Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Donnie Chulufas from Archie, Missouri

What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
As a kid, I watched the Beverly Hillbillies and always wanted to learn to play the banjo. Later around 1976, a friend of mine that played the guitar, had an old silver tone banjo he sold me for 35 dollars. I didn’t know anything about playing one, but it did come with a one page tab of cripple creek. I swore those strings were one inch off the neck. I would try to push them down but they were so high they would move more side to side than down. The neighboring town had a t.v.and music store, which I bought a better banjo and took a couple lessons from the store owner. People would bring their instruments to the store on Wednesday nights and jam. This is where I met a couple more people to practice with. We practiced 3 nights a week for the next three years. We went to all the bluegrass festivals we could during this time. We never took our instruments because we were afraid to play in front of people. This time span was around 1977 - 1980. Then we started playing festivals late 1981 and 1982. By this time we were well rehearsed…There is a lot of banjo players I like, but my favorite banjo player and idol , and still is today is Robby Boone. I first saw him in 1978, he was around 14 years old. He could play fast and had good timing with his right hand and had his driving sound well started. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the good timing yet, but spent more time on the speed. I wasn’t very good but I could play fast. By 1981 and 1982 we got brave enough to play festivals. The high lite of our band career was that we got to open for Bill Monroe at the Mo. state fair. Shortly after that we broke up and I never played again until now. I always wanted to start playing again and to buy a new banjo. I heard of a banjo coming out that Ben, Jake, and Robby had a lot to do with the designing of, which is the gold tone twanger. So I ordered one. A little over a month later it was ready to be shipped to my house which was good, but the bad thing was, I got bucked off a horse three days earlier and had broken 11 ribs, which was not all bad, I still had one rib left. So I just got to look at the banjo for a week before I could play it. Sure is a beautiful banjo sounds great. They did a really good job in setting it up. I have the spark to play again, probably as much or more as when I started.

How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I played for about 5 years, 1977 - 1982, then I didn’t play again until about a month ago. I love playing now, if not more than I did when I started. I think it is because how I want to play now. There are other banjo players I like, but Ben and Robby probably motivate me the most.

What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
I will end up going through all the lessons, but the ones I’m sticking to for now will be the basic ones. Trying to catch up on the things I missed when I started early on.

What’s your goal when playing?
To be a good solid player. By following Bens program, this will easily be possible.

How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
Not sure but I think I joined 8 to 9 years ago.

Do you have a favorite technique? What is it?
I guess this would be Scruggs style. More towards Bens and Robbys sound. I have really been working on having my spaces between my notes the same and the strings picked with the same quality. Trying to make sure each note is sounded. I have been working on having the hammer ons, pull offs, and slides. Making them distinct. Making sure every note counts. It has been more fun playing than ever.

If you could play in anyone’s band, who would it be and why?
This is a hard question. I wouldn’t want to play in their bands because I wouldn’t want to mess up the good sound they already have, but I like Lonesome Road, Route 3, and Rhonda Vincent.

What type of gear or accessories have you found that work best for you?
I have purchased a Gold Tone banjo for my picks.

If money was no object, what would be your dream instrument(s)?
I always wanted a stelling golden cross, but at this point I’m real happy with my Gold Tone Twanger.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I definantly would use this time to play.

Anything else you’d like to add? Can we share this or is this private feedback?
I would like to thank Banjo Ben for all he has done, to make his Knowledge available. He sure is a master, being able to play all the instruments in all the lessons he teaches. He has taken a lot of time to come up with how to play all these songs at all three levels with all the instruments. With having progression in mind. I like having access to the store. This way you don’t have to search around to find things, it is all right here. And there is good knowledgable help at the store. Thanks to the 3 masters for coming up with and setting up the Gold Tone Twanger. Ben, Jake, and Robby.


Howdy @donniechulufas57 Mr. Chulufas - Sir,

Many congrats on the GPotW! Man, you deserve it after that mishap with the horse.

All your ribs broken but ONE - jeesh! :astonished:

I must compliment you on that 'stache. I wish I could pull that off…

Cool pose and that Banjer sure looks amazing.

I totally get and respect that you are now playing for accuracy and for eveness. Much respect for that.

Having said that, I am curious to know… now that you are playing again after such a long break… how is the learning curve and the speed coming back?

Is there a sense of… Riding the bike again… or does it all feel completely new? Do you feel like you are “unlearning” old habits… or just building up from the basics?

I think it is awesome you are back… but how the Universal Banjo Powers conspired to make you pay… by ordering that fine instrument only to have to look at it when it arrived!

Man, I wanna order me a Twanger!

That’ll teach ya to avoid taking such lengthy breaks in the future! :smirk:

Anyway, I am very happy for you that you are back playing and look forward to hearing back from you from time to time here on the forum.

