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Claw-hammer after all these years

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Well I've been 3 finger banjo picking for about 35 years and plan to continue as long as I'm able, however, recently, I have gotten very much into claw-hammer. I just bought my first open back with a scooped neck. It's Bart Reiter Regent. I purchased it  from a member up in Kentucky who advertised it on the Hangout classified ads.

I was interested in clawhammer once before after a trip to the Ozark Folk Center in Arkansas. That was back in the  early 80's. I got to hear some good claw-hammer on that trip and even got to meet Louis(Grandpa ) Jones, and attend a jam session with some of his family members. 

I bought a couple of books after that trip. Mel Bay's Frailing by Eric Muller and Barbara Koehler, it cost $5.95 at the time, so you can see I've had it a while. I also bought Mel Bay's Claw- Hammer Banjo Solos by Alec Slater, it was $4.95.  I just couldn't get much out of either book at the time, but now , after twenty five years of technology, and resources like the Hangout and it's members, I'm making good use of these books, especailly the Eric Muller book.

My interest in clawhammer was renewed this March when I attended  The Suwannee Banjo Camp in Florida. I went for 3 finger Bluegrass and had a great expereince getting to learn from and pick with Bill Keith, Bill Evans, Janet Davis, and others. 

One thing that did surprise me, however,  was the fact that there were a lot more open back banjos at the camp  than bluegrass banjos. Those folks had come to learn from instructors like Ken Perlman, Bob Carlin, Chuck Levy. Mark Johnson, and others. I also learned that this was originally an Old -Time Banjo Camp and that this was only the third year( I think) that Bluegrass was being offered. I didn't attend any of the claw-hammer/Old-Time sessions, but I was exposed. The faculty concerts were fabulous by the instructors of both styles.

I'm still working hard to improve my 3 finger picking, but now I'm also working equally hard at clawhammer.  Not only do I like the sound of the clawhammer banjo, I like the fact that it is good accompaniment for singing. I also play guitar and sing. Over the past 35 years, if I was going to be performing alone, I always took the guitar and used my banjo when playing with others. Now, I'm looking forward to doing more with just me and the banjo.

One of my Bluegrass friends said that it sounded like I was moving over to the dark side. The truth is, I love both styles . My plan to switch back and forth and continue to improve in both styles.

Thanks for all the help from you folks at the Hangout.



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Playing Since: 1975
[Teaching] [Jamming] [Socializing] [Helping]

Gender: Male
Age: 73

My Instruments:
Gibson Granada, Gibson RB 250 , Bart Reiter Regent

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Flatt and Scruggs

Classified Rating: not rated
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Visible to: Public
Created 12/16/2008
Last Visit 11/16/2022

I took lessons on a Hawaiian Lap Steel during my teenage years in the early sixties. Since then, I've played various kinds of music on guitar, keyboard, banjo, and even trumpet. I now play bluegrass and bluegrass gospel on both the banjo and upright bass. I enjoy playing with a couple of bands in the local area, and at picking parlors in the local area. I often play solo or with a group in church. Being a longtime banjo picker, I appreciate hearing and learning from everyone on Banjo Hangout.

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