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

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Ho C Ying - Posted - 08/27/2012:  00:16:46

Craig, happy Birthday and many happy returns of the day!

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 08/27/2012:  02:29:52

What a great ride, Craig.  Thanks.  And Happy Birthday.  Can't wait to see how you celebrate your anniversary, or Christmas.  This can be a long, worthy banjo oddessy.


Take care,



Pine Cone - Posted - 08/27/2012:  08:47:29

Happy Birthday! 


When I was a kid my mom would give all the non-birthday children "Un-Birthday" presents.  Your Banjo Builder/Historian DVDs are the best "Un-Birthday" presents ever!

richla - Posted - 08/27/2012:  13:47:53

I can now verify that these interviews are ADDICTIVE. Wow. I can't think of anyplace you can get this type of information and get it so professionally prepared.
At 39 pages long, Craig doesn't need my accolades, but if you are on the fence about buying, do yourself a favor, you will not regret it.

frailin - Posted - 08/28/2012:  04:40:16

Thank you, folks.  smiley

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 08/28/2012:  05:04:23

Pine cone,

We had "un Birthday" celebrations at the 6 point mark when we were very little, too.  I wonder whether there's a correlation between that practice and the trajectory that drives one to play the banjo?


Another thread, another time.



Pine Cone - Posted - 08/28/2012:  22:28:42


Originally posted by Brooklynbanjoboy

Pine cone,

We had "un Birthday" celebrations at the 6 point mark when we were very little, too.  I wonder whether there's a correlation between that practice and the trajectory that drives one to play the banjo?


Hard to say, but 3 out of 4 children in our family are banjo players.   You might be on to something...

frailin - Posted - 09/07/2012:  07:33:46

Two more...


Fourteen Shows in the can for Volume 3, but I just can't seem to get finished with the Banjo Historian Series.  Please consider that a good thing.  big   I keep thinking of AMAZING people, living TODAY, that are of great historic value to today's and tomorrow's banjo lovers.  

Here are the two I'm now trying to schedule.

I wish I'd had a nickel for every time a banjo builder or historian mentioned Taj Mahal's seminal album De Old Folks at Home as a key reason they were first drawn to the banjo.  Regardless of a person's age, Colored Aristocracy is frequently mentioned as a first tune learned.  Taj has an amazing background (his parents and first musical experiences) as well as a long life of music around the banjo. 

And then there's this guy...

The Historian Series has spent a lot of time looking backward.  That's cool... but what about the future of this instrument?  In the relatively short time he's been on the banjo scene, Adam Hurt has had a powerful impact on just how well the instrument can be played and interpreted.  So I thought a worthy question for such a youngin' might be, "what do you see as the future for the banjo and traditional music?"  Can't wait to hear his response. 

I do hope you feel the wait is worthwhile.  Thanks for your patience.  smiley




Edited by - frailin on 09/07/2012 07:35:36

ScottK - Posted - 09/07/2012:  12:00:34

You go, Craig!

Right now I'm sitting in the Valley Tavern in Port Hadlock, WA, sipping a Port Townsend Brewing Co. IPA en route to American Banjo Camp at Ft. Flagler where Adam Hurt is teaching, so I'll be sure to mention your project and ask him for his thoughts. And count me in the crowd that loves Taj Majal in general and De Old Folk at Home in particular.

Best wishes,

Pine Cone - Posted - 09/07/2012:  22:27:07

Great choices and well worth waiting for.  I first saw Taj Mahal in 1963 or 1964 at the Topanga Banjo and Fiddle contest, and later in the Rising Sons with Ry Cooder, and then many times in the years that followed in his own bands.  Managed to see him last year in Port Townsend at the blimp hanger in Fort Worden which was a great show.   Never spoke to him, but he has been a huge influence in my playing.

Met Adam Hurt at American Banjo camp a couple of years ago and was totally impressed with him.  Great player, teacher, and a really nice guy. 