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Welcome back to the instrument! Congrats on being picker of the week!


Getting to open for Bill Monroe is an awesome accomplishment!


Neat story Donnie. I too played for about four years in the 70s and 80s and then didn’t. Just started playing again a year ago. Do you regret not playing all those years? Boy, I sure do. What was I thinking?

By the way, that’s a handsome stache you’re sporting there. If I saw you on the street, I’d think to myself “I bet he plays banjo” :slight_smile:

I hope you enjoy your Twanger, I’m sure enjoying mine.

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Congrats Donnie for being selected at this weeks Gold Pick Member.

Now I am getting to be real famous, a town in Missouri and a town in Queensland Australia not to mention a royal baby all named after me…


Congrats Donnie! I’m from Marshall!

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I could pull that off from my desk… Badge of honor to Mr Donnie! :slight_smile:


Congrats and thank you for sharing your story. I too started playing in the 70’s and laid it down in the early 80’s. But like you, I’m BACK!

I truly hope the young musicians read your story and sense the desire you had 40 years ago to learn and then realize the resources available today with Ben.

Thank you WillCoop, it’s an honor to be apart of this group. I don’t feel a lot different, except fingers stiffer and I don’t reach as far on some chords yet. I can play fast but probably not as fast as I used to, but I would rather have a good hard driving sound and play more in the middle of speed. I think if I keep working on having equal spacing between my notes from my right hand and have clear and clean slides,pulloffs, chord changes, etc. with my left hand I will hopefully get there. This was the direction I was heading when I quit playing.
I started playing with a metronome which I never had before, and found out what I thought was good timing, wasn’t. I set it at 75 bpm and would play each string with each beat. I would also play at this speed how you would normally play. This was pretty hard for me. I’m going to work all different speeds to become better. It is amazing how you can be off in timing just a little. That little bit could cause your 1/16 notes turn into 1/8 notes. Ben has the best videos for this.
I know I missed a lot of time from when I quit to now, but I know I’m going to be a lot better player and in time might seem like I never quit. Ben has a good system and makes it easy to learn.
I’m not sure about habits, when I would help someone with their horse, they would say I keep doing this habit they had. I would tell them that their habit wasn’t in what I was asking them to do. they could keep their old habit just don’t use. I think I do this in playing , I’m sure I have old habits, I just don’t use the habits I dislike:grinning:
You need to put a twanger on your list, they sure are nice. Ben , Jake, and Robby had good ideas when they started working on this Banjo. Thanks WillCoop, looking forward to hearing from you.


Thank you Dragonslayer, Glad to be apart of this group.

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Yes, it was. It was amazing to watch him play and sing, and to see professionalism at its best:slightly_smiling_face:


Hey Donnie, Congratulations on GPOTW. I feel your pain on the broken ribs brother. Back in March I changed saddles out on a young mule and as I was stepping down I guess it pinched him bad. He blew up hard, I lasted 4 bucks with one foot in the stirrup and hanging on to the horn trying to get a solid dismount. It didn’t work, I hung the toe of my boot and it flipped me upside down. Broke both of my wrists and my C4. Couldn’t do anything for 12 weeks but just look at my banjo, with both arms in casts. Pure misery. I grew my Stach out like that but my wife threw a fit, so I cut it back down. I’m pretty partial to her, So, You wear yours well for both of us.


Oh man!!


Wow! :flushed:

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Wow, sorry to hear of your accident. I hope you are doing better. Mine has been 9 weeks now, still sore but getting along a lot better. I had a good dismount, but my landing was terrible. I know getting hurt like that is bad enough, but we are lucky it wasn’t worse. Sure hope you are getting better and I like your mustache story.


Thanks MissMaggie. I do wish I had kept playing, who knows where I would be. But the way it is now I’m a member of Banjo Ben, I have a new Twanger, and I’m on my way to being a better player.:grinning: Glad you are enjoying your banjo, I sure am. My new case smell is starting to leave, I wonder if Banjo Ben has some spray perfume that smells like a new banjo case he could sell.


Hi Donnie, I use Glyde Cote by Stelling to maintain the wood on my banjo and that keeps that new smell in the case. Perhaps @BanjoBen or @Jake can order some into the General Store. Some spray furniture polish might also do the job.

PS. Donnie I should qualify this by saying, use the spray polish on the wooden parts of the banjo and not the case. You might also try keeping those little packets of crystals in your case, you know the ones often find in the packaging of electrical goods like phones & computers. Manufactures use these to absorb moisture during storage and transit


Thanks 5-StringPilgrim, Glad to hear you are back playing. I look forward to playing more every day. It’s funny how the last thing you learn was the first thing you needed to know.:grinning:

Thanks Archie