The ABM launched in 1998 in nearby Guthrie, OK as a museum dedicated to the four string banjo, with a Hall of Fame drawing from the great jazz age tenor players. In 2013, they embraced the world of five string banjo as well, and the many styles of music it is used to play, along with similar Hall of Fame categories.
Each year they select one new member in each of the following categories:
- Five string performance
- Four string performance
- Instruction & Education
Topping the 2024 list is the great Ralph Stanley, to be inducted in the Historial category, created to allow the ABM to bring in deceased members not yet in the Hall. Also coming in are Kristin Scott Benson for Five String Performance, Ned Luberecki for Promotion, and Bill Evans for Instruction & Education. Ken Aoki was chosen for Four String Performance.
A gala Hall of Fame Celebration is the highlight of the annual Banjo Fest, where living inductees speak and/or perform for fans and supporters of the Museum.
With today’s announcement, the ABM shared these thumbnail biographies of the five newest members of the ABM Hall of fame.
- Kristin Scott Benson Five-String Performance – A five-time International Bluegrass Music Association Banjo Player of the Year and recipient of the 2018 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, Benson is widely recognized as the first woman to take a place as a sideman in a top-tier bluegrass band. Since 2008 her association with the Grammy-nominated group, The Grascals, Kristin has exhibited impeccable taste, timing, and tone on stage, in the studio, and as part of national media appearances, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Fox & Friends, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and CBS’ The Talk, among others. The band has also performed for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as well as accumulating nearly 200 performances on the Grand Ole Opry.
- Ken Aoki Four-String Performance – From his earliest musical aspirations, Japan’s Ken Aoki held a passion for the banjo and its place in American pop culture during the 1920s and ’30s. Although (or perhaps because) he was removed from the direct influence of a similar generation of younger American banjoists during the 1980s and ’90s, Ken was forced to work on his own, developing both amazing technical skill as well as world-class musicianship on the plectrum and tenor banjos, as well as the guitar. With an immense repertoire ranging from difficult Harry Reser solos and other banjo standards to jazz, classics, Broadway and pop, Ken Aoki stands out as an amazing international banjo phenomenon.
- Dr. Ralph Stanley Historical – Despite little musical influence as a child, legendary bluegrass artist, Ralph Stanley, was internationally known for his unique, innovative style of singing and banjo playing. Born and raised in Virginia, his mother bought his first banjo and began teaching him how to play “clawhammer” style when he was 15. Stanley’s musical career didn’t kick into full swing until after he returned from a stint in the US Army in 1945 when he joined his guitar-playing older brother, Carter Stanley, and started a band called Clinch Mountain Boys. The duo caught the eye of a Columbia Records executive who signed them on as the Stanley Brothers. The duo continued to perform until 1966 when Ralph’s brother passed away. As a soloist, Stanley’s career prospered. He was inducted into the International Music Hall of Honor in 1992, and the Grand Ole Opry in 2000, the same year in which his work was featured in the film, O Brother, Where Art Thou – for which he won a 2002 Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
- Ned Luberecki Promotion – A multi-facetted banjo force, Ned Luberecki divides his time between performance, instruction, and banjo promotion – all for the betterment of the worldwide banjo community. The 2018 IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, Ned currently performs with Becky Buller and tours as Nedski and Mojo (with Stephen Mougin of the Sam Bush Band). As an instructor, in addition to offering private lessons – both in person and via the internet, Luberecki is a mainstay at major banjo camps around the world. However, his most widespread impact just may be his weekly hosting of the SirusXM radio program Bluegrass Junction.
- Bill Evans Instruction & Education – San Francisco based composer, educator, performer and author, Bill Evans holds the distinction of skillfully playing every type of banjo – from its earliest roots in the West African akonting to the modern Bluegrass banjo. Holding a master’s degree in music from the University of California at Berkeley, Evans educates and enlightens thousands of people annually with his Banjo In America concert program, in which he plays multiple banjos while presenting musical examples from the 17th century, through the minstrel, classic and jazz eras to the banjo’s modern day voice in bluegrass, folk and world music. Additionally, Evans hosts the annual Nashcamp Bluegrass camp which brings top professional performers together with aspiring banjo students.
Congratulations to all of this year’s inductees! We will have coverage of the Banjo Fest later this year, and hopefully an interview with American Banjo Museum Director Johnny Baier next week.