Very much looking forward to Volume 3! 

frailin - Posted - 09/24/2012:  17:12:54

Still working on a day/time to meet with Taj.  

It's gonna happen.  big

Colin Vance helped coordinate.  

frailin - Posted - 09/24/2012:  17:15:08

And there's another guy that SO deserves to be in Volume 3:  Ulf Jagfors.  

How am I gonna get to SWEDEN?!



Greg Adams - Posted - 09/24/2012:  17:19:15

Having Ulf on this would really Sweden the deal of Volume 3!!!

frailin - Posted - 09/24/2012:  17:27:54

Ah, the return of the Nobel Pun-meister!  big  There's nor-way you could resist!  

And our resistance is futile. We might as well Bjorn the Borg. 

cmox - Posted - 09/24/2012:  18:23:56

You've GOT to interview Taj. Doesn't he live in Hawaii? I love the idea of looking at the future of banjo world.'re going to be very busy.

frailin - Posted - 10/04/2012:  12:50:50

Yay!  Finally!!  I've got 2 of my last 3 Banjo Historian interviews lined up! 


Mid-October, I'm day-tripping out West to sit down and chat with Taj Mahal!  I'm really excited about this!!  Taj is an amazing piece of living banjo history.  Oh, the number of banjo builders (and banjo players) this guy has launched.  Yee-ha!! 


And a short two weeks later, I'm flying East to meet up with another banjo hero of mine, Adam Hurt.  The two of us go back a ways (yep, I knew him when he was the proverbial knee-high prodigy).  I'm really excited to learn what he's now up to... and to hear his thoughts on the future of this fine traditional music... and, of course, the banjo.  big



ScottK - Posted - 10/04/2012:  19:56:57


But "day-tripping out West"? You're hard core! I'd at least make a weekend out of it and roust up Triple Chicken Foot or some other locals to play some tunes with while you're there. (Not sure where Taj is these days, but I'm assuming you're looking at SoCal...)

Cheers, Scott

frailin - Posted - 10/09/2012:  19:10:20


MN Fiddler Catie Jo Pidel rehearsing for 10/6 Prairie Home Companion


19 YO fiddling wizard, Catie Jo Pidel is no longer one of Minnesota's best kept secrets.  Last Saturday marked her 4th appearance THIS YEAR on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion.  Here's a behind-the-scenes (rehearsal) look at the show-stealing sequence of tunes that went on to rock the Fitzgerald Theater.  big

Catie Jo is now at the U of MN majoring in design engineering.  As Garrison says, "so she has something to fall back on in case the music thing doesn't work out."  big  

She was also the fiddler on the final installment of the Banjo Builder Series.  I'm just grateful she remains the same, down-to-earth, fun-loving kid she's always been.  

Ah.  Kids these days.  approve


Edited by - frailin on 10/09/2012 19:12:06

frailin - Posted - 10/18/2012:  14:33:02




Here are a few photos from my trip to see the Taj Mahal on Tuesday.  



Taj talked about his banjo influences and roots, where he first heard and why he chose Colored Aristocracy for the 1969 Giant Step/De Ole' Folks at Home album (he also plays it for me), the importance of understanding heritage/the music from within and his delight in combining, blending and fusing all of the above.  Taj is truly, living banjo history.  WOW!  


I'm sorry I have to admit to being star struck... but I was.  Here's as close as I'll come to international music fame.  The one and only Taj Mahal.  


And yes, he did play a 6-string.  So I guess that makes it more official than Taylor that it's a bona fide banjo.  


He also mentions the name of his favorite banjo builder.  big

Edited by - frailin on 10/18/2012 14:50:48

Greg Adams - Posted - 10/18/2012:  14:36:24

Where do I press the "Like" button?

Pine Cone - Posted - 10/18/2012:  21:39:44

Sounds like a good time! Great pictures.  

