Danny Stewart new proprietor of Turtle Hill Banjo

Danny Stewart Jr, a popular bluegrass touring artist, has acquired the Turtle Hill Banjo Company in LaPlata, MD, and will be its new owner/operator. Stewart purchased the company from its founder, long time vintage banjo collector and authority, Dave Schenkman, who is retiring after more than thirty years running the business.

Turtle Hill is among the few companies which are dedicated solely to buying and selling banjos, and has developed a reputation over the years for finding, properly valuing, and reselling banjos of every kind. As now, at any time in recent years they would have a number of prewar Gibson banjos for sale, as well as a selection of second hand professional grade instruments of a more modern vintage. Used open back models as well as tenor banjos are also kept in inventory.

In addition, Turtle Hill is a dealer for Nechville Banjos, and maintains many of their models in stock, as well as select Deering banjos. As the situation allows, you may also find used mandolins and guitars in the shop.

Stewart should be familiar to bluegrass fans from his time in a number of touring groups, including Larry Stephenson, Danny Paisley, Bobby Osborne, Karl Shiflett, and Randy Waller & the Country Gentleman. He is currently the bass player with the US Navy Band Country Current, and had previously held down the banjo position there for two years.

Danny grew up in the music, as both his father and grandfather have been bluegrass musicians, and his dad is the host of the popular Danny Stewart Bluegrass Cruises. Danny Jr is a graduate of the Bluegrass, Old Time & Roots Music program at East Tennessee State University, during which time he performed as a member of their Bluegrass Pride Band. After completing his studies, Stewart taught in the program for a few years before joining the Navy.

In light of this recent acquisition, Stewart reflects on the company going forward.

“I’m super excited to continue the business that Dave Schenkman started over 30 years ago. The Turtle Hill Banjo Company has been instrumental in promoting Nechville Banjos, and showcasing an impressive collection of unique, museum-quality banjos. As a lifelong banjo enthusiast, it’s surreal to have the opportunity to take over this business and channel my passion for banjos and music into the industry.”

Schenkman never intended to go into the banjo business full time when he started the company. Turtle Hill began as a side business while Dave ran a successful rare coin operation, where he is a recognized expert. Wanting to cut down on travel to coin shows all over the country, he considered that dealing in fine quality musical instruments would keep him closer to home.

Music had always been a big part of his life. Dave’s parents met studying at Julliard, and he grew up in a classical music family. He played violin since he was a child, and his two siblings went on to performing careers, as his parents had done. When he discovered bluegrass, he switched to playing fiddle, but found that he enjoyed banjo far more once he picked it up. Dave jokingly says that he then became the black sheep of his family.

Selling the business on makes Dave feel good about his work to date.

“I’m thrilled that Danny is taking over the business, because after 30 years, I hated to think it might just close up and go away.

I’ve known Danny for years through my friendship with Keith Arneson, long time banjo player with Country Current. He used to bring Danny down to the shop.

He’ll be more aggressive than I have been able to be, and I hope that Turtle Hill Banjo can last another 30 years!”

In retirement, Dave will continue to write and research in the field of numismatics, where he has published a number of books and scholarly articles.

As has been the custom for some time, the shop will only be open by appointment. Stewart is determined to maintain his predecessor’s well-earned reputation for personalized customer service and one-on-one consultations with customers.

Contact information to reach Danny about buying or selling banjos or other vintage instruments can be found on the Turtle Hill Banjo web site.

Hats off to Danny Stewart Jr for continuing the legacy of Dave Schenkman and Turtle Hill Banjo Company. We wish a very happy retirement to Dave as well!

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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.