American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame inductions live online next week

The American Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City has announced today the details for their 2020 Hall of Fame inductions, to be held online next week owing to COVID-19 restrictions. A bumper crop of banjo heavyweights in on tap to enter the Hall this year, including several heroes in the four and five string communities.

The official induction ceremony will be hosted live online next Friday, October 16, with special noontime interviews and historical highlights each day next week. All events will be hosted on the ABM YouTube and Facebook pages, and free for all to enjoy.

Going in to the Banjo Hall of Fame in 2020 are:

  • Gary “Biscuit” Davis – Five-String Performance
  • Ed “Fast Eddie” Erickson – Fou-String Performance
  • Don Reno – Historical
  • Geoff Stelling – Design & Manufacture
  • Roger Sprung – Instruction & Education

The Museum has provided thumbnail biographies of these five distinguished banjo figures.

GARY “BISCUIT” DAVIS – Five-String Performance – Davis began playing banjo at age 10. He was Tennessee State Champion by the age of twelve and since then he has been two-time Kentucky State Champion, four-time Alabama State Champion and National Banjo Champion on four separate occasions…first in 1979 at age 16 – then again in 1988, 1996 and 2012. Davis began playing professionally at age 13 in Chattanooga and later he moved to Pigeon Forge in 1988 where he joined Jim and Charlie Smith‘s Southstar Band and Dollywood. There he evolved to be the band leader and record producer for Dolly Parton. Davis currently performs daily at Dolly’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Theater while teaching private banjo and guitar lessons and traveling to host banjo instruction clinics and concerts throughout the year.

ED “FAST EDDIE” ERICKSON – Four-String Performance – “Fast Eddie” Erickson began his banjo/guitar career in the San Jose, California area in the mid 1960s performing at Capone’s Warehouse and Disneyland. From there Ed went to the Walt Disney World Resortin Orlando where he was featured in the Class of ’27 show, starred in the Banjo Kings in the Magic Kingdom and, from 1978 to 1983, led the Riverboat Rascals show band on board Disney’s Empress Lilly Showboat in Lake Buena Vista, FloridaA beloved musician/entertainer in the classic jazz world, Erickson continues to be a featured performer at countless jazz festivals, parties, and concerts around the world. 

 DON RENO – Historical – A product of the North Carolina concentration of bluegrass banjo pioneers, Don Reno’s banjo playing stands proudly as one of the most innovative and recognizable five-string banjo styles of all time. Influenced by old-time banjo player, Snuffy Jenkins, Reno developed his own three-finger “single-string” style that allowed him to play scales and complicated fiddle tunes note-for-note. As a member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, and the banjoist who brought the iconic Dueling Banjos to life, the name Don Reno will be forever tied to innovative and musical banjo playing.

GEOFF STELLING – Design & Manufacture Since 1959, while still in high school, Geoff Stelling has been either playing the banjo or trying to improve on its design. His Stelling Banjo Works was established in 1974 while Geoff was at a Naval Base in San Diego. As a semi-professional banjoist in various bluegrass bands since the mid-’60s, Geoff developed an ear for banjo tone and experimented with the mechanics of banjo construction until he patented the revolutionary designs which his banjos are famous for today. Included among Stelling’s innovations are his wedge-fitted pot assembly, the “pivot-pin” tailpiece, and compensated bridges and nut assemblies. Combined with the simple elegance of Stelling’s visual dynamic, his contributions to sound and playability make Geoff Stelling’s banjos internationally revered. 

ROGER SPRUNG – Instruction & Education – An argument could be made that Roger Sprung was the first progressive five-string banjoist. While his contemporaries in the bluegrass world were experimenting with swing in the 1940s and ’50s, Sprung was expanding the acceptable banjo repertoire to include swing, ragtime, pop, and classical styles as well. Credited with introducing bluegrass banjo techniques to the folk music world, Roger’s eclectic musical influence is reflected today in players such as Béla Fleck, while Sprung himself continues to explore new and exciting musical possibilities for the banjo.

To watch the daily interviews, simply visit ABM at noon central on Facebook or YouTube. Then on Friday (10/16) at 7:00 p.m. (CDT), you can watch the streaming ceremony of the official inductions. Special guest performers will include Dolly Parton, Tony Trischka, John McEuen, Jason Skinner, Bill Dendle, Shelley Burns, and many others. 

The Museum regrets not being able to invite everyone to Oklahoma City in person this year, but hopes that banjo lovers worldwide will take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy it all online.

These interviews and the induction ceremony will be archived on the ABM web site for those unable to watch live.

And don’t forget that all the efforts of the American Banjo Museum depend on your donations, especially this year with the Museum having to close for much of the summer.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.