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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

7191 reviews in the archive.

Ricky Skaggs: Kentucky Traveler: My Life in Music

Submitted by yopasjim on 6/30/2015

Where Purchased: Online

Overall Comments

This Spring I had an opportunity to purchase an autographed copy of Ricky Skaggs autobiography entitled "Kentucky Traveler:  My Life in Music."  Eddie Dean helped Ricky to write his story.  While I was on vacation this month I thought I would read it through.  I found the book to be pretty incredible...and I did not want to put it down.  Here is why I liked the book:

He honors the Bluegrass Giants.  With great respect he honors Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley and so many more.  All through the book...from the beginning to the end...he expresses his gratitude to the people who laid the foundation for Bluegrass in the United States.  There is so much I did not understand about Bluegrass and Ricky did a great job of communicating to his readers the historical significance of Bluegrass.

He explains his journey of music.  He tells the story of how he got his first mandolin at the age of 5 and how he was consumed by the music.  He shared how he would listen for hours to the radio or to albums (and 45s) of Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers...and then practice until he played the song exactly like them.  I was particularly intrigued by his words to the younger generation:  "When I think of kids today learning music, I feel bad for ‘em because of all the distractions out there.  If I could tell ‘em one thing 1 know, it would be this simple advice: Just keep playing and get to know your instrument like it’s your best friend. Turn off the computer and the video games and things that drain your brain and find inspiration in your instrument.  If you’re going to be a great player, you’ve got to spend a great amount of time practicing. When you’re not doing your chores or your schoolwork, You oughta be playing!”  Even though my first inclination was to share this with my soon-to-be High School freshman son (who plays piano and the tenor sax) so that he would practice more, I soon realized he was also talking to this 54 year old banjo player.

He credits his parents for their investment and his success.  Tabloids are filled with stories of people who have had success...yet they give very little credit where credit is due.  Ricky recognizes and appreciates every ounce of investment his parents made.  His Grand Old Opry honors and experiences are the culmination of parents' sacrifices and encouragement.  It was not hard for me to see the value in the potential role I play in my son's success.  Even if it is not music, I have a great opportunity to play a very important role in his future successes.  (I feel as though my wife and I have been fully supportive...but we need to continue to invest and encourage!)

He explains his return to Bluegrass.  As many of you know Ricky has had great success as a country star.  However he explains in detail his loyalty and commitment to Bluegrass...and singing the songs of the Bluegrass Fathers.  I was touched when I read how Bill Monroe "prayed a blessing" over Ricky:  I remember one night getting on my knees at his feet, and asking him, “Would you bless me like a father blessing a son: pray that I’ll be a caretaker of this old music?” And he said, “Why, yes, I will.” He bowed his head and said these words I’ll never forget: “Lord, would You just give Ricky the love for the old music, like you’ve given me through the years, and help him carry it on?” With hands laid on me, he gave me his blessing.”

He shares his faith.  I did not know that he had been married before.  But in the book he shares his failure to be home to be a good father and husband.  His marriage failed...and he takes responsibility for that.  But he also shares the love he has for Sharon...noting the changes he has made.  For a preacher like me, I like to hear from people whose faith is an important part of his life....not just a gospel song in a Bluegrass set.  I appreciated Ricky's vulnerability and his faithful obedience to God.

On a personal note...i know a few years ago there were some BHO forum threads that shredded Ricky's personality.  I went back and read some of those posts after reading the book and before posting this review.  From reading the book I got the impression that Ricky is a very humble person.  His interaction with people comes THROUGH his music.  His humbleness is often misinterpreted as arrogance or conceit.  After reading his book...realizing how he best serves the music community...I think there are some people who have misjudged a very humble man.  

All in all I hope you will take the time to read this book if you get a chance!  It is well written and very informative...especially about Bluegrass!  I hope some day to meet Mr. Skaggs and thank him for his contribution to the music world.


Overall Rating: 9

Zach Hudson: The Banjo

Submitted by yopasjim on 11/14/2014

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

This is a very interesting children's book about a young boy (Peter) who was eager to be part of the school orchestra, however he does not have an instrument to play.  The author does a great job of showing the reader the boy's sadness because he was not allowed to follow his passion of music.  In a wonderful turn of events the young boy acquires a banjo from a neighbor.  With joy he immediately begins plucking out familiar tunes...Simple Gifts and Jingle Bells.  Even after learning to play a few songs on the banjo he was still not permitted to play in the orchestra.  Feeling rejected once again he retreats to the playground and is befriended by the school principal whose father use to play the banjo.  She encourages him to play her a song.  In the end she gives Peter a violin her son use to play.  He then is able to join the school orchestra.  He is excited to now play 2 instruments - the violin in the school orchestra and the banjo at home.  

I like this story because it captures the passion some children have to be musically engaged.   Of course the uniqueness of the banjo adds to the story and the musical journey!

It is a simple story with a great message.

Overall Rating: 8

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