Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

709
Banjo Lovers Online


Dec 1, 2021 - 10:55:03 AM
like this
13 posts since 10/30/2021

My Great Grandpa Jim Hayes grew up on Burdette Mountain near Charmco, West Virginia. Around Thanksgiving of 1927, a reclusive but wealthy man by the name of Snowden Crane was murdered in his small house on Orient Hill, and the people initially accused of the murder fabricated a story that got my grandpa implicated in the crime. Though grandpa and the family maintained that he was innocent all the way until his death in 1982, he relied on a newly-educated family member to serve as his defense and he was ultimately convicted of murder in the 2nd degree. He was sentenced to an 18 year prison term at West Virginia State Penitentiary from 1930 to 1946. He was at Greenbrier County Jail in Lewisburg for 2 years during the trials, which counted for 2 of the years of the sentence.

Anyway, what the heck does this have to do with banjos? Well, during the prison term at Moundsville, grandpa had earned the respect of the prison guards and administration, enough to be considered one of their "trustees" giving him some special privileges (kinda like Shawshank's Andy Dufresne). Since Grandpa took an interest in wood working, he worked in the prisons wood shop and was allowed to create some pretty awesome products, including this banjo, which he got to take home with him after he served the full sentence. I've included some other pictures of some of his other works made at that wood shop.

I posted a few pictures on this forum just about a month ago, and appreciate all of the comments and advice to get grandpa's banjo back in playable condition. At the time of that original post, I did not know for sure whether or not Grandpa was the one that built the neck, but after my mom took a trip back to Virginia to visit relatives a couple weeks ago, she learned from other family members that it was true that he made the banjo neck and fretboard, and mounted it on a factory manufactured pot from perhaps the 1920s or 1930s.

I've self taught myself guitar over the last 20+ years, and now my banjo journey has started. I feel blessed to have my great grandpa's old banjo as my trusty ol' pardner. And, once again, I thank everybody who had the kind words of encouragement to finally motivate me to turn this piece of Appalachian music history into a family heirloom that gets added to and passed on to the future generations of pickers.

Here's the composition of the Appalachian Franken-Prison-Banjo:

1920's or 1930's pot
Neck and resinator handmade sometime during his prison term (another of his works were dated 1935)
2010's era Guitar tuners added by me (had to cock them sideways at the top keys, but whatever.... it tunes up nice)

It's far from perfect, but perfect for me. Hope you enjoyed the story of my Great Grandpa James Harvey Hayes' banjo.


Dec 1, 2021 - 11:59:02 AM
like this

128 posts since 10/3/2012

What a story. All of the elements of a classic! Tragedy and hope rolled up in one. While I am sorry to hear of your great grandpa’s misfortune, it is good to hear some good came out of it. It is awesome that you have your great grandpa’s banjo and that you are learning to play. Much fun and joy on your journey.

Dec 1, 2021 - 12:07:25 PM
like this

Jbo1

USA

1088 posts since 5/19/2007

There is a bluegrass song in there: Murder, false imprisonment, redemption..., all the elements needed.

Your great grandfather would be very proud to see his creation resurrected and still being played.

Dec 1, 2021 - 12:42:38 PM
likes this

13 posts since 10/30/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Jbo1

There is a bluegrass song in there: Murder, false imprisonment, redemption..., all the elements needed.

Your great grandfather would be very proud to see his creation resurrected and still being played.


Good point; you are right on. I am a songwriter and I'm waiting for this one to come out one of these days. If it happens like my other songs, the inspiration will strike unexpectedly and I'll hardly be able to write it down as quickly as it rushes out of the instrument and brain. Looking forward to this to happen and I'll share what I come up with on here if possible.

Dec 1, 2021 - 12:49:06 PM
likes this

2386 posts since 9/25/2006
Online Now

I'd love to own that banjo! Great story!

Dec 1, 2021 - 2:14:24 PM
likes this

26 posts since 7/13/2010

It is good to know the banjo has stayed in the family. It looks wonderful. The story about your grandfather is sad, but that makes the banjo all the more special.

Dec 1, 2021 - 2:28:51 PM
likes this

58613 posts since 12/14/2005
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by jgilsoul
quote:
Originally posted by Jbo1

There is a bluegrass song in there: Murder, false imprisonment, redemption..., all the elements needed.

Your great grandfather would be very proud to see his creation resurrected and still being played.


Good point; you are right on. I am a songwriter and I'm waiting for this one to come out one of these days. If it happens like my other songs, the inspiration will strike unexpectedly and I'll hardly be able to write it down as quickly as it rushes out of the instrument and brain. Looking forward to this to happen and I'll share what I come up with on here if possible.


If you have a cellphone, put it on video and record whatever is coming too fast to write.

Edit and improve it later.

Bela Fleck says when a song idea strikes him, when he's away from his writing place, he phones his answering machine and leaves it there for later.

