Many already know this about me, but most do not: I’m a banjo nerd. I mess around with banjos alot. In the evenings and on weekends, if I’m not trying to work out a new tune on a banjo, I’m either taking a banjo apart or putting a banjo together, or I’m reading the latest issue of Banjo Newsletter, or I’m surfing the forum posts on Banjo Hangout. I’m, in a word, obsessed.
Here’s a quick anecdote to further illustrate my obsession:
A couple of years ago I attended a banjo workshop at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC. While one of the instructors was making a rather complicated point about hand position and finger contact with the banjo strings, I raised my hand and offered the process of how I had worked through the point he was making (this involved putting black magic marker on my middle fingernail and other silly things). While the instructor seemed impressed with my strategy, one student in the workshop looked at me and jokingly called out “banjo nerd” loud enough for everyone to hear – and laugh.
The point of this little story isn’t that I was embarrassed – far from it. My point is that, even in a room full of other banjo nerds, I was still the biggest banjo nerd! So, I’m something like the “über-banjo nerd.”
All kidding aside, I have not always been a banjo nerd. In fact, before I moved here in 2005, I don’t think I’d ever even held a banjo. My obsession started shortly after moving here with materials found in the library.
Of course, sound recordings really got the ball rolling. I also met, and got to know, many local musicians. Just hearing old-time mountain music (as opposed to bluegrass music) for the first time, totally turned me on and got me interested in fiddles and banjos. I was hooked pretty early and started checking out books on banjos. After getting through America’s Instrument : The Banjo in the Nineteenth-Century and then Earl Scruggs and the 5-string Banjo. I pretty much knew my future. Luckily, the library also provided some instructional materials too. Wayne Erbson’s Clawhammer Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus helped me alot in the beginning and then Mike Seeger’s instructional video Southern Banjo Styles helped me reach new levels.
The internet also provided plenty of learning material for me, as well. There are thousands of banjo videos on youtube (and a few really good ones too!). Also, as I mentioned earlier, the forums at Banjo Hangout provide a wealth of valuable information.
Again, with all kidding aside, there is a bigger point to this post. A point that has nothing to do with banjos. The point is that just about anyone can find information on their obsession at the library . So, whether you’re a foodie, a political junky, or quilting freak, or a banjo nerd, the library will be there to help you with your obsessions.
I’ll end this post with a few of my favorite banjo jokes (there are hundreds of them):
Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, a good banjo player, and an old drunk are walking down the street together when they simultaneously spot a hundred dollar bill. Who gets it? The old drunk, of course, the other three don’t exist.
How can you tell if a music stage is level? If the banjo player drools out of both sides of his mouth.
What’s the difference between a banjo and a …
- South American Macaw? One is loud, obnoxious, and noisy; and the other is a bird.
- Harley Davidson Motorcycle? You can tune a Harley.
- Onion? No one cries when you cut up a banjo.