Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer 09 Rolls on.

Upon my return from the Appalachia Stringband Festival at the George Washington Carver facility near Clifftop West Virginia
I am getting ready to deliver 3 new banjos to 3 patient local players who ordered them from me since last Fall. The Galax Fiddler's convention time was to be my deadline for completion. So far so good, although I still have hours of set up time and tweaking to do before delivery.

I find that banjo making is enjoyable as long as I can make them to suit me as I have my particular basic style set after 25 years. I sold one at the Clifftop festival to a banjo junkie last summer and another one to the same guy in January. The one I had with me this year was admired by many people but I had someone committing to buying it before I left Floyd last Friday. The folks who made these custom orders I am now finishing were respectful my style choices generally. The banjos are alike in their construction and set up yet they vary slightly in their appearance. However, one is left-handed and another has the request of a pearl inlay of the state symbol of the South Carolina ie, quarter moon over the palmetto tree. I found that inlay job to be a challenge over the simple stars , dots, and diamonds which don't involve much labor to cut and inlay. Cutting out and inlaying the palmetto tree allowed me to practice some engraving technique for which I am a beginner. It is for Amy Boucher, banjo player for the Buck Mountain Band and wife of our 9th district Congressman.

Since Spring 09, I have been deemed a master banjo builder and have been working with an apprentice through the Virgina Foundation for the Humanities apprenticeship program. My apprentice, Bob Browder, and I are each building a banjo out of some amazing birdseye maple heartwood. Upon completion by the Spring 2010, I hope to have a beautiful natural birdseye maple 12" open back banjo decorated with some engraved classic pearl inlays and a 'Whyte Laydie' tone system. It has my name on it for me to keep (assuming it has a better tone than the 'Little Wonder' one I play now). Whyte Laydie and Little Wonder are names for the metallic part of the banjo just under the head on top of the wooden hoop. Each has a design difference and a specific patent as well as a track record for a great tone since their invention in the early 20th century. They are forever associated with the famous Vega banjo company. I have other types of 'tone rings' that I find work very well and cost less to make and install which helps to keep the overall cost lower.

Music wise, since last the post Jenny and I performed in July recently at a small revival at the Indian Valley Presbyterian Church. We were honored to have Janet Turner sing some trios with us. We love her honest and youthful sound so much.
Fiddler Shay Garriock joined us a few nights later for our perfomance at the Oak Grove Pavillion
behind Zion Lutheran Church in the town of Floyd. We got great responses and saw many people who we had not seen in years. The next weekend found us on the road out to Morehead Kentucky for a nice old-time fiddler's convention that hired us to be a performing band for a set on Saturday night just before the band finals. We met many nice people and heard a lot of great music by the young Kentucky musicians who are proud of their area's musical heritage. We were not at Floydfest as the Floyd Press mistakenly said so I hope they get it right next time. We don't have anything else until Fall and I'll post again by then. Thanks for your support.