This interview with banjo playing comedian Lucas Ross is a contribution from Pamm Tucker with Walker’s Folk Mania Media. She met with him at the American Banjo Museum a few weeks ago in Oklahoma City.
What is your connection with The American Banjo Museum?
“I like the banjo and I just started showing up. I work for an NBC affiliate, and I do some TV work. I did a story on the banjo museum when Steve Martin was coming to Tulsa for a concert. I got to know Johnny (the director of the museum), about a year later he asked me to do some web videos. I don’t work here but I love this place. I had heard about the museum and thought it was a building of old banjos, and thought I’ll get down there someday. I had no idea that this state of the art, $4 million building existed. It’s gorgeous! I would say one of the nicest buildings in our state. I just love it. There’s something about being around all these instruments, not just the music that they make but the intricate details and design.”
When did you become interested in the banjo?
“For me, when I was a kid, I saw Kermit the Frog play the banjo on The Muppet Show. I like the sound of the banjo. Anytime I would hear Jim Henson’s programs there would be that banjo strumming in the background. As I got older, I found Steve Martin. I love Steve Martin. In high school, some church friends gave me an old banjo. I used it as a prop in my stand-up routine using Steve Martin material from the ’70s that no one was listening to in the ’90s. I didn’t know how to play or tune it. I tuned it to an open chord, which was actually pretty close to being in tune. On my 30th birthday, my wife surprised me with front row seats at a Steve Martin concert in Austin Texas. I knew I had to have a banjo, then I got another one, then I upgraded.”
How many banjos do you own?
“Do I own versus what I have in my house? 3, no, 4 plus one I’m borrowing. I have a tranjo, it’s a traveling banjo. My wife does some work with an orphanage in Africa. They wanted me to bring a banjo and play some music for the kids. Although the banjo is an American instrument it has ties to Africa. As I was going through TSA, at the airport they had me open the case. They had no idea what was in the case, so I had to put it together and show them. The officer told me it could probably be used as a weapon but let me take it on the plane.”
So, Steve Martin is your idol?
“Yes, he’s a big influence on my career. I’ve always loved his comedy. His music has guided me to learn the banjo. I tell people that he was my gateway drug to the banjo. He introduced me to the comedy I love and some of the music I love, bluegrass.”
Tell me about Pick a Tune here at the museum?
This is for people that have never picked up a banjo. If they own a banjo, they are too advanced. Deering banjo, out of San Diego provides a few banjos for learning. I tell people I’ll teach them to play a tune in an hour or they can get their money back. Its free, so they like that.
Lucas Ross, television personality, comedian, musician… and that is just what the community sees. He is also a family man. Lucas and his wife, Aubrie, are the boasting parents of two boys, Henson and Simon, whose names were inspired from Jim Henson and Paul Simon.
Son of a Beekeeper can be downloaded at iTunes, Spotify, and many other online venues. But if you want a special treat, BUZZ on over to his web site for your autographed hard copy.