What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
Growing up in Tennessee, my parents listened to all the country artists of the 50s, 60s and 70s, Hank Williams, Conway Twitty, Lorreta Lynn, Merle Haggard, George Jones, etc. But the biggest influence was an uncle who played an acoustic. He would play and we would sing those old songs together. I was only 7 or 8 years old then and knew I wanted to own a guitar and play one day.
How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was 10. I’m 57 now and, while I haven’t progressed as much as I should have over that amount of time, I’ve never stopped playing. My motivation used to be just simply the love of the guitar and music, but now that I am a pastor and have been a Christian for 36 years, my primary motivation to play is to worship in church. But I still cut loose with some old stuff once in a while. You can take the boy out of the country but…
What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
I would have to say my top 2 favorite lessons have been the Lessons on rhythm. I never was precise with my timing and it always affected my playing when trying to play with others. Those lessons from beginner to advanced helped me with my timing tremendously. Also, Mr G’s lessons on theory. I still don’t read music very well (i prefer tabs), but those lessons strengthened my understanding of music. I have actually started playing along with the piano more recently, and I believe a combination of Mr G’s theory and the Rhythm lessons contributed to more confidence and better overall playing.
What’s your goal when playing?
To make the music and not just play the notes.
Are there any other instruments or genres of music that you enjoy playing?
I’ve only ever loved acoustic guitar. When I’m not playing hymns or gospel songs, I love to play around with some blues! I love blues.
How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
Since April, 2017
Do you have a favorite technique? What is it?
I love to flatpick. Ben has taught me tons of flatpicking licks that I try to implement into my playing.
If you could play in anyone’s band, who would it be and why?
The Purple Hulls, of course!!! Seriously, I don’t have any one favorite band. My favorite band is getting together with some of my musician friends and picking and singing over BBQ and Sweet Iced Tea (as if there is any other kind).
What type of gear or accessories have you found that work best for you?
I’ve bought, sold, traded, and hocked many different guitars over the years and I own three today but my go-to and my favorite is my Takamine that my wife bought me for my 40th birthday. I’m pretty simple and don’t have any accessories besides a good acoustic amp. But I suppose if I had to brag on anything it would have to be Elixir Nano-web 80/20 light Strings - Awesome! Crisp and stay in tune very well and seem to outlast most other strings 3 or 4 to 1.
If money was no object, what would be your dream instrument(s)?
a Taylor 322 CE or the Taylor’s Builder edition 816 CE
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Play guitar or Fish and not necessarily in that order!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Before I became a Gold Pick member, I did the monthly plan. From to time money would be tight and I would have to forego the monthly investment. I finally just bit the bullet and paid for the lifetime membership. It is one of the best investments I ever made in myself. There are stretches of time when I get overwhelmed with other responsibilities and I’m not able to spend the time I’d like to playing and learning, but it’s great to know that I can always come back to class anytime I’m ready!
How did you find out about Banjo Ben?
Scrolling through YouTube looking for acoustic guitar lessons and found him sitting in his living room, looking all country and picking up a storm and cracking jokes! I was hooked.
James, it’s an honor to feature you!