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Dec 7, 2022 - 6:10:51 PM
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1 posts since 1/7/2011

Bob Flesher's wife contacted me the other day to say that he passed on late November. He was a solid banjoist of clawhammer, old time, minstrel, etc. He was owner of the Liberty Banjo Company. His banjos were truly a work of art. I am proud to say that he was my friend and that he will be missed.
I'm not computer savvy, so if this is posted in the incorrect forum, would someone please post the information in the proper one please.
Rest In Peace Bob.

Edited by - Texasbanjo on 12/08/2022 04:38:11

Dec 7, 2022 - 6:26:05 PM

90 posts since 4/4/2021

That's a shame. I'm not familiar with his banjos, but I love his "Old-time Clawhammer Banjo" and "Banjo Heads" albums. His wife, Rita, was very kind and helpful at the time I ordered them back in 2021. My sympathies and best wishes for Rita & Bob's family.

Dec 7, 2022 - 7:22 PM

1031 posts since 10/31/2007

Oh no!
I just picked up one of his Grand Cotillions. Have a Flesher Quadrille neck I mated to a pot.
Love the feel and looks.
Great builder.
So sorry for his family and the banjo community!
Tom in Maine

Dec 7, 2022 - 7:27:13 PM

7362 posts since 9/21/2007

At one time (the 1990s and early 2000s) Bob WAS old time banjo. His lead-times were in years and the prices he got were very high.

I seem to remember that about ten or so years ago he tried to get going again on making banjos. But it seems that the "old time" banjo world had changed from when he was on top. He was building engraved and pearl covered banjos based on classic era Boston styles and old-time had moved on to a "raw brass" short scale, central bridge with scoop styling with little or no decoration. I don't think people were willing to shell out his asking prices at that time.

When I first got interested in historical banjo stuff his website was the first I found with my dialup computer. I got one of his kits and his tab books on stroke style and that got me started. His kits were vaguely "period" if you did not get too close to them. I still have the rim from mine with a different neck and hardware.

If you can track down some of his CDs of the so called "minstrel style" banjos I recommend them. He had a charm and vigor in his playing. It was very good.

I don't know much about his Liberty Banjo era. All of that was well before my time.

Dec 7, 2022 - 7:33:09 PM

39528 posts since 2/28/2006

Sad news. I remember looking at his banjos years back. Beautiful work!!!

Dec 7, 2022 - 9:13:52 PM
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8 posts since 3/3/2014

Bob opened the door to 19th century stroke style banjo for me with his tab book and CDs. I learned those tunes before I ever discovered the tutors. I also latched on to his old-time banjo - both tab books and CDs. I look back on that learning period with fondness. I played easily 6 hours a day. I still enjoy listening to his CDs.

Dec 7, 2022 - 10:03:34 PM
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60020 posts since 12/14/2005

And just the HEEL of one of his products is a Work of Art.

Dec 8, 2022 - 5:34:37 AM
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11163 posts since 4/23/2004


I first met Bob back in the early 90s at the Athens Fiddlers Convention. He had a vendor table and I bought a book (IIRC). I told him I was learning one of his recorded tunes and he grabbed a banjo and walked me thru it. Nice guy, easy to talk to.

I have one of his customs. It's beautiful, of course.

His style was perfectly suited for the competition circuit and he won many contests. His tab is clear and easy to follow. Like many, his minstrel recordings and tab were my jumping off point for stroke-style.

Edited by - trapdoor2 on 12/08/2022 05:42:09

Dec 8, 2022 - 6:33:07 AM

3103 posts since 12/31/2005

What a mark he left on the music and instrument world. I could never afford his instruments back in the day, but I would study every picture of them that I could.

Dec 8, 2022 - 7:27:18 AM

15129 posts since 10/30/2008

Back when Bluegrass Unlimited was our link to the bluegrass and banjo world up in Maine around 1970, I was astounded by Liberty Banjos ads. It was almost unimaginable that there was what would now perhaps be called a boutique builder in New England! Slowly I learned about a handful of other shops and builders, like Providence Guitar & Banjo, Buckdancers Choice store in Portland ME, and I even got a tantalizing peek in the window at Uncle Banjo in Newburyport Mass (it was a Sunday and they were closed). Ah, those days of "discovery".

