Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Rob Warren from Millbrook, NY!

What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
I started on the guitar because my older brother played the drums and the guitar seemed cool - this was the '60s. I took lessons in the cafeteria of my grammar school after classes and bought a cherry-red Harmony Monterrey archtop - it’s disappearance is a mystery to this day in my family. So I’ve been playing the guitar for a long time. Then a musical changing moment came while watching “The Beverly Hillbillies” when Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt made a guest appearance. The banjo and Scruggs picking blew my MIND! I grew up on Long Island, NY - not a hotbed of bluegrass. I convinced my parents I needed a banjo - remember there were already drums in the house. So, as good parents do they said; “if you earn the money you can buy one.” So I did - sadly I can’t remember the make of my 1st banjo but happily it would not be considered vintage. I bought the Earl Scruggs and the 5-String Banjo book and LP (yes - learning off an LP!). My wife Karen upgraded my banjo to a Washburn for an anniversary present - yes, she is incredible. My brother still has the Washburn because in 1999, after saving my allowance for a long time (lessons from Mom and Dad), I bought a Gibson Mastertone Earl Scruggs signature banjo. It sits with my guitars in a stand 5 feet away from my desk in my home office. As a side note, the 3-finger Scruggs style picking also influenced my guitar fingerpicking for blues and ragtime.

How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I’ve been learning to play the banjo for 50ish years and the guitar for a bit longer. My motivation is not to forget what I’ve learned and remain amazed by how beautiful music is - even when it is not perfect. And it is made by me.

What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
I like the Banjo Checklist using the intermediate level because I never had any real discipline and it is a great combination of understanding better and song playing.

What’s your goal when playing?
Clean fretting and smooth picking

Are there any other instruments or genres of music that you enjoy playing?
Blues, ragtime and any song my daughter wants me to learn so we can jam

Do you have a favorite technique? What is it?
Scruggs style

If you could play in anyone’s band, who would it be and why?
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - roots and variety

What type of gear or accessories have you found that work best for you?
Dunlop picks, super snark tuner with banjo adapter

If money was no object, what would be your dream instrument(s)?
I am a very fortunate person, my instruments have always been better than my skillset. My Gibson Mastertone is excellent and my guitars (a Gurian MJ and a Martin 00-21slothead) are beautiful.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I think I would nap a little, play some songs and Zoom with my kids

Anything else you’d like to add?
Karen wants me to add I auditioned to be a street musician for Opryland back in the '70s. I still have the rejection letter.

Thanks for letting us feature you Rob!


Congrats Rob! Im also a huge Scruggs fan.

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gif Rob on being selected as this weeks Gold Pick Member.
I had to look twice. Anyone ever tell you, you look like Greg Cahill?

Congratulations and thanks for sharing a little about yourself.

Loved reading your story, Rob. So many parallels to mine. :slight_smile:

Congrats on being the GPOTW, and thanks for sharing a bit about yourself!

Loved this comment:

My motivation is not to forget what I’ve learned and remain amazed by how beautiful music is - even when it is not perfect. And it is made by me.

…I feel the same way. :grinning:


“…any song my daughter wants me to learn so we can jam.” Love this.

Congrats on being Gold Picker of the Week!

Clean fretting and smooth picking,
Bill :grin:

Welcome and congrats Rob! I enjoyed reading your interview. I hope to see you around the forum!

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