From the project website: "Since 2002, The Banjo Project has produced and collected over 300 hours of original video, with interviews and performances by banjoists in all styles: Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, Rhiannon Giddens, Mike Seeger, Taj Mahal, Sonny Osborne, Cynthia Sayers, Don Vappie and many others, as well as expert commentary from banjo builders, historians and researchers. Meanwhile, over the past decade, there has been a quiet explosion of cultural history research, critical reappraisal, and musical reinvention, including producer Marc Fields’ PBS documentary Give Me the Banjo (narrated by Steve Martin, national broadcast 2011)."
"Marc knew from the start that the banjo’s long and contested history could not be fully represented in a standalone TV documentary. The challenge: how to leverage the new media technologies, our archive of original media and the wealth of recent scholarship to provide cultural context for the instrument, its diverse music and players, and make it accessible to the widest possible audience? We spent the past seven years developing other media platforms, finally arriving at an innovative online media platform we’re calling a digital museum."
Long time attendee and banjo maker Pete Ross was interviewed with Kristina Gaddy on the Hey Baltimore podcast about the early history of the banjo and the instrument's connections to Baltimore, Maryland.
The knowledge and research that are behind this podcast are a result of the last 20 years of the Banjo Gathering. Much of the research into the West African connections to the banjo have been done by participants Ulf Jagfors, Schlomo Pestcoe, and Bob Carlin. Pete Ross, Bob Winans, and Greg Adams did an extensive presentation about banjo maker William E. Boucher, which transformed into an exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. And in recent years, Pete and Kristina have presented on Baltimore banjo maker Levi Brown and early American banjos.
At the 2017 Banjo Gathering, CW Bayer presented the wild history of banjos out west. His book The Strychnine Banjo, follows the accounts of Charlet Roades and Jake Wallace's exploits from the 1850s to about 1910. Below is an except, describing Jake Wallace playing banjo to accompany Lotta Crabtree in Virginia City in 1863.
During 1862 and early 1863, Jake Wallace played with some of the major San Francisco minstrels stars at McGuire’s Opera House and the Eureka Music Hall. During the summer of 1863, in Virginia City at the Virginia Melodeon on C Street, he accompanied Lotta Crabtree as she sang a Mart Taylor lyric, “Bound for the Land of Washoe:"
Bound For The Land Of Washoe (Words: probably Mart Taylor, 1863)
Founded in 1859 and the site of a huge gold and silver lode, Virginia City teemed with young men and was a wild place. One night a local fireman, Louis La Page, shot out the footlights as the performers ran out the back of the stage. Then, one of the stagehands stole all their instruments:
Jason Verlinde writes that everyone needs Bob Carlin's new book Banjo: An Illustrated History. You may have heard Bob talk about this project at previous Gatherings, and now you can hear a podcast interview with Bob from Fretboard Journal.
This is a forum for previous years' and on-going banjo research projects. If you are interested in submitting something for the blog, please use the "Contact" page!