Dec 8, 2022 - 7:58:25 AM
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Players Union Member



496 posts since 9/26/2006

I talked to him on the phone once about ordering a minstrel banjo; soon thereafter I was at the post office waiting to mail a parcel and ran into the late Rick Abrams, Sacramento Bee reporter and founder of the Piney Creek Weasels, with whom I performed after his passing.  Rick had been trying to win the Galax banjo contest for years and years, and Bob Flescher had beat him out more often than not. Rick said that he finally won because he kept on coming back and trying, and "they have to know you" to win.  He discouraged me from ordering a banjo from Bob though; his fierce competition with him was still very much on his mind.  

What I have heard of Bob's playing from his CDs and of his banjos is that both were top notch. 

Very early, 1978, in my banjo playing I ordered a Liberty Banjos t-shirt, which one summer in Palm Desert got stolen by the creepy son of my roommate's girlfriend while I was away for the weekend. 

Dec 8, 2022 - 7:59:38 AM

5544 posts since 5/9/2007

Rest well Dr. Horsehair

Dec 9, 2022 - 2:56:39 AM
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10822 posts since 7/1/2006

In 1978 I had been playing banjo for about a year and was so upset with the crap Gibson was putting out at that time that I decided to assemble my own banjo. So I was in frequent contact during that time with Bill Sullivan of First Quality Banjo (later to be called First Quality Musical Supply) and with Bob Flesher, of Liberty Banjo.

Bob had mailed a thick envelope full of stuff to me, including his catalog, but tons of full-size sketches of inlay patterns. Included in all those patterns he mailed to me were all the Gibson patterns which I recognized, and a lot of patterns I didn't recognize. I chose the coolest looking inlays to me, and had Bill Sullivan make a neck to my specifications, and I mailed the chosen patter to Bill who said, no problem! So Bill supplied the neck, tone ring and wood rim, and I bought a top-tension kit (flange, tension hoop) from Bob Flesher, and I kept the resonator off my Aria banjo. So I got a kick-butt banjo I was very happy with for decades.

Sometime in the late 1980s I was in Knoxville at the SPBGMA festival there, I think, at the Hilton. There, set-up in the vendor area, was Bob Flesher. I was carrying my banjo in a cool case I had, and Bob asked what I had, could he see it? Sure!

As I was showing him my pride and joy, I described how he supplied the top tension kit and how Bill Sullivan did the neck, and what a cool inlay pattern it was.

"It is cool. I designed it" he told me. Until that moment I HAD NO IDEA it was his original work, I had thought it was just some old cool pattern from days gone by. I was sooooo embarrassed and apologized to him profusely that I had no idea it was his and no idea I had ripped him off. I felt the size of a pea.

No worries, he told me, he thought it looked cool, he told me he had never actually inlaid that particular pattern himself so he thought it looked great! He was so kind and gracious to me when he did not need to be. I will never forget that.

I asked him on the spot if he would autograph my banjo, and he did. Here's a pic I took when I saw this thread. He signed the wood rim that day and here it is for everyone else to see.

What a memory, what a gentleman. I will never forget.

So, here are a few pics of Bob's original inlays, inlaid by First Quality, as well as his autograph inside. Quite a collaboration.

RIP Mr. Flesher, I will never forget you and thank you for being so kind and gracious with me, when it really mattered.

Edited by - banjoy on 12/09/2022 03:00:33

Dec 10, 2022 - 1:58:51 PM

77162 posts since 5/9/2007

Originally posted by The Old Timer

Back when Bluegrass Unlimited was our link to the bluegrass and banjo world up in Maine around 1970, I was astounded by Liberty Banjos ads. It was almost unimaginable that there was what would now perhaps be called a boutique builder in New England! Slowly I learned about a handful of other shops and builders, like Providence Guitar & Banjo, Buckdancers Choice store in Portland ME, and I even got a tantalizing peek in the window at Uncle Banjo in Newburyport Mass (it was a Sunday and they were closed). Ah, those days of "discovery".

An old friend of my family was Mike Long who did the photo-lithography for that Liberty catalog with the "bump remover" for hide heads.

Mike's payment was a new Liberty flathead with carved eagle on the resonator back,carved heel and carved "rope" around the top of the resonator.It's still the prettiest banjo I've ever seen.

