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Gold Tone and me

Posted by Paul Roberts on Friday, July 8, 2011

According to my friends at Gold Tone I'm the only dealer in the world who just sells their product - no one else's. There's some solace to that, even though it doesn't play out to great financial gain; especially for a guy who doesn't have a store, who lives next to the forest almost in the middle of nowhere. 

A few years ago, after decades of being a professional musician, I fell off the road. I had devoted myself the study of various instruments from around the world and performing on them at elementary school concerts and fine arts concerts. But I'm basically a homebody and the road can get weary or, rather, it's me that got weary of the road. Now, at the tender age of sixty-five, I hang out by the forest in the rural mountain village of Pagosa Springs Colorado.

After spreading myself around a lot of instruments for so long, I began "hearing" banjo music in the mountains. This, after allowing my early banjo/guitar interests to evolve into a global musical odyssey. For a long time, banjo had been one of many instruments for me, not my primary focus. Now I was feeling it creep back into my bones.

I was like Rip Van Winkle, coming out of my self-made world of music, waking up to what was going on currently in the banjo world. For instance, I discovered that a young man named Adam Hurt was producing gorgeous sounds on his banjo. I found an Irish tenor banjo player named Gordon Johnston on YouTube. I found out there was a great Internet site called Banjo Hangout.

My "inner hearing" was corroborated by what I was finding: people were out there making fantastic music on banjos. Low and behold, they hadn't stopped playing banjos just because the folk music revival had ebbed a few decades before, or because some idiot like me had wondered off to the tune of other sounds.

At first it was the Irish thing that brought me back; Gordon Johnston's Irish finger-style tenor banjo. In the early 80's I had a funky tenor that sounded great and I played a bunch of Irish tunes on it, but then I traded "up" and I didn't like the sound of the fancy one nearly as much. So I opted out.

The real reason I became a Gold Tone dealer (don't tell Wayne) was that I wanted to experiment with 3 different types of banjos and I wanted to get them wholesale. I really had no intention of selling them. Actually, I ended up selling all three; they weren't quite what I was looking for, and I didn't even really know what that was.

Wayne tried to get me interested in the cello banjos he had just pulled out of the hat-of-antiquity. I was resistant at first, but finally took the plunge. I bought a 4 and 5-string cello banjo. And I was gone... that did the trick for me!

My website went up. I interviewed Marcy Marxer who had been the real inspiration behind the resurgence of this peculiar instrument, which had had such a short history in American culture, long ago. I interviewed Bob Carlin who had introduced Wayne to Marcy, which had gotten the whole cello banjo thing going again. I research cello banjos and interviewed others, all of which I published up on my website. I played cello banjos, constantly.

My longtime banjo had been a Tubaphone, but I could no longer seem to get a sound I could tolerate on it anymore. I eventually found my way to a Gold Tone banjo designed by Bob Carlin, which I'm still very fond of: the BC-350+. And an Irish tenor banjo- the IT-250.

It's taken me a while to reconcile my role change in life - from performer to independent product specialist/dealer. 

Thanks to all of you who have visited my site and bought instruments from me. I don't sell a lot of instruments, but when it happens it sure helps to keep bread on the table.

If you're in my neck of the woods, please feel free to get in touch. I offer lessons at a reasonable price. 

Best regards,



8 comments on “Gold Tone and me”

kevinwholmes Says:
Saturday, July 9, 2011 @3:10:50 AM

I have a Gold Tone banjola and love it.

f#dead Says:
Sunday, July 10, 2011 @8:59:12 AM

Keep doin what yer doing Paul. I for one just can't wait to hear what new music you bring to those CB's. I sure would come out and see you during the Pagosa Springs hot air balloon weekend but it's the same weekend that I fly the Great Reno Balloon Races. Oh well maybe someday.

Rob MacKillop Says:
Sunday, July 10, 2011 @10:14:13 AM

Paul, you are a lot more than what you describe above. You are an inspiration to a LOT of people, myself included. I love your videos, and all the interviews on your site. Your comments on BHO are always well-thought out, and respectful, and in my case overgenerous :-) but welcome.

courgettelawn Says:
Friday, August 5, 2011 @4:59:02 AM

If you are still selling them in a couple of years time I will be getting a cello banjo from you! It was coming across your site and videos that persuaded me to make a long-term thought a reality and join the fabulous realm of the banjo. Its waves and sounds do echo the landscape like no other instrument I know and you can take people on journeys with your music, me included. I second Rob, you are an inspiration!

bygcmlf Says:
Sunday, December 25, 2011 @9:46:12 AM

Many of us have searched the internet far and wide to find the few like you who have the passion for music and provide such inspiration to us all to keep on keeping on and put our heart and soul into what we really enjoy, the universal language of music.

jimh269b Says:
Tuesday, February 7, 2012 @5:28:10 PM

i sure would love to set and pick some with you paul

RatLer Says:
Wednesday, February 8, 2012 @6:53:02 AM

Appreciate you, Paul!!

John Herrington Says:
Saturday, July 21, 2012 @3:01:56 PM

Heh, Paul, you remember me...John Herrington. Been so doggoned busy for the last couple years, I lost you, old friend. Gonna change that, my friend... will write. I've missed the correspondence. Take care, now,and keep up the good work.

Old John on the Bighorn

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