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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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frailin - Posted - 08/03/2011:  14:00:23

Charlied is now signed up for the series.  Thank you!

Pine Cone - Posted - 08/04/2011:  19:22:08

$30 for the first DVD is just too darn reasonable.

Rather than adjust the price for some of us early adopters, how about taking the extra $45 and adding it to a fund to help make copies available to public libraries or schools?

blockader - Posted - 08/04/2011:  20:00:25

Coming up with $150 for 2 (amazingly awesome) DVDs would be *AHEM* highly questionable around here, and though I have also been following this thread since the beginning I just didn't feel I could really commit at that price, especially with another baby on the way. At $60 i'd be in for sure.


frailin - Posted - 08/04/2011:  20:19:34

That's a wonderfully generous and philanthropic thought, Scott.  I'd be happy to oblige!  

I'm currently setting up a rudimentary Paypal system at to take initial DVD orders (Eric and BHO aren't ready yet).  The price will be set at $30 + $6 for S&H.  Rather than divvy up the $75 a coupla different ways, might I suggest a simpler approach:

Figure out a candidate resource you'd like to make the donation to (i.e. your local library).  Once you've placed an order for your copy, I'd recommend you then buy a second copy for your local library (fill in their "ship to" address) and donate it IN YOUR NAME.  There's a comments section on the order form for such messages.  If you'd prefer a local school, mebbe give it there then.  But if you can keep your donation local and show folks YOUR interest level (enough to motivate you to make the gift), I think it would have more impact.  If you can't think of a resource, then buy the extra and leave me a "to be donated" note in the comments space provided on the order form.  I know of some schools and libraries that would be delighted with this material.  I might even contact the Smithsonian folks and ask them for a recommendation.  I'll be especially delighted to tell them it was you folks that ponied up this fabulous idea.  I'll let you know where I shipped it then, too.  

Thanks for your generosity, Scott.  It's a good feeling to give back.  You guys continue to make me proud to be a part of this terrific group.  smiley

frailin - Posted - 08/04/2011:  20:20:12

Blockader is added to the DVD list.  Thank you!!

frailin - Posted - 08/04/2011:  20:23:01

And Banjoholic is added to the list, too.  Thanks, Dr. Josh!

ramjo - Posted - 08/05/2011:  07:53:25

Craig--I like that approach you came up with for us to make donations. I'm still in at the original $75 and will specify the remainder "for donation."

Just have to say again: this is a great thing you're doing.....and, as the Smithsonian's response proves, timely!

frailin - Posted - 08/05/2011:  08:32:40

Pine Cone and Ramjo, you guys make me proud.  You bet.  I'm delighted to put these inspirational, positive people and their messages in front of the next generation of musicians and artists.  But lets not forget the old folks either.  I might want to give some DVDs to a few retirement homes, too.  

Thanks for generously making this possible!  I just bragged on both of you to the Smithsonian folks.  big

Edited by - frailin on 08/05/2011 08:34:33

Viper - Posted - 08/05/2011:  10:22:44

Craig, I'm a bit late with reading the news, but congrats on getting in with the Smithsonian. And lowering the price of the set is great too! Cheers!


frailin - Posted - 08/05/2011:  11:16:40

Castania is added to the list.  Thanks, Ken!

bluemule_77 - Posted - 08/06/2011:  13:27:42

Usually I ever-so-slightly fume at folks who post without reading the entire thread... but since this is 15 pages long... please forgive me!

Just wondered how much the Mississippi had changed course to put Chuck Lee east of it.  Has this been discussed?  Thanks, and again... sorry if I missed the discussion.

Great project, Craig!


frailin - Posted - 08/06/2011:  13:45:24

I know who got an "A" in geography. :)

bricklifter1 - Posted - 08/07/2011:  06:16:19

good one!

Chuck Lee - Posted - 08/07/2011:  08:02:41

I wasn't going to say anything. winkwink

Edited by - Chuck Lee on 08/07/2011 08:03:28

frailin - Posted - 08/07/2011:  12:20:51

I unfortunately don't have time to put this incredible new piece of work into his show, but Jeff Menzies sent me these pics this morning. 

Wish I woulda had a chance to play on this wonder when I was up in Toronto. 

More pics here:


BNJOMAKR - Posted - 08/07/2011:  15:59:57

When I was a kid, I would get called "gourd head".... I never knew it was a thing of beauty until now!!! big

frailin - Posted - 08/07/2011:  19:44:47

"Extra extra.  See all about it!"


