Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Sandra James from Tuscumbia, Alabama


What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
I always loved the sound of the mandolin. My Grandad played one

How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I have been playing “in earnest” for about three years. My hands were always filled with things to do, but when a friend said, “what are you waiting for?” I decided to devote some time to trying to learn. I live about 7 miles from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. There is music in the water, the trees, and the air itself is filled with melodies and harmony. Everyone has a song to sing, a story to tell.

What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
My favorite lesson? All of them!! I started with the very basics, loved how Banjo Ben explained the how and why of each of the “Basics” lessons. The Scale Studies and music theory segments clicked. The Build-a-Break lessons have been very helpful for playing in jam sessions. Having just come through the Christmas season, I “crammed“ through most all of the lessons on Christmas songs. The video quality and ease of use, as a gold pick member, has amplified my progress far beyond anything I could do for myself.

What’s your goal when playing?
My goal when playing is to produce a pleasing sound, complementary -harmoniously to whatever group I may be playing with or for, and to enjoy and provide enjoyment for others. Currently, I play with others to provide free entertainment at local senior centers and nursing homes. I love watching the music spark a memory, prompt a sing-a-long, or bring a smile to someone’s face.

Are there any other instruments or genres of music that you enjoy playing?
I enjoy playing guitar and piano. I love gospel, country, soul, blues and rock. I enjoy “bluegrassin” a favorite oldie. Wish I had been classically trained when I was much younger… would have made this so much easier! But it is a fun creative outlet. Thank you Banjo Ben!

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Play music of course! I’d probably play all night. I usually go to sleep playing and wake up with music running through my mind.

How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
I think I have been a gold pick member for about 6 months.

What do you do for a living?
I am a retired finance manager for the local school system. My husband and I operate a small beef cattle ranch.

What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
I would like to spend a vacation at a Dude Ranch out west and take my guitar and mandolin with me. Love riding horses and being outdoors.


Welcome, Sandra! Congrats on being GPotW!

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Congrats Sandra on being selected as this weeks Gold Pick Member. Look forward to you posting a video when you feel comfortable.

Congratulations, Sandra! Your story is inspiring. I love your comment about “playing in earnest” which is a perfect way to describe the new level of commitment to musicianship I’m experiencing as well. Keep up the good work, girl!

Beautifully stated. I just gotta add to it… in Muscle Shoals, they got the Swampers :smiley:

You are my hero!

Great to meet others on here. Playing for free at seniors homes sounds good wish I could find a group to play with. Sandra the week on a ranch riding and playing music sounds fantastic!

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Congrats Sandra!

Nice to meet you Sandra!

Our best friends raise calves here in Ohio.

It’s great that you play for seniors… I’ve done that only a couple times but it’s quite a reward to bring some joy into their lives and actually get to see it in there faces.

Congratulations and God Bless!


I’ve always wondered who we’re the swampers…I know Tracy Pendarvis and the Swampers they recorded mainly with Sun Records.

The Swampers were also called the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section… a studio group that played on a ton of familiar songs. I first heard of them courtesy of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s lyrics to Sweet Home Alabama (which refers to Muscle Shoals, and why I quoted those lyrics on this thread), I do hope that made some sort of sense.

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All the cool people got it. :wink:

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Oh yeah I got that part, I’m a huge Skynyrd fan. That’s good info about the Swampers, I didn’t know that. I got to see Skynyrd a few years ago here in GA and they were awesome! They played all the old stuff and none of the new. Gary Rossington was still amazing on stage. I think that’s the most rebel flags and pony tails I have ever seen in one room. Thank God the event was at the fairgrounds and alcohol was not available, or the fans would have been a rowdy bunch😜

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