Kel Kroydon and Steve Martin

Steve Martin and Tom Mirisola checking out Kel Kroydon banjos on the set of Pink Panther IIIn an earlier post, Casey Henry mentioned what a kick she got from knowing that she and Steve Martin played the same kind of banjo, referring to her recent signature model Kel Kroydon banjo.

I asked KK owner Tom Mirisola to tell us a bit more about the Steve Martin connection…

This all came about through Tony Ellis, who is a good friend of Steve’s, and an owner of a Kel Kroydon KK-11. One day Tony and I were talking about the Cryo Strings for a Cause charity and he mentioned he had a very good friend who wanted to talk to me about my banjos. When Tony told me it was Steve Martin I really didn’t know what to think. Tony asked if he could forward my contact information to Steve and we could talk banjos.

Well, of course I said OK. A few weeks later I was contacted by a production company who told me Steve would be in Boston filming the movie Pink Panther II and that he would like to get together with me during his stay. One afternoon in October 2007 we met Steve on set with my wife Karen and my granddaughter Casey.

I brought 5 Kel Kroydons with me for Steve to try out. Steve and I sat and picked, talked all about Kel Kroydon specifications and his 27 Florentine banjo. In between pickin’ and talking, Steve took all of us on set to watch the his new film being made. This was a thrill for all of us. Steve took the time to explain to Casey how the film was made, which she still talks about today. Casey can’t wait till the movie comes out.

Later that afternoon we left it if Steve was interested in a Kel Kroydon banjo we could build one to his specifications for him. Steve said he liked the Kel Kroydons and wanted to think about the banjo specifications he wanted to build. Steve said he would contact me after the movie was completed.

A few weeks later I received a phone call from Steve wanting to discuss his desired banjo specifications. He liked the ebony fingerboard, mahogany wood, and gold engraved plating, basically our Charlie Cushman model. Steve and I pulled up the American Made Banjo web site while we were on the phone, and he said, “That’s the banjo. It is beautiful.”

From there Robin Smith, Steve Gill and Charlie Cushman did their usual magic. The banjo was built and delivered to Steve just before the holidays. So far, he says the banjo looks and sounds great and the last I spoke with him he had taken the banjo with him on vacation. I’m sure in the future when Steve pops up out of nowhere to play at a venue, and you see him playing a banjo with an ebony fingerboard and “mother of toilet seat” peghead that sounds great, you will know exactly what he is playing.

Here are a couple more photos of Steve with his custom Kel Kroydon, and meeting with Tom’s family on the set.

Steve Martin celebrates Christmas with his new Kel Kroydon banjo Karen Mirisola, her granddaughter Casey, and Steve Martin on the set of Pink Panther II

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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.