I hadn't planned on releasing any of the 3 "extras" for preview.  I was saving them for the folks purchasing DVDs.  But this one - BANJO RETAILER INTERVIEWS - was too fun NOT to share.  

Listen to Elderly's owner Stan Werbin and lead banjo salesperson Derek Smith talk about the shift in banjo sales from BG to OT. 

Then listen to Derek and Donald Zepp talk about who is now buying.  And if that isn't exciting enough, wait 'till you see Donald's studio!  

You can watch it all here and now for free (but for a limited time only) -


PS - There  are still two others "extras" on DVD Volume 1:  Banjo Performer interviews - I chat with (ask questions of) Steve Arkin, Paul Brown, Riley Baugus, Bruce Molsky and Howie Bursen and a great 1:1 conversation with ethnomusicologist (and fellow BHO member)  Richard Jones-Bamman. 

Almost done.  

Edited by - frailin on 08/07/2011 19:46:38

budbennett - Posted - 08/08/2011:  07:41:46

i want both volumes Craig, sign me up!

frailin - Posted - 08/08/2011:  07:44:29

You're on the list, Bud.  Thanks!

Viper - Posted - 08/08/2011:  08:50:51

Ack! The Banjo Retailers video says it's only for Vimeo Plus members. However, I really enjoyed the interview with Richard Jones-Bamman. 

frailin - Posted - 08/08/2011:  08:54:42

Hmmm.  Banjo Retailers is set for PUBLIC viewing.  Try this address:

You have to copy/paste that address into the browser (i.e. can't get to it from a Facebook post since I've disabled the "embed" feature).  I don't want these shows going outside Vimeo (and my ability to turn them off).  Sorry.  

And thanks for the headsup on Richard's interview.  He's one REALLY bright guy! 

Edited by - frailin on 08/08/2011 08:59:33

Viper - Posted - 08/08/2011:  10:52:27

Thanks, that worked. Good stuff. Glad you included the Soldier's Joy w/ Zepp. Cheers!

frailin - Posted - 08/08/2011:  12:40:22

John Battaglia is added to the DVD list.  Thanks, John!

cmox - Posted - 08/08/2011:  20:30:34

Craig and banjo friends:
My Jason Burns A scale arrived on July 18. It's number 25, the banjo he was working when you interviewed him, Craig. Walnut, 11" pot, skin head, sweet mellow tone and exquisite craftsmanship. Pictures are on my home page. check out the beautiful maple inlay of a poppy. It's everything I hoped for and more. Working with Jason was a real treat. Since I'm in California he kept me posted with progress emails and photos. He even included a leather-bound journal will the banjo specs.


Peg Head


frailin - Posted - 08/09/2011:  08:07:28

Congrats Connie!   smiley 

Jason is big on recording/preserving records of his work for posterity.  If someone wants to know about his banjos 50 years from now (i.e. a repair), he's making sure the materials, components and builder's thoughts are there for review.  

Leather bound, no less.  Cool. 

StraitsBlueGal - Posted - 08/09/2011:  10:19:39

Love the Werbin/Smith/Zepp clip! Good news - our music isn't dying out! God bless Mumford & Sons and Carolina Chocolate Drops for showing young, cool people playing the banjo in modern music (the gateway drug).

I love Elderly. I'm going there on Thursday on my way home from a cross-state business trip. I'm gonna play with the Deering Hartfords, the Nechvilles and their Bart Reiters - I LOVE Reiters and can't wait to get one of my own.

StraitsBlueGal - Posted - 08/09/2011:  11:51:54

To add to my prior comment - I think that the buying trend that the guys at Elderly are seeing is great. Desire for the sound and use of the instrument instead of a pre-set belief in the specific style they'll play - makes sense from the iPod shuffle generation. Also not at all a bad thing in general.

frailin - Posted - 08/09/2011:  13:16:11

Straits... your observations are right in line with what folks "on the front line" are reporting.  

And I agree with you, it's all good news!  big

Delfield - Posted - 08/09/2011:  13:51:09


Since this is sort of the side topic of the moment, do you mind if I ask if any of the merchants mentioned that another reason that openbacks are selling 2 or 3 or even 4-to-1, is that old time players tend to own many banjos with many sounds (11", 12", tubaphone, woody, tackhead, gourd, A scale, long neck, etc).  We don't want just one of these, we want them all!

I know this is a huge generalization, but bluegrassers are mainly after one sound:  Earl.  To achieve this, one saves as much money as possible, and plunks down that cash on the banjo that comes closest to that sound for that money. 

