Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Dave Bellian from Dunnellon, Florida

What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
My family history starts with the coal mines in Southern Ohio. They all spent evenings porch pickin’ long before I was born. Dad played some “hillbilly guitar” and the mouth harp, but I never learned a note. After he passed, always having those roots inside, I needed to be part of that home music scene. So after retirement, at 60+ years old, I started taking lessons from a great fella in Oberlin, Ohio. We relocated out West and that’s when I was lucky enough to Find Banjo Ben’s Website.

How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
It’s going on 8 or so years. My wife has played rhythm guitar forever, and her memory for lyrics is like a computer, she knows every word, to every song, and that includes jingles from TV commercials. She is unbelievable. So thanks to Ben’s website, and the way he teaches, Barb and I now play out at Community Centers, Nursing homes and even played at the Orange Blossom Opry.

What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
Oh my, now that is just impossible to say. All his lessons are just outstanding. I spend more time on the banjo, but really like the challenges on the Mando and guitar. I would have to say my favorite Banjo lesson, is the last one he put on. I mean each week, the last one was the best. Truly his invited guests, Mr. Mundy, and the rest are really fun, but Tony Wray knocks me out. The interaction between Ben and Tony makes ya feel like ya know them both, like good friends. Some of Ben’s ending comments after a slow practice video cracks me up. What a great site y’all have there.

What’s your goal when playing?
If I get the look for a break I don’t mess it up!!!

Are there any other instruments or genres of music that you enjoy playing?
My wife Barb, was always an 80’s rock player. So since the Banjo wasn’t in bands like the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin I learned a style that fits in pretty good, and it adds to the mix pretty good. But we do play a lot of older Country and Western, Eagles, and Folk songs, great for sing-a-longs.

How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
It’s been at least 8 years maybe a little longer. I know I was with the old site for a few years and when y’all upgraded you kindly carried me forward. Great people!

Do you have a favorite technique? What is it?
Single string has been really fun, Reno Style. But good old Scruggs is the best. I’d like to frail but no time left in the day

If you could play in anyone’s band, who would it be and why?
Union Station, since when I started music only knowing a chord was what ran my drill, and a scale was showing that I gained to much weight. I have gained such a respect for musicians, I just can’t tell ya. The skills they possess is mind boggling. And to watch Alyson, Jerry Douglas, Dan Taminski, Ron Block, could you just imagine playing with that group of pros Holy, Holy, Holy. And then there’s the sharing process like Ben does. PS. I said that to make Alyson feel good, Purples Hulls is the real group I want to jam with.

What type of gear or accessories have you found that work best for you?
All the ones ya sell in your store HeeeeYa ! Really I have the little 5 string capos, bought a few from y’all and they work great. Lakota leather straps.

If money was no object, what would be your dream instrument(s)?
Pre-War Gibson style 6 Checkerboard.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Practice, practice, and practice.

How did you find out about Banjo Ben?
Lucky enough to find it searching teaching sites for banjo.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Ben’s web site should get an Oscar, or Pulitzer or one of them Nobel Prizes or at least a gift certificate somewhere. Really, just the best lessons out there, great format, casual style, right from the basics thru advanced.
Don’t ya just feel Blessed to be here, in the good old U S of A . Praising God and pickin banjo ? How lucky we are!


I tell you what, I was just so encouraged by what you wrote, Dave! Thank you!


Congrats on the GPOTW and welcome to the forum Dave! That’s an awesome bio, hope to see you around the forum some!

1 Like

Hi Dave, congrats on GPOTW. I live down here in Clearwater and am also from Ohio. You have a neat story and I like your “goal while playing”. Mine is just to get the look for a break :slight_smile:

Did you by chance see Ricky Skaggs and KT at the Orange Blossom Opry last winter?

I hope to see you on the forum now and then.

1 Like

A great post Dave, Congrats on being selected as this weeks Gold Pick Member.


My pleasure Ben, I just can’t say enough about your site. And the sharing, that’s the most impressive of it all, you don’t keep any secrets, just trying to make better players of us all. Thank You !


Thank you, I see your “handle” often, always great info you have.

1 Like

Howdy my friend and fellow Ohioan. Missed that show with Scaggs, but have seen a few there. Very nice venue they have. We originally both grew up in Cleveland, retired to Mesquite NV and now are here in Dunnellon. If you ever venture our way please let us know for an evening of pickin’ at our house.


I grew up in Chillicothe.

An evening of pickin’ would be a hoot. I’ll keep you posted.

Just FYI, Ricky will be at the opry again for two shows on March 1st. Tickets go on sale Oct 1st at 9:00am. It’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

1 Like

Dave, congratulations and thanks for sharing. Your story is an inspiration.

1 Like

What a great post!

A huge congrats for being the worthy CPotW!

I wish I could take just one of those resonators off your hands (I only have a hallow-back).

I enjoyed the story of family and patriotism that shone bright in you profile.

Keep practicin’ and pick on!

1 Like

Hi Dave! Congrats on being the gpotw. Thanks for sharing and giving us peek into the musical history & lives of you and your wife. I really enjoyed reading your interview!

1 Like

Thank you, this has sure been a lot of fun !!

And thank you for takin’ time to read it !
Happy pickin’

Sure will, trying to keep up with Ben’s lessons can almost be a full time job. But what great info. he has. Oh Boy collecting these banjos has been too much fun. They all have their own personalities, just like your kids. Some time I’ll tell y’all the story behind my family banjos, had them made to honor my Grandads, both miners in Byseville Ohio around 1910.
Thanks WillCoop

1 Like


I like the stories you told but can’t wait to hear about your grandads.

I won’t pressure ya… but do tell, ok?

Even if I come from “That State Up North…”, we mid-westerners gotta represent on the site too!

I was touched by the tradition and the family… that is sooo cool.

I know you wrote a ton for GPotW… so take your time but I’m gotta hold you to that promise.

Stories like that show the music is woven into the fabric of our very lives.

1 Like

Love all your instruments!! Great story!


Thanks for the info, that may be one I’d love to catch !!

Thank You, it’s been great fun playin’ and collectin’. Can’t afford those Pre-War Gibsons, but sure like the ones we have. The two family banjos we had made are the best, Rob Smith played a great part in one and Mark Hickler made another. Marks banjo has a 1910 mining scene down the neck as inlays. I’d like to tell this story and include a few pics in the near future.
Thanks again for taking the time to read the article.




Please conduct a show and tell when you can… Sharing the rich tradition with us.

This forum is soooo interesting.

What an interesting group of people.

I, for one, never tire of the stories…

1 Like