Nice to see that Subway is still in business.  Fat Dog used to say it was Danelectro World Headquarters, but they never carried much in the way of banjos.  Haven't been there since about 1980 back in my Berzerkley daze.

In any case Taj was a huge banjo and musical influence to me back in the 60's when I lived in the LA area.  Love his music and was fortunate to see him at the blimp hanger at Fort Worden last year.  Can't wait to see your video.

Is that a Gold Tone OT-6 he is playing in the third photo?  I'm in the middle of making one for me using a Gold Tone OT-6 neck and a custom Bill Rickard 12" 2-ply cherry rim about 3.25" deep with Rickard's tubaphone tone ring and new grooved tension hoop.  I'll post more info on the Builders Forum page next week when I get the pot.  Hope to have it put together in a couple of weeks.

Keep up the good work!

pjxndvm - Posted - 10/19/2012:  07:04:19 are one lucky man hanging out with the Maestro...I can't wait to see this interview...

frailin - Posted - 10/19/2012:  11:32:52

Taj recorded quite a bit of music for me. I'm thinking of including at least one as an extra. :)

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 10/19/2012:  14:33:36

Please, please, please include them all, as extraS.

I'm begging on my bended knees.

frailin - Posted - 10/19/2012:  16:39:24

You got it, Marc.

I have three tunes in the program now (including Colored Aristocracy). But Taj's stuff is so good… :)

pjxndvm - Posted - 10/20/2012:  06:59:50


But Taj's stuff is so good… :)

Taj is pure class...

frailin - Posted - 10/26/2012:  14:29:49



The TWO Taj shows are finished (the Interview and an Extra with 3 more songs/tunes).  I had anticipated receiving approval to release then today, but his computer has been on the fritz and he's not yet been able to watch.  He's also now headed out on a blues tour.  So... sorry for the delay.  But please stay tuned.  Barring anything unforeseen, as soon as I've got his approval, I'll have them available on Vimeo for those that pre-ordered Volume 3.

I'm interviewing Adam Hurt the first week in November and then, before the end of the month, finishing off with a SKYPE interview of Ulf Jaegfors.  So the end (and release of the Volume 3 DVD) is in sight!  

Thanks for your patience.  big

Edited by - frailin on 10/26/2012 14:35:36

frailin - Posted - 11/06/2012:  14:56:11

One more down... only one more to go.  


Catching up with Adam Hurt is never easy.  But it is SO INCREDIBLY WORTH WHILE!  



After a fine lunch at Prissy Polly's Bar-B-Que (followed by a strong cup of Starbucks), Adam and I chatted for over an hour about banjos, the history of our music and its future.  


Along the way, Adam started pulling out some of his favorite banjos including favorite old Dobson (in the pic above) and played me a few tunes.  Just so you know, in addition to the Kyle Creed in the pic below and his new Enoch dobson, he also played the David Hyatt gourd you see on the wall behind him.  It was featured in his Earth Tones CD.  Wow.  That's all I can say... wow.  

As with Taj, I WILL find a place for his music.  



One topic of special note was Adam's incredibly articulate description of "Round Peak style."  Trust me, this one is for the books.    

Rest assured, the future of traditional music and the open-back/CH banjo is in very good hands, here.  



Ok.  There're more conversational gems to discover.  Back to editing.  

Edited by - frailin on 11/06/2012 14:59:49

clawhammerist - Posted - 11/06/2012:  15:58:18

...and how wonderful it was to see my old Minnesota friend Craig again after far too many years, and get to spend an action-packed day together in piedmont North Carolina! I completely admire and respect Craig's dedication to his project, and feel honored to be included in it.

(As an aside, please overlook the unflattering movie still; I do not look quite that demented in real life, I promise!)

