Banjo – An Illustrated History

Banjo - An Illustrated HistoryLovers of the banjo have much to celebrate in this first half of the year, with two carefully researched and prepared hardcover books being released on the history of the instrument.

We mentioned The Banjo – America’s African Instrument earlier this month, portrayed by its author Laurent Dubois as a biography of the instrument. It is a scholarly tome, tracing the history of what we know as a banjo from its African roots to the Caribbean islands and the southern US, on through to the instrument we know well today.

We have this week received a copy of Banjo – An Illustrated History, a coffee-table style book by Bob Carlin that traces the artistry of banjo building through a wealth of sumptuous color photos with accompanying text. Set for a June 7 release, this wide format publication runs to 256 pages, nearly every one of which is dominated by high quality photographs on archival paper.

The 10 chapters are organized around time periods and types of music, with details provided about prominent players in each era, and the types of banjos popular at the time. No preference is given to any particular sort of instruments. Every imaginable manner of banjo is represented regardless of the number of strings, resonator or open back, handmade or manufactured. The only bias would seem to be Carlin’s choices for who the most notable figures have been in the banjo world, and he, as a highly successful recording and touring artist in the banjo world, is in a position to know.

Tony Trischka has provided an introduction for what is sure to be a big hit among musical instrument players, collectors, and lovers. The pictures are the star of this show, but there is plenty of useful and interesting information included as well.

Pre-orders for Banjo – An Illustrated History, are available now from Backbeat Books, a Hal Leonard imprint, and a large number of online booksellers. The $35 price shouldn’t be a hurdle to placing this on every banjo picker’s coffee table or music room library.

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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.