Dec 10, 2022 - 5:01:02 PM
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6725 posts since 10/26/2005

I posted this on another forum a few days back:

Another Banjo Building GREAT has left us. This morning I learned Bob Flesher (Doc Horsehair) passed. I like to show their interviews for free when this happens so others can appreciate their contributions. Since Smithsonian Folkways Recordings now owns the copyrights to the Banjo Builder Series, I'm asking them for permission to air Bob's full interview. He had me laughing all the way through with some great stories! We also spent some quality time in his California shop. 

11A Update: Smithsonian Folkways approved my request (thanks Daniel Sheehy)! Click on this link to watch the full interview:

In addition to documenting Minstrelsy music and history, Bob's banjos were a delight to see, hold and play. Beautiful! And as a player, Bob won the Galax competition 8X, one time beating out both Kyle Creed and Wade Ward! Bob was also a winner at Clifftop. Quite a legacy.

Dec 10, 2022 - 5:10:04 PM
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1411 posts since 11/29/2004

Bob Flesher and Paul Morresy were great guys in the early Cottage Industry of Banjo's in the early 70's. Gibson had little interest in providing what the consumer wanted, So Bob and Paul of Liberty Banjo, Kix Stewart and Bill McDonald of Stewart Mc Donald and Red Roberts and Big Ed of Bucks County Folk Music Shop,,,,,,, traveled the country and fed the wants of the banjo picking guys of the late 60's and early 70's.

Dec 10, 2022 - 7:05:52 PM
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1031 posts since 10/31/2007

Thanks for getting the entire video for us to watch.
This is such a loss for the banjo world.

tom in maine

Dec 20, 2022 - 4:25:42 AM

108 posts since 11/18/2007

Many years ago I was gifted a banjo by some close friends. After investigating the possible maker, I ran across Bob Flesher's website. I contacted him and he sent me this very nice response "This is one of my early banjos built back around 1990 or 1991 before I started putting my name on them. It is also the predecessor to my Tarantella with the same inlay. " I feel lucky to have such a great banjo.

Dec 20, 2022 - 9:12:53 AM

583 posts since 2/21/2005

I was once interviewed by Bob Flesher for a job with Liberty Banjo in Bridgeport, CT. I got the job but before I could pack my things to relocate, he called to tell me that after discussing my hiring with his partner, Paul, the deal was off. Although I was disappointed, I never had any bad feelings toward Bob. In more recent years, our paths crossed again when he was performing as a solo with his minstrel banjo.

Bob has done so much via recordings and personal appearances to promote that style of banjo music. He was a great player and singer. I don’t know if many people know that he was an airline pilot in his earlier years.

I will miss him.

Dec 20, 2022 - 3:44:05 PM



1216 posts since 7/21/2004

Sorry to hear this news. I wasted a lot of time at work looking at the banjos on his website, which I see is no longer active. Anyone going to pick up the Flesher banjo torch?

Jan 27, 2023 - 9:15:04 PM

43 posts since 2/19/2005

I just read this obituary today. I did not know about Bob's recent death. I have one of his Promenade models. As a mater fact, he put the Grand Promenade inlay pattern on my Promenade. There was some illness in his family that delayed the completion of the instrument. It took almost 3 years from deposit to reception to the instrument. I think he just gave me a bonus on the instrument with the more elaborate inlay pattern. I think it is my best sounding banjo, too.
I met and spoke with him one rainy afternoon in central Florida about 8 years ago, and he was a gracious, true gentleman.
May God bless his soul.

Jan 28, 2023 - 10:39:28 AM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)


26689 posts since 6/25/2005
Online Now

Jan 28, 2023 - 2:31:50 PM
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6197 posts since 3/11/2006

Thanks for the video Craig.

The Durhams, Bill Cunningham, Pat Cloud, Art Gariepy... and Bobby Flesher  A who's-who of the early days in L.A.

Both Mel Durham and John Bowlin spoke fondly of Bob to me.

I talked to him once on the phone-  He was friendly, encouraging, and generous.

A great man,  a great maker, and a great musician.

Rest in Peace, Bob, and thank-you for all you did.

Edited by - R.D. Lunceford on 01/28/2023 14:40:53

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