purchased Volume 2, you can head on over and enjoy (close to final) Shows on...
And Colin Vance
He's only 30... but it's clear his esthetic eye and touch will affect banjos as an art form for years to come.
Colin is delightful. He takes a sense of wonder (for nature), studies it and then bringing it joyfully to life in either a form or as an inlay.
Besides all that, he's one fine musician. You'll see here!
For those that would LIKE to see these Programs, and THEN receive the DVDs when they're ready, go ahead and purchase Volume 2 HERE. I'll forward the pass codes to see the Shows asap!
Edited by - frailin on 03/28/2012 12:54:41
frailin - Posted - 03/28/2012: 15:31:25
My goal was to finish up 3 Shows today. Although a little work remains on this one (Bob Flesher), I decided it was best to put this brand of entertainment out there now. The world can use a good laugh. And Bob is a hoot!!
Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 03/28/2012: 15:42:21
I just watched the Bob Thornburg video, and the Colin Vance video. They are sharply drawn portraits, well orchstrated interviews, and great viewing experience -- a lot of eye candy as Craig says (another friend calls it "banjo porn"...)
So, Craig, you've really done this job well.
frailin - Posted - 03/28/2012: 15:47:07
Thank you Lew. After an intense year filled with 25 of these (35 total interviews, over 10k miles), I think I figgered out a few things.
They're still considerable work, though. Each minute of the "Conversation" takes me about an hour to edit. I was hoping they'd get faster.
frailin - Posted - 03/28/2012: 18:33:19
The Banjo Builder Channel at Vimeo is having some technical difficulties tonight. For those of you with the Volume 2 password, you can access the new shows directly using these URLs. Just plug in the password at the appropriate time.
R. Blakeslee Gilpin - Posted - 03/28/2012: 19:59:09
I've only watched Colin's vid (of the 3 new ones) because he built an incredible Dobson conversion for me. Great stuff as usual. Wish there was a book to go with these DVDs - I'd like some browsable banjo porn!
R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 03/29/2012: 08:10:32
You've done and are continuing to do great work Craig.
Because of modern technology and the format, these shows
will probably be around 200 years from now!!!
What a contribution you have made !!!
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'Pre war Grover Presto' 41 min
'Good Saturday Morning' 7 hrs
'Coyote Howl (TOTW)' 8 hrs