One of the most interesting and exceptional people I have been able to meet in the bluegrass world is banjo man, Butch Robins. In his 71 years, Butch has been there and done that, working with some of the most celebrated artists in our music. Two stints as a Blue Grass Boy with Bill Monroe, plus time on the road with Charlie Moore, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, and New Grass Revival has given him a look at the professional bluegrass world from many different perspectives.
Butch has developed a truly unique approach to the five string over his more than 50 years in the business, and there is nothing he likes better than sharing his wisdom with others who share a passion for the banjo.
In the face of the COVID-19 shutdowns, he had been looking for a way to keep himself focused, and has come with a perfect expression for it. Butch has dedicated himself to record and share 100 banjo tunes over the next 100 days, posting videos on Facebook and YouTube.
When we spoke earlier this afternoon, he said that he is having a blast playing the banjo these days, as much as he ever has.
“I’m loving the way I play right now better than I ever have – working with a metronome again every day. I feel like I have more control than I’ve ever had, and I’m really just enjoying playing the banjo.
There’s all these people doing these challenges online, and I thought of making up a challenge among banjo players. But my good friend JoAnne McGowan suggested that I challenge myself instead, and that made perfect sense to me. So she’s recording me playing these tunes, and we have 39 done so far.”
With each video, Butch shares a bit about the tune, how he came to learn it, and any tips that a banjo enthusiast might enjoy knowing.
Here’s an example with Dear Old Dixie.
Robins says that he is pleased with how this challenge is progressing.
“It’s a raw version of me. If I pull a great big clam, I’ll go back and recut it, but otherwise it’s just me and the banjo. I’m adding in little bits and pieces in there as they occur to me.”
Butch also mentioned that the new banjo being made by Tim Davis as a replica of Robin’s prewar RB-4 is quite popular with pickers. Eight have been ordered so far, and Davis says he has five necks ready now. Shipping should begin soon.
These Butch Robins replica 4s are quite a good value as well, with an asking price of only $3499. More details can be found online.