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Startling statement concerning Bill Monroe's favorite banjo player

Posted by Steve Arkin on Monday, November 28, 2011

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The following is a post that Phil Zimmerman (music director of Banjo Camp North) posted on my Facebook wall late last night.:


Phil Zimmerman

Steve - I had an email exchange with Marshall Freedland when I was preparing for my exhibit at the International Bluegrass Music Museum and the book that I made to accompany the show. The following anecdote didn't make it into the book, but Marshall wanted me to share it with you:

"I think it would be a good thing if you told Arkin this anecdote. Monroe et al. were in Burlington for a concert years ago. I brought along some photos of him I had taken over the years thinking he'd buy some for The Monroe Museum. (He DID!). There on the bus, just him and me, we talked and I asked him: "Of all the banjo players you have had over the years,,, Keith, Earl, Reno, etc., who did you think was the best?" Without blinking, he said, "This Jewish fella from New York, Steve Arkin!" I was incredulous. "Better than Keith, better than EARL?" "Yes, he was. I liked his back-up." Please tell fomer friend, Steve this story. He should know about this. It is absolutely true. You can give Steve my email address."

--/\/\arshall in /\/\ia/\/\i ©¿©¬"

​Sadly Marshall is gone from this earth, but his website is still up - check it out:

5 comments on “Startling statement concerning Bill Monroe's favorite banjo player”

Steve Arkin Says:
Monday, November 28, 2011 @2:14:53 PM

Flattering, but certainly not warranted. Monroe was quoted saying something similar in Jim Rooney's book, BOSSMEN, but not that I was his all-time favorite. In person he often mentioned that he liked my backup playing--but I never got the impression that this elevated me to the top of the heap. I wonder how he would feel to know that I've been playing mostly old-time for the past two decades.
As for Marshall Freedland, I really sorry to learn that he passed on. I first met him at the University of Chicago Folk Festival in 1961--and only really saw him a few times thereafter. Nice guy--interesting banjo player. I had heard that illness caused him to quit playing--but I didn't know of his death. Sad.

Cottonmouth Says:
Monday, November 28, 2011 @2:18:01 PM

Mr. Monroe apparently saw aplenty in your gift, as he was a perfectionist and task master. Bask in those accolades!

banjotef Says:
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 @4:55:37 PM

Well...I, for one, am impressed!

Banjov1 Says:
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 @2:29:41 PM

nothin better than those Jewish banjo playin fellas from NY ;)

that's really cool

Steve Arkin Says:
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 @5:56:03 PM

Thanks guys!

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