Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

David Manners from Jacksonville, Florida


What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
I first realized in high school (1970) that I really wanted to play the guitar. However, part two of that dream is actually having the money to purchase a guitar. At that time there were only two types of guitars. One was the professional level guitar and secondly a much less than acceptable beginner’s guitar. And, the only one I could afford at the time was the beginners model (Decca) to be exact. You may know the type, with the strings about one inch away from the fretboard. The purchase was actually made at K-Mart here in Jacksonville, FL. After a few years I was able to buy a Martin D-35, which I still play today. At a Martin guitar clinic here in Jacksonville, C. F. Martin, IV was speaking and he signed my Martin guitar.

It was encouraging for me that several of my family members down through the years played music. My father’s mother played the piano and my Dad’s sister, Aunt Ella Manners, was married to Uncle Jimmy Thompson who was most notably known for being the first fiddle player on the Grand Ole Opry. I was recently in LaGaurdo, TN and visited his grave site. There is still the Uncle Jimmy Thompson Bluegrass Festival in Granville, TN each year in his honor. Uncle Jimmy and Ella lived on the farm where my Dad grew up. Dad remembered Uncle Jimmy playing the fiddle and Aunt Ella buck dancing. I can only imagine.


How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I have been playing guitar for over forty years. One of the things that helped me in playing was to learn finger picking. I like to buy from Ben’s General store and just bought the Blue Chip Russ Carson Thumb Pick. Ben is right, it is worth the money. This pick is lightening fast and lethal.

What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
My favorite lesson on Ben’s site is indubitably the lesson on the many different types of capos with a clear discussion of proper capo placement and capo theory. I really enjoy all of his lessons, but the lesson on capo theory was perfect for me and helped me understand how to quickly figure out how to change key. Sounds simple on the outset, but there must be about a dozen different styles of capos out there and not only did Ben explain the proper placement but provided a comprehensive lesson. Actually, I had to study it a couple of times to absorb the musical concept behind it and how music is raised by steps for a variety of musical reasons. As a self-taught musician it provided a new understanding. I also bought the Shubb fine tune capo and really enjoy the capability of letting it rest above the nut.

What’s your goal when playing?
My goal is to share in music in many different settings. Currently, I have enjoyed rehearsing and playing with the First Coast Pops Orchestra and will be playing the scheduled upcoming concerts around Jacksonville. Playing with other musicians allows me to gain experience, learn more about music and just simply enjoy making music. I am also a member of the North Florida Bluegrass Association (NFBA).

What songs have you completely memorized?
I have memorized a lot of songs down through the years, but also like to have a song book handy if someone calls for a particular song. If I had to list a couple go to songs, I would certainly play John Denver’s song Back Home Again. If it’s a sing along, seems everybody knows the words to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I would like to spend more time practicing the fiddle and Dobro. I once e-mailed Ben the question on whether or not he would include some Dobro instruction on his site. It seems like he said that may be a vague possibility but not at this time. I know he is an accomplished Dobro player. However, I believe he can play anything with strings.

How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
I have been a Gold pick member since June 2012. Ben would say, “You know the price is going to go up”. It didn’t take much to convince me that I wanted to be part of his ongoing teaching program.

What do you do for a living?
After 44 years of gainful employment, I am a retired Federal employee.

What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
My loving and stunning wife of 39 years and I plan on taking a 8 day tour of Mt. Rushmore, Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We can’t wait!


Hi David, congrats on the GPMOTW. Great reading about you!

Hi David. Congrats on the GPMOTW. Great bio. Even though I don’t play guitar (banjo player here) I wouldn’t rule out the possibility later on, maybe after Mandolin.

Congrats David, When you head out to Mt Rushmore be sure to take in the Crazy Horse Memorial Tour. I have been fascinated with this project since I watched a TV documentary about it five maybe six years ago. Every few months I check it’s progress on YouTube someone is always posting a home video. I live to watch the night firing.

Welcome and congratulations, David! Do you get politeness jokes often? Be careful not to hurt yourself with that bluechip… :joy:

Hi David, congrats and nice to get to know you a bit more. Interesting stories about your connection to music and family!

Hi David, nice to meet you. Great story; you are truly blessed to have come from a such a musical family and to have been involved at an early age. I just think that people who were not exposed to music like this when they were young were deprived and missed out on so much.


Congratulation David! Nice to meet you. Thanks for sharing your story about your uncle Jimmy Thompson.

Congrats David. Always nice to read the truly peesonal stories!

To quote the late, great Chris Farley:

You know when you wrote that part about your Uncle Jimmy being the first fiddler to play the Opry… and how your Aunt would buck dance to his fiddlin’… and how they still have a music fest dedicated to him each year in Tennessee?


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Awesome story about your uncle! I also like the blue chip thumb pick, they play really nice.

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