Give Me The Banjo – on the web

For those of you who saw Give Me The Banjo on Friday last week (11/4) and want to watch it again – or for those who didn’t get a chance to watch it, for whatever reason – there is an extended version of the film on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) website. It is also posted below.

The video, 1 hour, 21 minutes long, explores 300 years of American music history and culture with the help of banjo masters such as Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, Sonny Osborne, Mike Seeger, J.D. Crowe, Bill Keith, Bela Fleck, Taj Mahal, Tony Ellis, Abigail Washburn among others.  It examines several styles of banjo playing including black and white minstrelsy, ragtime, early jazz, blues, folk and bluegrass music.

There is much to be seen, heard and learned in this documentary.

Kevin Lynch, writing for the European Bluegrass Blog, said of the extended version of the film,

“Other historic names & figures in this documentary include Gus Cannon & The Jug Stompers, Dock Boggs, Bascam Lamar Lunsford, Roscoe Holcomb, Alan Lomax and many more. If you are a musician or interested in music history…remember these names and learn more about them.

Worthy of special note is a segment devoted to one of the most influential and innovative banjo players and songwriters, the legendary Charlie Poole. Poole laid the foundation for what would become the bluegrass style of banjo playing. Kinney Rorrer offers his first-hand family knowledge of Charlie Poole and his great-uncle, Posey Rorrer (Poole’s fiddler). You will see Kinney Rorrer’s impressive antique Thomas Edison “Talking Machine” collection of cylinder and 78rpm players.

Among other interesting features is a story of Earl Scruggs’ that is told during a short walk around his childhood home. Also of interest, especially for instrument enthusiasts, is the few minutes spent with Jim Bollman; an old-time banjo collector and a view of his wall full of antique banjos.”

“Give me the banjo,” said Mark Twain. Just so.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics.

A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe.

He wrote the annotated series I’m On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.