Again, I know this is a big generalization, but I think there is something to it.  Did anyone bring this up during your interviews?




Pine Cone - Posted - 08/09/2011:  14:05:04

Craig -

I'm blaming you and your interview of Jason Burns for a bad case of BAS.

Just bought Jason Burns #16 from biscuit joiner here on the Hangout.  Already have a couple of Rickard's, so I just need another dozen or so to be able to play at least one from each of your Eastern builders.

You can see pictures on the JR Burns Musical Insturment site and hear it on biscuit joiner's Hangout page.


So many banjos, so little time...

cmox - Posted - 08/09/2011:  17:59:32

Congratulations, Pine Cone. There are worse things in this world than BAS.


Mark Johnson - Posted - 08/10/2011:  06:56:09


Originally posted by cmox

Congratulations, Pine Cone. There are worse things in this world than BAS.


...or at least BAS when you have money to spend.  To find something worse than BAS while broke, you have to go way down the list to things that are largely crimes or otherwise banned by international treaties.

frailin - Posted - 08/10/2011:  07:15:28

Jeff, no one (among the retailers) spoke of the "collectability" issue of open-backs vs BG.  But clearly it is a variable.  Just don't know how much influence/roll it really plays. 

I'm now in Western Swing planning mode... at least the NW portion of the builders.  Will possibly be out there as early as late October.  I'm contacting the folks at Dusty Strings for an interview along the way and plan on adding Gryphon to the mix when I'm down there.  If I remember, I can ask about your hypothesis.  smiley

And I'm sorry for the recent spike in BHO BAS.  Believe me... I understand.  Oh, a heads up... Kevin Enoch and Chuck Lee's "just finished" Programs won't help.  big


Edited by - frailin on 08/10/2011 07:17:45

parapatton - Posted - 08/10/2011:  16:04:22

Congratulations Craig on your North American Banjo Builders Project.

This is a useful and an important source of information, as well as, a historical documentation of the craftspeople who love the banjo. They are unique individuals dedicating themselves to creating wonderful instruments and carrying on the tradition of the Banjo in America.

When I first learned of your project and how you were going to travel America, meet Banjo makers and interview them, it reminded me of the amazing work of Thomas James Wenberg who in the early 1980's took it upon himself to travel America to meet and document violin makers that resulted in the first book, and now the standard reference work: The Violin Makers of the United States.

He spent 3 years living out of the back of his pick-up truck, traveling over 140,000 miles, visiting 49 states to accomplish his labor of love.

See his full story in the link below to the article from Strings 1998:
Thomas Wenberg and the Making of an American Classic.
How a collectors obsession turned into a one-of-a-kind ode to contemporary violin making:

Your work is an inspiration to bring more interest & respect for the banjo and especially the talented individuals who build them.

Looking forward to getting your completed Banjo Builder Documentary Series.


frailin - Posted - 08/11/2011:  10:34:28

Made the Home Town News!

Craig Evans spent 19 days — and drove more than 6,000 miles in his Scion — to compile interviews for a series of documentaries on banjo makers. The finished product will be featured in the Smithsonian Folkways catalog.

Article is here:

"Aww, shucks... t'wern't nothin'."  This is part of the reason I love small town living.  smiley

Edited by - frailin on 08/11/2011 10:40:09

Pine Cone - Posted - 08/11/2011:  19:17:07

Your own newpaper article!!!!!!!!!! Soon you'll be a legend in your own mind!

So who made that fine looking banjo you're holding. Is that one of your Chuck Lees? Tubaphone tone ring?

It's going to be one heck of a documentary when you're done. It is just great to hear builder's talk about how and why they build.

So have you decided who you are visiting in the western portion yet? Next time I'd recommend a slightly more relaxing pace if you can afford it. 6000 miles in 19 days equals over 315 miles per day which sounds pretty darn exhausting. I sure am excited about the results I have seen so far.

Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

frailin - Posted - 08/11/2011:  20:09:42

Don't think the legend issue has too much chance.  But I do like the picture.  big

Yes, that's "Tattletale"... a Chuck Lee tubaphone.  The Bill Rickard ring is unplated brass.  She LOUD and TELLS ON YOU (legendary Chuck Lee neck sensitivity).  She holds me accountable.  That banjo has made me a better player.  I love it.  

