Karl Alex Smyser Banjo Band

In the course of catching up recently with Pat Murphy, banjo player with Delta Reign, the conversation eventually lurched into the topic of pre war instruments – as discussions among banjo players are wont to do.

Pat had acquired a late 1920’s Gibson banjo, and in the course of describing how a friend had been telling him for some about his Grandad’s banjo, and how eventually obtained it, Pat let on that in addition to the banjo and its original case, he had picked up a photo of it a group portrait of the Karl Alex Smyser banjo band, circa 1931. This was an original-owner banjo, and the photo is a precious look at a bygone era.

But even cooler than the photo is the audio file he sent: a 1939 recording of the band in multi-banjo arrangements of Chicken Reel, an unnamed march, and a couple of classical selections. If you’ve wondered how these banjo orchestras actually sounded, well wonder no more.

Chicken Reel: [http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegrasscast/chicken_reel.mp3]

March: [http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegrasscast/march.mp3]

Faust: [http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegrasscast/faust.mp3]

Merry Widow: [http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegrasscast/merry_widow.mp3]


Phew…  that stuff almost caught on.

And check out Delta Reign if you want to hear a cool mix of western swing and bluegrass.

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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.