So, do any other Hangout folks want to come down for a visit?! I regularly arrange intensive partial-, full-, and multi-day private instruction for people who fly or drive from a distance, and love the opportunity to do so. Even if you are just passing through and simply want to compare banjos--I have several other cool ones here in addition to the stalwarts that Craig experienced, as well as some interesting banjo-related ephemera--or musical philosophies, I would by happy to see you. Rumor has it that the Bright Red Room and the Learning Chair (for those who care to sit in it) are pretty welcoming....


Adam Hurt

regular or one-time lessons available, in person or via Skype; please contact me for details

Edited by - clawhammerist on 11/06/2012 15:58:40

dbrooks - Posted - 11/06/2012:  16:05:53

Great post, Craig.  You too, Adam.  Adam is a great teacher, and I hope to have another workshop with him before long.


Paul DeBlois - Posted - 11/07/2012:  17:33:25

That's a great portrait of you Adam, looking happy, healthy and relaxed.  This will be worth waiting for.  Keep up the good work Craig!

frailin - Posted - 11/11/2012:  10:18:29

In the meantime...


I'm still waiting for Taj's approval.  But I did finish Adam Hurt's interview (there will also be an extra of more music and some wisdom on "tone").  

For those of you that have purchased Volume 3, head over here:  Same passwords apply as before.  

Adam is an amazing gift to us all.  See for yourself.  big

BackDraft307 - Posted - 11/11/2012:  21:24:09

Just finished the video previewing... Adam's music and playing style has been a favorite of mine for the way he makes the banjo speak....

just wish I had 1/8 the talent if his fingers...

Great Job Craig...

Adam,  Awesome to get to learn just a little bit about the man behind the strings..


Edited by - BackDraft307 on 11/11/2012 21:27:33

richla - Posted - 11/12/2012:  07:21:34

What a great treat to log on last night and find out the video of Adam Hurt is available, as I had prepaid for volume III. Craig, to not have to wait and be able to watch these interviews as you are putting the final product together, has been really nice.

A really great interview with a wonderul artist, nice job!

frailin - Posted - 11/12/2012:  08:11:38

The Adam Hurt Extra!  


THIS is not to be missed!!  smiley

Adam had two other banjos to demonstrate: A David Hyatt gourd (used on Adam's Earth Tones album - the selection he plays here is "Glory in the Meeting House" (on the banjo in this pic).  And a beautiful 1980 Kyle Creed banjo with another story.

Adam also shares his insights on TONE.

For those of you that have purchased Volume 3, the same passcodes apply.  


Hmmm.  I just listened in.  Vimeo clipped the last 2 seconds off the end, for whatever reason.  Still, you get the jist of Adam's message.  The DVD will not suffer such indignities.  approve

Edited by - frailin on 11/12/2012 08:22:22

BackDraft307 - Posted - 11/12/2012:  12:05:00

yesheart  cool<------  says it all ! ! 


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 11/12/2012:  12:08:19


This is a great video. You've gone above and beyond the call of duty with the Adam Hurt interview.  You really gave him a lot of lead, and he is just so articulate and polished in his language, as well as his playing.

I’m sure there are legions of players out there with their own Adam stories. 

I first met Adam when he was a gangling 16 year old competing at the Clifftop WVA Appalachian String Band Festival banjo contest.  He was astounding, and has continued to amaze people with his musicianship.  He taught several workshops at my home when we lived in northern VA.

I know that Adam has taken several chunks of time out of his college experience to work exclusively on playing music.  It is clear how he focused himself.  He is, as the video shows, organized in his thoughts about his trajectory as a musician, and fixed on continuing to figure out ways to learn traditional playing.   He has always fenced off concentrated periods of time to improve his playing, expand his repertoire, but he has also focused in a serious way on his teaching approach and methods.    

As Adam himself has said, he has been captivated by and immersed in the vast musical differences that exist from state to state, and sometimes even from county to county in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina.  He has taught workshops on the banjo music from these four states in which old-time music has the deepest roots.

He has thought a lot about key questions, and formulated a sense of what the two or three hallmark idioms of Kyle Creed's playing in ways that clarify the component parts of this tradition and make them accessible to banjo students.  He has given some serious brain time to sorting out the significant aspects of his style that differentiated him from other banjo players.

