Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Jamie Dowdy from Ashland City, TN!

Tell us about you and your family!
I am a Senior Systems Engineer with a large hospital company where I have worked for the past 32 years. I am a divorced father of two children, Delaney Leigh and Aiden Reese who are both in middle school now. My hobbies include music and amateur radio.

What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
After my divorce I was living with my parents and one night at the dinner table we were discussing my father and niece who both play the guitar. My momma mentioned that I should also try to learn an instrument. After some thought, I decided to learn the banjo thinking that it would be fun to play with my family.

How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I’ve been playing the banjo for about two and a half years now. The fiddle for about a year and the flute and piccolo for about 6 months. I love learning and playing my instruments helps to pass the time when I am alone.

What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
My favorite lesson would have to be the first song I learned how to play, Boil em Cabbage Down. It’s such a simple song that can be played in so many ways with all the different roll patterns and on the fiddle with different bowing techniques. It’s fun to play too. When I play my banjo I always play it first as a way to warm up my fingers.

Are there any other instruments or genres of music that you enjoy playing?
I am also learning how to play a fiddle and the flute. I have a violin, a five string viola, a Di Zhao flute and a Pearl piccolo. They are all fun to play. I enjoy playing bluegrass and gospel songs. I have also gotten in to Irish fiddle and I’ve learned two jigs so far.

Do you have a favorite technique? What is it?
Probably doing a 1/2 upwards bend when doing a slide. That sounds pretty neat. I also recently learned to do vibrato on my fiddle and have been working that in to the songs I play.

If you could play in anyone’s band, who would it be and why?
I would love to play with Roy Clark and Buck Trent. I loved watching them both when I was a kid and they were my childhood musical hero’s.

What type of gear or accessories have you found that work best for you?
I’ve been trying different thumb picks and like the JD Crowe one and recently the ones from Black Mountain picks. Both work much better than the plastic National ones which break after a while.

If money was no object, what would be your dream instrument(s)?
I am not sure. I already have a Twanger and am happy with the instruments that I do have. If I had the money and the room in my home I think I would get a cello or a double bass. That would be neat to learn.

When you’re not pickin’, what else do you spend your time doing?
I enjoy spending time with my children when I can. I have a general class amateur radio license, KD4KTC, and I like to play around with my radios. I also like building radio kits that you solder together to assemble. I mostly just listen these days but I enjoy QRP (low power) transmitting and it’s neat to see how far away one can communicate with just 5 watts. I made it all the way from my home to Switzerland once. I would like to finish learning morse code also, I was doing about 7 words per minute before the divorce and have not gotten back in to learning it. My music hobby occupies a lot of my time now.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Don’t ever make my mistake. Like most folks when I got the idea to learn how to play, I bought the cheap $170 banjo from Amazon not knowing any better. Don’t ever do that by the way, it’s awful and has no sustain. I spent about a month trying to figure how why I could not do a slide, then after trying another banjo I learned that it wasn’t me, it was my instrument. I have since purchased a Deering Goodtime Artisan open back and a Gold Tone OB3 Twanger. If you are someone planning on learning music, buy a quality instrument. It helps so much in learning.

How did you find out about Banjo Ben?
I was on YouTube looking for banjo lessons and came across one of Ben’s videos. The one where he was teaching Tavin Dillard. I decided then and there that this was the guy for me and signed up that night after seeing some of his other lessons.

Thanks for letting us feature you Jamie!


Jamie, congrats on being the GPOTW! Enjoyed reading your interview and learning more about your interests. I couldn’t help but chuckle when you mentioned the Tavin Dillard getting lessons video…that’s a favorite of mine as well.

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So did a neighbor of mine who wanted to learn the banjo. He’s always fighting with it just to keep it in tune. Consequently, he’s learning very little.
It’s like buying a cheap tent to go camping. Who wants to spend a lot of money until you decide if you like camping? When the tent leaks the first night out, camping is no fun.


Nice to get to know you Jamie!

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gif Jamie on being selected as this weeks Gold Pick Member

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Hey Jamie! It’s been awhile since we played in the Infamous Squirreldusters band! Good to see you on here as this week’s Gold Picker of the Week! I laughed when you mentioned the Tavin Dillard lesson video! He is hilarious! Take care and keep pickin"!

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Congratulations on being selected as GPOTW. KK4ROD here. I’m a general class myself. I poked around a little, but never really did much with amateur radio, though. Sounds like you stay pretty busy. Amateur radio can be quite time consuming on its own, but the number of instruments you’ve taken on… I’m impressed. Do you ever sleep?:joy:

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Yeah, that’s a big “this isn’t for me” moment.


Hey Jamie! Congrats, man! Some wise words in there.

How true. Congratulations on being “King” for a week!

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Congratulations Jamie! I enjoyed your story. I’m impressed that you’re learning fiddle as well as banjo. I agree about buying a cheap banjo. I started with one and upgraded at Cabin Camp last year. It was the best thing I could do for myself besides practicing every day.

Congrats on being GPMOW!! I think you are right about skipping the ‘starter’ instrument and investing a little more for one that suits the sound that you like or the feel in your hands …:+1:t2: