The Banjo Pilot – bluegrass fiction from Barry Willis

The days are getting shorter and, in some parts of the country, folks are already thinking about cozying up to a warm fire with loved ones, and what they might do with some leisure time coming up around the holidays. It’s the perfect time for a new book with a storyline bound to appeal to bluegrass music fans.

The Banjo Pilot, by Barry R. Willis, is a work of historical fiction, intertwining real people and events with created characters. It tells the story of a young man from North Carolina who plays banjo with Bill Monroe in the late ’40s, and goes on to form his own group, The Pilot Mountain Boys, after leaving the Blue Grass Boys. The book parallels the author’s personal passions, aviation, bluegrass music, and his Christian faith.

Willis is a pilot in real life, flying for United Airlines for many years and now retired. He wrote the book as his schedule allowed over the last several years from his home in Hawaii. This is not his first bluegrass endeavor, having written a volume on bluegrass history, America’s Music Bluegrass – a history of bluegrass music in the words of its pioneers, now out of print.

His protagonist in The Banjo Pilot, Duke Steel, becomes an aviator in the story after losing his wife in an flight disaster, and eventually finds employment with a major airline. He has left his life in bluegrass behind, but is reacquainted with it through his daughter’s interest years later. Steel then becomes a mentor for a young band, helping to prep them for an upcoming band competition using the lessons he learned from Monroe back in the day.

Throughout the book, Barry uses his characters to share a great deal of information about the world of a professional pilot, and the life of a bluegrass musician, based on both his experience and research, and the known history of our music. He believes it will hold the interest of those new to these topics, as well as people with some knowledge of them on their own.

The Banjo Pilot is available now from the popular online booksellers, both in paperback, and in Kindle or Nook editions.

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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.