Tony Trischka and John McEuen at the 2017 inductions to the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame
The Devon Tower, located in the historic Bricktown District of Oklahoma City, was the setting for an induction ceremony honoring 5 categories of banjo enthusiasts and instrumentalists on September 8. From 1819 to 2017, every page of the banjo was recognized at the annual Banjo Fest, which is sponsored by the American Banjo Museum.
The following were inducted into the ABM Hall of Fame this year: Tony Trischka (Instruction & Education), Paul Erickson, (Four String Performance), Roy Clark, (Promotion), Joel Walker Sweeney (History), and John McEuen (Five String Performance).
Although not the inventor of the five string banjo (although claimed so by some earlier historians), Joel Walker Sweeney played a crucial part in introducing and popularizing the banjo in American culture. In the mid-1800’s, Sweeney, who learned to play the banjo from African slaves near his father’s farm, toured as a solo entertainer in the black face setting familiar at that time throughout the United States and England. Sweeney became the most popular banjoist of the Minstrel Era and undoubtedly the most significant individual in early banjo history.
Being recognized for his Instruction and Education was Tony Trischka. Trischka is known for his progressive bluegrass music and for expanding the banjo envelope in the music world. Tony is one of the most sought after and respected instructors, having created 15 instructional books as well as a series of DVDS. In 2009, the Tony Trischka School of Banjo made its debut as an advanced, interactive, online instructional site that is the banjo home for students around the world.
Paul Erickson, was inducted for his Four String Performance. A jazz enthusiast, Erickson has matured into one of today’s top tenor banjo stylists. His gentle light touch, fluid motion, and jazz flavored approach enhance his talents on showy banjo standards as well as tender ballads. Paul Erikson reflects the highest standards in musicianship, personal style and banjo traditions.
Unquestionably one of the most important figures in the popularization of American country music, Roy Clark’s sixty plus years of picking has positively exposed the banjo to millions of people throughout the world. A singer, songwriter, and picker, Clark has influenced and entertained many banjo fans across many nations. Due to a recent fall, Clark was unable to attend the event; however, there was a congratulatory card present for all to sign.
John McEuen was inducted for his contribution to the Five String Performance. As the founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, McEuen is a pioneer of the five string banjo, as well a multi instrumentalist and vocalist with over 40 albums in his discography. Sharing his unique style and musical banjo voice with possibly the world’s largest audience for any contemporary banjo figure, McEuen played a significant and fundamental role in the Will The Circle Be Unbroken album in 1972. He has since been involved in numerous award winning recordings, concerts and radio performances, as well as television.
James Bollman, banjo enthusiast/collector was recognized with the Jack Canine award. This award was named for the founder of The American Banjo Museum, and is presented annually to the group or individual who has contributed significantly to the promotion and preservation of America’s instrument, the banjo. Bollman, from Boston, MA, states that he has owned over 8000 banjos, in his lifetime. He is widely recognized for having the most complete collection of 19th century banjos.
Hats off to the new inductees of the 2017 Hall of Fame at the BanjoFest.