Six years ago last month, our workshop tentatively uploaded its Banjo Rehabilitation Center website on line, and curious visitors began to slowly log-on and browse its pages. Our initial mission was to restore old banjos and sell these entry level instruments to fledgeling pickers at bargain basement prices on eBay. In the last couple of years, however, the BRC founder has been transitioning his acquired skills to building original banjos constructed from all brand new parts with elaborate mother of pearl themes. Using standardized parts (180 plus in an open back banjo…) allows for more predictability in tone, resonance, and playability of the instrument. Three of these banjos have been exhibited in art shows. These BRC designer 5-stringers are a joyful enterprise and sold very inexpensively on eBay. Hence, we continue our strong tradition of a deficit fiscal budget.
The cherry pots are fashioned by our mandolinist Ron (right), whose fees are met with a donation by the BRC banjo builder to the Children`s Hospital for each item received. Clifford, our old-time fiddler and a master woodcrafter (left), admires a pot under construction by Ron in the latter`s spectacular woodshop. Both musicians are members of our Hall of Fame.
The BRC website has now accrued three-quarters of a million hits. We have been blessed with a faithful readership and national and international correspondents who query our Vega Martin Banjo Banjo Info mailbox. To commemorate the 750K visitor milestone, the BRC founder has fashioned a unique and seafaring “Dueling Dolphins” 5-stringer. Look for the “open back Dueling Dolphins 5 string BRC banjo” on eBay May 7-14.
Thanks to all you good folks for your patronage! Be reassured that we steadfastly remain, in the most literal sense, a truly non profit organization.
Last weekend, the BRC founder`s band again entertained the patrons who thronged to the annual Roast-a-Doc fundraiser for the Children`s Hospital. The atmosphere was so festive among the hundreds of boisterous patrons, that the band members could barely hear their instruments or harmony singing voices. One musician loudly queried the band,, “Wasn`t this gala supposed to a be a silent auction?”Another band member responded, “How can we stay together in this din? ” A bemused picker quipped, “Philosophically speaking, you Kant get there from here.” Entertaining the children was, as always, a joy for us.
After the gig, the band went to a nearby Mexican restaurant for our yearly family dinner together.
Thanks to all these musicians for their generous donation of time and musical talent to the Children`s Hospital.
P.S. Check out the open back BRC 5 string “Golden Eagle” banjo on eBay April 20-27.
A juried art show in our community entitled “Comestible” challenged local artists to fashion works based on a food theme. Initially, the BRC founder misread the title as `Combustible` and worried that a banjo entry might be viewed as potential firewood. After later consulting a dictionary, he learned that `comestible` is defined as meaning `edible` and can be used as a noun or a verb. As a student of Shakespeare in his younger days, the BRC banjo craftsman remembered Duke Orsino opening the play “Twelfth Night” with the stirringly romantic injunction, “If music be the food of love, play on….”. This became an artful link for him to build a 5 stringer with a traditional fleur-de-lise mother of pearl emblem of heraldry on the peg head and majestic pearly crowns of royalty on the fretboard.
When it was finished, this regal banjo was quietly entered into the juried art show under the category of mixed media bearing the title “Music Be The Food Of Love” with hopes that the judge might value the literary connection. Incredibly, the plan worked!
This lone but handsome banjo now boldly hangs in the community art gallery from March 14 until May 5 along side a raft of impressionist paintings of foodstuffs. It must have been the Luck of the Irish.
A few months after getting married in 1971, the BRC founder purchased a long neck 5 stringer cobbled together from parts left-over from the Ode banjo company after its purchase by Baldwin. His bride was destined to see a parade of more than 30 banjos stream through their house in the ensuing years, a cavalcade which was culminated by a banjo repair shop cropping-up in her basement 6 years ago.
With her spouse`s permanent collection of 10 prize banjos stationed around the house, his wife recently designated his vintage Ode banjo as the one instrument that their curious grandchildren could play.
Although the Ode had long ago been relegated to a dark and remote corner of the house to collect dust, the grandkids have reawakened their grandfather`s interest in this mellow and well-seasoned 5 stringer. It has now resumed the premier role of being his daily practice instrument thanks to the grandkids who love to experiment with it.
Speaking of kids, the G&F Singers entertained again this month at the Children`s Hospital. This trio of women effortlessly accompanies the baritone BRC founder by singing four part harmonies in songs familiar to patients, siblings, and parents. The lilting soprano, alto, and tenor female voices are church-choir trained and require no rehearsal. Ladies- thank you for graciously sharing your vocal talents with the children and families.
P.S. Check-out the `5 string “Freedom Eagle” open back BRC banjo` on eBay Feb. 25- Mar. 4 and its cousin the “Golden Eagle” banjo Feb 26- Mar.5.
At a recent desert art show in Indio, CA, the BRC founder came upon an artist who carved Native American flutes. The two musicians chatted, and the Indian craftsman reported that he tuned his flutes to A (440 cps) with an electronic tuner by cautiously trimming the length of the instrument. In comparison, the BRC founder offered that he balanced head tension with the wooden properties and diameter of his banjo pots by tapping the rim/head junction and tuning the assembled sound chamber by ear to G using a keyboard.
Stepping momentarily from his basement workshop, where the ambient temperature is 62 degrees with a humidity of 43%, he utilizes a piano residing at the top of the stairs in his wife`s busy “Tiny But Mighty” multi-media studio. (Editor`s note: the `TBM` moniker is derived from a press clipping describing one of her paintings at a juried community art show). The BRC banjo tuning technique was adapted decades ago in the pre-electronic tuner days from watching a band director tune tympani drums by ear prior to a concert.
Upon returning home to Missouri from the western desert, the BRC founder cross-checked his ear vs. piano banjo tuning technique with an electronic tuner in his cozy acoustic instrument room where the ambient temperature is 72 degrees with humidity of 55%. The tapped wooden ash banjo pot with its plastic head registered a G sharp on the tuner.
The BRC founder plans to continue this tradition of tuning banjo pots by ear on the keyboard, but what do you think? Check-out the 5 string “SunFlower” open back BRC banjo on eBay February 12-19. The ash wood pot was tuned by ear to G.