Banjos in Baltimore

bmiOn several occasions we’ve covered the history of bluegrass in Baltimore, MD. Prominent artists have lived and plied their trade there, from Earl Taylor and Walter Hensley through Del McCoury and Mike Munford, the reigning IBMA banjo player of the year.

Looking even further back, The Baltimore Museum of Industry is about to launch a temporary exhibit that chronicles the history of the banjo in the Crabcake Capitol of the World.

Making Music: The Banjo in Baltimore and Beyond opens on April 1, tracing how Baltimore has played a role in how the instrument has evolved since its introduction into American culture in the 18th Century. The city was situated on a crossroads between the agrarian South and a more industrialized North, and had perhaps the most advanced machine manufacturing base of any southern city of its time – perfect for building banjos on a large scale.

BMI Executive Director Roland Woodward said that…

“The banjo is quintessentially American, and has a long and proud history. This exhibit explores many facets of the banjo’s legacy, and provides important historical perspective on the instrument in Baltimore and elsewhere.”

Included will be banjos, sheet music, profiles of local banjo makers, and an exploration of how the Chesapeake region became a hub of banjo activity, starting in the pre Civil War ear.

Prominent figures are recalled, such as William E. Boucher, Jr., a 19th Century banjo maker, through current artists like Stephen Wade, author and performer, noted children’s musical artist Cathy Fink, and tenor banjo master, Buddy Wachter.

The exhibit also examines some of the stereotypes associated with the banjo.

Making Music: The Banjo in Baltimore and Beyond runs through October 18. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

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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.