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Banjo Masters Oral History Project- Hank Smith

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Way back in 2012 I had an idea that it would be fascinating and probably important to talk to my banjo heroes and try to record their thoughts and ideas about a bunch of stuff.  I thought I would start an oral history type project and film these folks talking about their lives, their musical journey, and technical things about their playing and instruments.  Since then, I have created video from Butch Robins, Jens Kruger, Sammy Shelor, Rex McGee, John Bullard, Gina Furtado, Geoff Stelling, and Tom Nechville.  It was important to me that these videos be publicly and freely available, so I convinced my workplace of their cultural importance and so got the thumbs up to do these as part of my work in archives and special collections at Radford University.  So with all that said, here's the important thing-

I posted a new oral history video of Hank Smith today.  Hank is a fascinating guy and is an amazing musician.  He is one of those hybrid type players who can somehow play it all- traditional bluegrass, jazz, rock, classical etc.  And he does it well.  He is as comfortable in a bluegrass band as he is with a chamber orchestra.  I had been attracted to his playing from the first time I had heard it, probably because he sometimes throws in classical sounding licks into songs, or maybe it was his chromatic runs that he frequently tosses in seemingly effortlessly.  Whatever it was, I started listening closely to him and have been amazed ever since.  I guess I was not surprised when I found out he and Jens Kruger are close friends, I can hear a lot of Jens' influence in there too.

Hank has played professionally all of his adult life.  Days after getting his masters degree in a NC school, he hit the road with the jam band Barefoot Manner and rode that out until the end.  Then he joined various bluegrass and americana bands through which he met Pattie Kinlaw.  He and Pattie formed a musical partnership that then created their current band- Hank, Pattie and the Current.  Hank has written a novel, is on the music faculty of UNC, teaches lessons privately and through various foundations (one of which he and Pattie formed to bring music education to Eastern NC), and he is an all around good guy.  And funny too.  Hank Smith...... an amazing musician.

Hank Smith Interview

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Rex McGee- Banjo Playing Enigma

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Playing Since: 1978
Experience Level: Purty Good


Occupation: library guy and stained glass artist

Gender: Male
Age: 60

My Instruments:
Stelling, Nechville, Bacon and Day, Stealth

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Butch Robins, Alison Brown, Tony Trischka, Leon Hunt, Courtney Johnson, Eddy Davis, Don Vappie, David Grisman, Sam Bush,

Classified Rating: (+6)
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Visible to: Public
Created 8/10/2005
Last Visit 4/23/2024

I spend my days in library archives preserving our musical past. Interviews of banjo players, photographic catalogs of banjo parts, digitizing various cultural and geographic events in the Appalachian region and many other things fill my 8-5 day. I play tenor and 5 string banjo in three bands and prefer ragtime, old jazz and original music on banjo, but most anything will do. Played banjo and guitar in a regionally popular rock band for several years also.

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