The Western Swing right now is at 10 stops but I expect at least one more.  And I would VERY much like to take it at a slower tempo, but time is $$ on the road.  And I'm not sure if I can sync up with the MN Grant folks.  Due to the government shutdown, everything got pushed back two weeks.  Including when we're notified of our status.  

Since I teach, I have to take my fall break (I'm now thinking I can pick up 6 interviews during that 9 day window) when it comes up.  I may not know about my grant status at that time and if I go before I know... I pay.  I'm not sweating that, though.  I learned a LONG time ago not to wait for "approval" on a lifetime adventure.  smiley

And I'm delighted you folks want to come along!! 

FYI - I took the DVD masters into the dup house today.  Barring any issues, I'm still on schedule for delivery the week of 8/22 (first day of teaching).  


Castania - Posted - 08/12/2011:  11:17:46

You just had to mention school . . . going back to work . . .  Yes, the year gets back underway next Thursday (08.18) in New Bern, NC.  Can't wait.



<<< ----   Hey, that's 149 . . . I hope 150 is something profoundly significant . . .

Edited by - Castania on 08/12/2011 11:18:23

dlcapozzi - Posted - 08/16/2011:  15:09:39

Hey what a great idea and gives a wonderful insight to all those wonderful banjo makers. sign me up for my
copy of this DVD series a conversation with the north american banjo makers.

frailin - Posted - 08/16/2011:  15:17:27

Ok Dee.  You're on the list.  I expect to approve final artwork tomorrow.  Duplication follows immediately.  That takes 5-8 days. 

As soon as I have finished product in hand (ETA - next week), my plan is to OPEN PAYPAL ORDERING at and ship.  smiley

frailin - Posted - 08/25/2011:  13:05:37

They're here and the Store is now open!  For those of you that reserved a copy, it's ok now to order.  Head over to and look for the "buy now" button. 


I got my birthday present a few days early this year.  I now have DVD product in hand and can ship.  

I will be writing to those of you on the "DVD reserved" order list beginning tonight (I can only do 20 at a time).  By tomorrow I will have contacted you all.  It's simply a "reminder" email... you still have to place the order (it's how I get your address and $$).  So, you don't have to wait for my note. You can head over to now and place your order.  I'll start shipping tomorrow, too.  

I can do some international shipping (countries are listed).  If you're NOT on my list, write me.  We'll figger out a way. 

I also have better (lower) shipping rates.  smiley

Enjoy the banjo builders, folks!!  And thank you for your support of this project.  




Edited by - frailin on 08/25/2011 13:07:23

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 08/25/2011:  14:30:46

Nice to see it packaged as a product and ready to go.  Good work.  Glad to have been along for the ride, so to speak. 



Mark Johnson - Posted - 08/25/2011:  14:43:03


BNJOMAKR - Posted - 08/25/2011:  17:33:56

Payment sent!


srrobertsiii - Posted - 08/25/2011:  17:56:26


Payment sent! Thank you so much for all the hard work you've done and the thread that's kept everyone "up to speed!" Best of luck with the sales and the west coast trip.

Sam Roberts

olpete - Posted - 08/25/2011:  18:09:05

Just ordered mine! Thanks Craig.

bricklifter1 - Posted - 08/25/2011:  18:36:23

Just Ordered Mine

....Can't wait for the west coast.......c'mon Craig: ditch the day job and let's get filmin'........

heck, there is tons of material: mandolins, resonator banjos, steel guitars, juice harps, spoons

.......just kidding :-)


frailin - Posted - 08/25/2011:  18:57:27

Wow, you guys... Paypal is workin' just like it's supposed to!  Yay!  And thank you!!

After some appointments in the morning, I'm hoping to spend a coupla hours tomorrow afternoon packing up and shipping off this new batch of DVDs.  I have to admit, I'm thrilled with Volume 1 now complete.  But it's also really making me itchy to get going on the West Coast crew.  big

I've got the green light from the builder folks up in WA and OR for the last 10 days (or so) in October (they're gonna be around).  And the way you folks are ordering, I hope to have enough from the proceeds to buy tix for the trip (I won't have heard back from the Grant committee by then).  So... I'm pumped to finish off the next phase of the project. 

Thank you again for your support, everyone!  I'm delighted the world will now get to experience these amazing folks.  What great emissaries they are for the banjo!


pastorharry - Posted - 08/25/2011:  22:55:25

just paypaled for mine, thanks Craig.

frailin - Posted - 08/26/2011:  05:52:51

Thank you for your orders, everyone!!  THANK YOU!!  smiley

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