With that kind of precision of expression showing a sharp power of observation, Adam strikes me as a natural “folklorist,” a dedicated student of the tradition of old time music.  I think he’d bring this energy to teaching the history of regional styles.  I’d love to see him ensconced in a college somewhere, thinking enduring thoughts about the music and its practitioners, writing learned studies that revolve around his close examination of the tradition and its current day incarnations. 

Beyond his focus on Creed and Roundpeak, Adam has spent a lot of time examining the style and repertoire of some eastern and central Kentucky fiddlers such as John Salyer, Ed Haley, Hiram Stamper, and others.  He has developed a feel for the beautiful and complex fiddle-tune tradition of this state, and has figured out ways to teach tunes in this tradition arranged for clawhammer banjo, trying to capture in his renditions as much style and substance of the original fiddle versions as possible

He impressed students with the importance of listening to and discussing samples of the music of clawhammer banjo icons, and teaches students how to zero in on the attributes that set styles such as Round Peak in general and Kyle's playing in particular apart from other traditional styles. 

Before I left northern VA, I tried to interest Happy Traum in doing an instructional video focused on Adam’s approach to these regional styles.  When that didn’t quite work, I put together a small group revolving around a local video film maker, but that fell apart because of complex travel schedules.  I’ve nudged Adam to commit these observations to paper and get a book out of the effort, not merely a teaching resource but a good old fashioned study of the musical tradition that maps the flow of influence of these various styles. 

I hope Adam finds a way to give expression to his curiosity about these traditions in scholarly channels, and I hope he keeps up his energetic investment in teaching.  He’s got a lot to offer.  He’s got the right stuff.





frailin - Posted - 11/15/2012:  16:30:52

Taj Mahal Programs Now Showing!  


Finally!!  Taj's people talked to my people and my people talked to, uh, er whomever and


Taj starts our interview playing this terrific gourd banjo.  Eventually I got around to asking about Colored Aristocracy.  That was a great discussion.

It's amazing the number of banjo players, builders and historians that site THAT tune as the reason they first got into the banjo.  

But he just kept bring out more banjos and playing different tunes.  And Taj's singing... wow.  

Since I couldn't put it all in one Show, I did and Extra of just Taj making music.  Must admit, it's pretty sweet.  big

So for you folks that have purchased Volume 3, here are the Vimeo addresses to both Taj Programs.  Same pass codes apply:

Taj's Interview:

Taj's Tunes:

For anyone interested in purchasing Volume 3 (Conversations with Banjo Historians), look for the Buy It Now link (for Volume 3) HERE.  Once I get your order,

I'll send you the pass codes now so you too can watch. And the DVDs will follow when the Series is complete (only one interview to go!).


BackDraft307 - Posted - 11/15/2012:  22:29:38

That is awesome news to here...CONGRATULATIONS!

 C.E. 60th Birthday Present "Trinity" is complete!  Great Job Craig.  approve

Just finished watch Taj's video...  very inspiring man he is... Not sure if I could handle locking myself up for a weekend.... LOL! dead





frailin - Posted - 11/23/2012:  14:14:51

Last one... DONE!


Ulf Jagfors interview ("Mr. Akonting!"), shot successfully at 8A Thanksgiving morning via SKYPE (my "low traffic" hunch paid off), is now rendering... to be uploaded to Vimeo later this evening.  Ulf's contribution to what we know about today's banjo is priceless.  What a delight it was to meet him and include him in this Series.  And what passion!  Where joy and perseverance were paramount with the banjo builders, a driving hunger to find answers was the dominate characteristic I found among the historians.  

Anyway... I'm way past due for some more turkey and pumpkin pie.  Now that this LAST INTERVIEW OF THE BANJO HISTORIAN SERIES is in the can, I'm headin' out to pig out.  big  

Back in a bit when I've a Vimeo address to post.  Yippee!!

