Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Brad Estes from Austin, Texas


What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
I watched a massive amount of Roy Clark and Hee-Haw as a very young child in the 70’s. By the time I was five years old I knew enough to think that he and Jerry Reed were the most amazing guitar players ever. My Father, though not a musician, is a big music fan and filled our home with classic rock, blues, classical and countless other genres throughout my childhood. One of my Mother’s close friends was an incredible banjo player who’s playing had a profound impact on me. As much as I have always loved bluegrass my love of Hard Rock and Metal began to consume me by the time I was Twelve. I will never forget the exact moment in a friend’s house, sometime in late May of 1987, when I listened to the live Ozzy Osbourne Randy Rhoads Tribute album. That was the moment I decided I would learn to play and had my first guitar later that year. It would be about ten years before bluegrass came back into my life in a serious way. Ben Clark is 100% responsible for my more recent interest in playing mandolin.

How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I have been playing since I was thirteen years old. In the eighties and early nineties my friends and I had to scrounge up as many tab books, guitar magazines and cassette tapes as we could, learning from one another and these other resources. It was long before the internet so we knew very little about technique. We had to do what we could to find players better than us to play with and watch. Currently, now that we have the internet and, kids can progress so much faster and adults who thought it was ‘too late in life’ to learn are becoming incredible pickers. I’m often motivated to keep progressing to avoid being lectured on right hand picking technique by some kid who has only been playing for two years.

The Lord saved me when I was twenty one years old so my motivations changed a LOT at that point. Playing was no longer “just about the music” but often became something much more important. I also became a lot more aware of what was being communicated through music. I’m often more satisfied playing hymns in church on guitar or mandolin while hidden behind a grand piano than being at the center of attention (which is still a lot of fun :blush:).

What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
The “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” lesson is my absolute favorite and helped me more than anything to get over some bad right hand picking habits. If you do everything Ben tells you to do with your picking hand, once it clicks at that subconscious level you are off to the races.

What’s your goal when playing?
I always want to get better and learn more. I am married with four kids and a busy schedule so I can’t put in four plus hours of practice a day anymore like I did as a kid. I need extreme efficiency in learning and practice and Ben’s site gives me that in large doses.

What’s your favorite hobby?
If I’m not playing bluegrass then I’m listening to it or playing songs with my kids whenever possible. Three of my four children are progressing with their instruments much faster and at a younger age than I ever could have imagined. I hate to admit it but I’m often downsizing my gun hobbies to finance my bluegrass addition.

How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
Its been about three years now. It the most under priced best deal in all of cyberspace.

What do you do for a living?
I just recently changed industries and career paths. After almost 15 years in healthcare I am now an Engineering Analyst for engineers designing transmission lines and structures.

My wife had about a 20 to 30 minute listening limit to anything with a banjo. Last year I took the whole family to the Bloomin’ Bluegrass Festival in Farmer’s Branch (Dallas). The Purple Hulls were the first band she heard. She and my kids became instant super fans. We’ll be there again this year. I can have bluegrass playing for a hours now with my wife often humming along, LOL! It’s awesome.


Congrats Brad, nice getting to know you a little.

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Congratulations Brad! Nice to meet you.

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Good to meet you Brad. If you ever make it up to the Glen Rose jams, let me know!

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It’s so cool to get to know more about some of y’all!

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This sounds great. Can you tell me more about when and where?

The third weekend of every month (except a couple where they have bigger shows) there is a jam with multiple picking circles in Glen Rose. It starts Friday, but many just come in for Saturday. Also the first weekend of the month there is the Pearl jam (in Pearl). Here’s the listing of local events:

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I need to find me a nice VFR weekend and come down with the Sundowner!

I had to google half that sentence to know what in the world you were talking about.


I know a place you could park! :wink:

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Pleasure to meet you Brad! I also remember those days of scrounging up tab books and guitar magazine. It’s amazing how much our world has changed and I hope my kids will benefit from YouTube and other online sources.

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Nice to meet you brad!

In south Africa a sundowner is an alcoholic beverage, so I was like whaaaatt? But I read your hobby sundown topic so I figured it out quick :joy: