There are so many good ones, but all in all, my vote goes to Raymond Fairchild. Listen to him play for the Crowe Brothers singing The old Red River.
The internet /google shows "Raynond Fairchild-Crowe Brothers Where the Old Red River Flows. Listen to this banjo picking by Raymond Fairchild, and based on everything involved, the timing especially, the crescendos, the clearness of his picking, the overall dynamics, his starting out on the one string at pp and then bringing up to ff, and coordination with the singing , I believe puts Raymond in the list with the masters. I would love to hear what others think about this number.
Edited by - H Lee on 03/26/2020 19:03:14
As a player of that "other" banjo (tenor!), I'd have to pick Eddy Peabody, Freddie Morgan, and (here's a surprise) Steve Caddock. He's a master!
I haven't seen John Herrmann and Steve Arkin mentioned here. Two of my heroes. Then of course the guy that got me hooked in the sixties Tom Paley.
I haven't really played much clawhammer or other old time styles since moving over to bluegrass in the mid-'70s, but when I did, especially when I was learning, in the early '60s, my favorites were Wade Ward and Hobart Smith. Not to be overly simplistic, but Wade Ward strikes me as the clawhammer equivalent of Scruggs: wonderful tone and great control of the spaces between the notes. And as for Hobart Smith, to me his playing had great feeling and exuberance. I also loved Don Stover's clawhammer playing, infrequent as it was, because, as with his bluegrass playing, the warmth of his personality always came through,
As a VERY new banjo beginner, I've been fortunate to be influenced directly by Mark Johnson, he leads the pack for me on my list of the best. Additionally, as I've started listening-to-learn to different artists, I most have appreciated Adam Hurt. There will be others I'm sure.
Edited by - FlyPacNW on 05/07/2020 19:33:09