GrizClaw - Posted - 11/23/2012:  15:37:51

Congratulations....quite an accomplishment...that will live on long after we're gone.......Rick

frailin - Posted - 11/23/2012:  17:00:01

So here 'tis!  


It's 8A on 11/22 (Thanksgiving).  Ulf's in Stockholm and I'm in Rosemount (Minnesota).  SKYPE cooperated and a very articulate historian gave me the story of a lifetime*.  Those of you that preordered Volume 3, go have a look-see.  Here's the Vimeo address:  Same pass codes apply. 


Now for the next steps.  On Monday of next week, I'm delivering a hard drive of all 19 Shows to my sound tech who will be busy trying to remove the distractons of passing cars and trucks and (Dwight Diller, Peter Szego and Adam Hurt's Shows), one noisy refrigerator (CeCe Conway), leaf blowers (Jim Bollman and Ed Britt), a mysterious electronic hum (the end of Taj's interview) and a few other oddities.  The good news is, this time there were no roosters.  big  Concurrently, my package designer has got to try and figure out how to get pictures of all those historians on the pack of the DVD case.  No small task. And, I've got to coordinate production with the DVD duplicator.  All fun stuff... but it's gotta be done right.  

My goal remains to be shipping Volume 3 (yay Banjo Historians!) DVDs around the first of the year... maybe sooner.  

Thank you thank you to all that have preordered.  I've really appreciated your encouragement and support of this adventure.  I included you all in my prayers of gratitude yesterday.  You're covered.  approve

For any first-timers to this thread, looking for some background on the project without wading through 40 pages of stuff, here's the Cliff notes (and how to order):

Ahh... now time for more pie.  Oh... and whipped cream.  I hope the walnuts aren't all gone.    


* I am still surprised though, that in both Sweden and W. Africa, young boys find the banjo acts as a "girl-magnet."  What's up with that.  big

Edited by - frailin on 11/23/2012 17:06:51

BNJOMAKR - Posted - 11/24/2012:  04:34:44

"The good news is, this time there were no roosters".  big  "

I kind of liked the roosters crowing! approve

bricklifter1 - Posted - 11/24/2012:  11:40:03

looking forward to the newest dvd's !


Any chance other banjo subjects will be explored in future  films?

Congrats on the three sets so far




bricklifter1 - Posted - 11/24/2012:  11:41:48

looking forward to the newest dvd's !


Any chance other banjo subjects will be explored in future  films?

Congrats on the three sets so far




frailin - Posted - 11/27/2012:  05:09:30

Work in progress...*



I love how much fun this part of the process is, too.  Here's an early draft of the back cover showing the historians.  It was a bear fitting all these shows on 3 disks (almost had to go to a 4th).  But I think this configuration works.  There are more minutes of footage on this Volume of the Series than any other.  I just couldn't get finished finishing.  big


* Don't mind the typos. Already fixed 'em.  approve

YorkshireWannabeOldTimer - Posted - 11/27/2012:  06:04:33

Looks great! I've held off watching the shows online, preferring to save viewing the latest shows one-by-one when the DVDs arrive. Very excited to hear that the whole production is so nearly complete - yet another fine achievement. Seeing the Jason Burns episode prompted me to put myself down for one of his banjos. Perhaps the next load of shows will prompt me to start building South Yorkshire's finest collection of historical banjo-related items...


Edited by - YorkshireWannabeOldTimer on 11/27/2012 06:05:29

R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 11/30/2012:  14:29:01

You're my hero.

pjxndvm - Posted - 12/02/2012:  05:54:57

Just watched Adam Hurt and Taj interviews and extras...wonderful.

bricklifter1 - Posted - 12/03/2012:  14:49:10

very cool:


I'm not going to watch the last 3 interviews on vimeo--gonna wait for my dvd and watch it clean through--


super excited



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