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In the beginning..

Posted by SkaStan on Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My first banjo was a christmas present from my Ma when I was 17. I had been playing guitar a while, and although I was a commited rock fan I secretly had a love of bluegrass from listening to Flatt and Scruggs etc. Sadly first time around it never took of and one day I traded the banjo for a leather jacket. Fast forward 22 years and I find myself listening to more and more bluegrass, and especially an old band I loved from my early Edinburgh days - Swamptrash. That old itch to take up the banjo was well and trully back. 

Having committed to learning again, my first big problem is findind a good instrument. I live in Dubai, United Arab Emerites, and although there are plenty of musical instrument shops none sell 5 string banjos. I did find one eventually selling a "Caraya" brand but it looked and felt awfull and neither myself nor the shop staff were able to play the thing.  I decided to turn to the internet. I very quickly dicovered the real world of banjo enthusiasts! Its huge, and there is alot more to banjos than I ever knew!! (Thank you banjo hang out!)  I checked out a few online dealers,,, to get some info on what I should be looking for. I got some great advice , but was left even more confused as to what to buy.

My next stop was ebay. There were some great instruments for sale, but not many sellers willing to ship to Dubai. The shipping costs vairyed from $150 - $400, which made the desition difficult. My first bid was for an Allen made banjo because it just looked great, but due to the high shipping cost it was not really worth it ans I withdrew my bid.

A banjo that really caught my eye was an old Gibson Mastertone that was owned by Larry Richardson of Bill Monroe fame. He had recently passed away and his wife was selling his banjo. It had had some real modifications done to it,  including the neck which had "Larry" written on the head stock. I spent a couple of sleepless nights wanting to bid on this, but thought it would go for a price way over my budget, and also felt that a banjo with its history deserves a good home in the states, and not to be shipped off to the middle east for a total novice to play. I sold for $1025!! Really low I thought. I could nearly of had it! However I hope it has gone to a loving home.

Next up was an Ibanez Artist fitted with a Gibson tonering. This was being sold from Austrailia. After a bit of research I decided to really have a go at winning the bidding on this. Apart from looking like a great instrument, the shipping was cheap. My heart was set on it. Then in the final few hours of bidding it just went up and up, finally going for $1300, way over my budget.

Tierd of the ebay search I went back to the online dealers. With help from the reveiws and forums on banjohangout, and advice from the dealers, and ofcourse my buget limits, I have decided to go for a Morgan Monroe MGB 1C.

The problem I have is that I cannot hear or touch an instrument before buying and have to go on recommendations and gut instinct. I love the look of the MGB 1c, and the reveiws say that it has a great tone, it was not an easy desition!! But hope it the right one. As I right this I am about to place the order (from and my next blog will be written once I have had it in my hands...

1 comment on “In the beginning..”

pluckyfingers Says:
Thursday, March 20, 2008 @6:15:18 AM

In Australia we have a similar problem, heaps of great guitar retailers but nary a decent banjo stockist to be found and some often charge through the roof.  I had success in purchasing a New Deering banjo from an American ebay seller and paid less than the US retail price and was given a great shipping rate. The US Express postal service was most impressive sending tracking emails letting you know where the parcel was going to and arriving at.  The banjo arrived packed superbly and in perfect condition. I'm already gearing up for my next online banjo now that I have my confidence up probably from a larger stockist such as Elderly Instruments (Wonderful people) Sounds like you have done your research and deserve a decent instrument. Looking forward to your next blog


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