What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
When I was about 15-16 years old, I noticed an old open back banjo with a skin head in the hall closet. I asked my mom where she got it and she said it was my grandfather’s old banjo that he used to play for them when she was growing up. My grandfather passed away when I was two years old so I don’t remember him. I was fascinated with the instrument because I had heard the banjo played through recordings of the Kingston Trio and of course Flatt and Scruggs on the TV show The Beverly Hillbilly’s. My grandpa’s banjo had not been kept up in years. The head was cracked and the bridge was gone. My dad took it to a shop and they fixed it to where it was playable and off I went to try to learn how to play. My first instruction book was Pete Seeger’s How to Play the 5-String Banjo. From there I moved on to Earl’s book when it came out. Later, when I went to college, I was able to play grandpa’s banjo in a folk group. The group was invited to perform on the All-American College TV Show in Hollywood, California. It was about that time that Vega came out with their Earl Scruggs model resonator banjo and so Dad bought that for me to use on the show. Been playing it ever since. Still play grandpa’s 100 year old banjo as well!
How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I’ve been playing the banjo for about 56 years. My motivation is the enjoyment I get from the musical challenge that playing it provides and to continue to honor the legacy of my grandpa.
What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
The next one he comes up with! There are so many great lessons it’s hard to choose just one but if I had to I guess I would choose the lessons on Fretboard Geography. That has really opened up the neck for me so I’m not playing all the time down low.
Are there any other instruments or genres of music that you enjoy playing?
I have played guitar for about 56 years as well. I just started learning the mandolin. I play my guitar in our church’s worship band. So worship music is a favorite genre to play and sing. I was a worship leader in churches for 50 years before I retired.
What type of gear or accessories have you found that work best for you?
JD Crowe Blue Chip Thumb Pick, Sammy Shelor Finger Picks, Blue Chip TP 40 and CT 55 flat picks; Elliot Integrity guitar capo; Paige banjo capo; Snuffy Smith Pegged 5/8" banjo bridge; Rickard Cyclone High Ratio Banjo Tuning Pegs 10:1; Banjo Ben Banjo Strings Light Gauge; D’Addario Phosphor Bronze EJ16 Light Gauge Guitar Strings;
If money was no object, what would be your dream instrument(s)?
Martin D-18 like Ben Clark’s and a Pre-war Gibson Banjo like Jason Davis’
When you’re not pickin’, what else do you spend your time doing?
Sit on the front porch of a log cabin in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee picking’ a banjo or playing a guitar.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The online lessons Banjo Ben provides and the Cabin Camp instruction times are without a doubt the best value for the money anywhere. Thank you for making us feel a part of your family!
How did you find out about Banjo Ben?
I found out about Banjo Ben through a friend who took me to a concert by The Purple Hulls…Katy and Penny Clark. I will be forever grateful!!
Thanks for letting us feature you Larry!