If it's good enough for Mr. Fleck, it's good enough for the curerent owner of the world's only Jim Hayes banjo.

Dec 1, 2021 - 4:05:34 PM

13 posts since 10/30/2021

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory
quote:
Originally posted by jgilsoul
quote:
Originally posted by Jbo1

There is a bluegrass song in there: Murder, false imprisonment, redemption..., all the elements needed.

Your great grandfather would be very proud to see his creation resurrected and still being played.


Good point; you are right on. I am a songwriter and I'm waiting for this one to come out one of these days. If it happens like my other songs, the inspiration will strike unexpectedly and I'll hardly be able to write it down as quickly as it rushes out of the instrument and brain. Looking forward to this to happen and I'll share what I come up with on here if possible.


If you have a cellphone, put it on video and record whatever is coming too fast to write.

Edit and improve it later.

Bela Fleck says when a song idea strikes him, when he's away from his writing place, he phones his answering machine and leaves it there for later.

If it's good enough for Mr. Fleck, it's good enough for the curerent owner of the world's only Jim Hayes banjo.

 


Great advice.  I just looked him up, and Bela Fleck is playing at the Paramount in Seattle (nearby) next Wednesday.  I'm half tempted to get some tickets right now and go make it happen!  That would be a cool way to be introduced to his music... LIVE!

Dec 1, 2021 - 5:03:39 PM
likes this

124 posts since 11/9/2021

Great title, "Family Banjo". ITs gonna write itself.

Dec 1, 2021 - 8:08:02 PM
likes this
Players Union Member

RioStat

USA

5674 posts since 10/12/2009
Online Now

Great story and awesome looking banjo !

Myself and my family are all West Virginia born, and my great-grandfather was some sort of mid-level, paper shuffling admInistrator at the Moundsville Penitentiary back in the '20-30's.

Somewhere around her i've got an old photo he took, from one of the guard towers, of about  200-300 Moundsville inmates standing in formation in the main "yard" at the 'pen, in the 1930's. One of 'em could be your great grandfather!

I'll find that photo tomorrow, get it posted on this thread.

Dec 2, 2021 - 12:52:56 PM

13 posts since 10/30/2021

quote:
Originally posted by RioStat

Great story and awesome looking banjo !

Myself and my family are all West Virginia born, and my great-grandfather was some sort of mid-level, paper shuffling admInistrator at the Moundsville Penitentiary back in the '20-30's.

Somewhere around her i've got an old photo he took, from one of the guard towers, of about  200-300 Moundsville inmates standing in formation in the main "yard" at the 'pen, in the 1930's. One of 'em could be your great grandfather!

I'll find that photo tomorrow, get it posted on this thread.


Thanks.  I found a picture from June of 1930 on a WVU website dedicated to history.  Wondering if your great grandpa took this picture, which would have been about 2 months before my great-grandpa got there.  https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/013505

Dec 4, 2021 - 7:31:08 AM
likes this

134 posts since 7/27/2006

Love the story. Please write that song. Research all the information relating to the murder, trial etc. Jot down terms used in the time period including prison terms and often used phrases to possibly add to the lyrics. Simple story line - beginning, middle and end. Decide on what direction or main story line you’d like to get. Wrongly accused then a happy ending? Who really was the killer? Lots to work on. Enjoy the process.

Dec 4, 2021 - 8:13:51 AM
likes this

4009 posts since 5/1/2003

Great story.
One time I was hired to play a banjo that was built by an old gentleman who had passed,at a gathering of his family.
It was the most unplayable banjo I’ve ever had in my lap but I made the best of it and got one or two tunes out.
Everybody was happy,I think I got $50 for my time.

Dec 5, 2021 - 4:31:10 AM
likes this
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15023 posts since 8/30/2006

Good point; you are right on. I am a songwriter and I'm waiting for this one to come out one of these days. If it happens like my other songs, the inspiration will strike unexpectedly and I'll hardly be able to write it down as quickly as it rushes out of the instrument and brain. Looking forward to this to happen and I'll share what I come up with on here if possible.

It's called inspiration, not respiration.  So for you the MUSE is there and willing, you might just try asking her sometime.

I used to think one song per day was too much to ask, until I did ask, and she replied, " I thought you would never ask."  After that I had a closer relationship with her.

The gifts are yours, but use it or lose it, the MUSE has plenty of interested suitors whose ambition is only money.

Closing Down Hell:  (c)2000 me

I will stand right in the mouth of Hell

I will whistle, yodel and I'll yell

I've got truth behind me and I'll tell

And give them notice of eviction

I will walk into the very fire

And bring this water to their deep desire

We're closing down this place in half an hour

The memory fades with each description.

2/22/00 at 2:22 am   Write in the air with your finger if you have to .  Our address when growing up was 222.

The MUSE is glad to guide you, think of the work she has to do. 


 

Edited by - Helix on 12/05/2021 04:32:17

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.234375