A Ribbon and Thanks

Intent upon introducing his newest grandchild early to the finer things in our world, the BRC founder transported the infant in a marsupial baby carrier to the opening reception of a seasonal community art exhibit. The juried show was adjucated by a judge from the art department of a St. Louis university. At the awards ceremony, the little tike and his grandfather were delightfully astonished to discover that granddad`s “Ozark Rose Mallow` banjo, which had been quietly entered into the competition, had garnered a colorful Honorable Mention ribbon.IMG_5241

The open back instrument had been hung by the front window of the exhibit hall adjacent to a seaside oil painting and overlooking a nook where a jazz duo softly played background music for the milling patrons.FullSizeRender (58)




The Mayor of our fine city and his lovely wife graciously posed for a photo by the banjo with the BRC founder and his dozing grandchild while a fellow musician looked-on.

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With Thanksgiving only days away, check-out the below video link for a note of appreciation to a special group of Bluegrass pickers as compiled by a journalism student from a nearby campus.  The BRC workshop wishes all blessings to our faithful readership this holiday of Thanks.



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Sears and Roebuck catalogue banjo

From 1893 to 1901, the Sears and Roebuck Company contracted with S.S. Stewart Co. of Philadelphia to build banjos for sale as the `Acme`  brand via catalogue marketing. Most but not all of these instruments bore the `Acme` label, and a few had incidental `S.S. Stewart’ markings. Some banjos were unmarked but clearly an S.S. Stewart product, although the Bay State and Luscomb manufacturers  made strikingly similar designs in that era probably in response to buyer preference.IMG_5332 - Version 3

One such unmarked but well-crafted 5 stringer appeared for repairs in the BRC workshop this autumn.  The tip of the peg head of this high-end instrument had a subtle absent white mother of pearl diamond amidst a cluster of 4 intact inlays.

Two yellow abalone inlays (arrows) were missing from the upper fretboard`s elaborately engraved wreath and wire floral pattern, and small wood chips were fractured off the neck- pot junction area.IMG_5362

The spun over rim,  brackets, and talon tailpiece had a soft golden hue suggesting an unplated brass alloy, and the heel of the neck was festooned with handsome wood carvings.


The color tone of the inlays had aged significantly over the last century, and newly installed white mother of pearl was at least a half-tone different from the native peg head inlay.

A similar yellow abalone to somewhat match the discolored fretboard decorations was hard to locate but eventually obtained from a shop in Taiwan.IMG_5367

The neck had no truss rod and about a 5 degree forward bend to it. The inlay pattern and wood defects were patched-up gently because the wood was so dried-up and fragile that it was  prone to crumble.IMG_5371


The owner was advised to get nylon strings to prevent further deformity of the neck of this vintage banjo that still had a charming and warm tone.


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Autumn Weekend of Art & Heritage

FullSizeRender (31)Behind a row of sculptures in a quiet corner of the 58th Annual Boone County Art Show , a “Tiger Burning Bright” banjo patiently hangs inviting the inquisitive eyes of patrons. This feline 5- stringer is named after one of the BRC founder`s  favorite poems written by  William Blake (1757-1827).IMG_5155 - Version 2




Although there were over 200 works on display in the weekend exhibit, a visitor remarked at the opening reception that it was one year ago that a BRC banjo first made its daring initial appearance at this yearly juried show of diverse paintings and other creative works.

Under propitious autumnal skies a few miles away, the quaint village of Arrow Rock held its 49th Annual Heritage Festival. The nostalgic architecture of this sleepy 19th century community served as the movie set for the musical `Adventures of Tom Sawyer` and for scenes in the subsequent `Huckleberry Finn` sequel film.FullSizeRender (47)



The BRC founder and his pickin` pals were invited to provide  traditional Missouri music for the festival goers in front of the historic Christian Church built in 1872. In the film adaptation of Mark Twain`s classic novel, this is the church where Tom and Huck show-up alive at their funeral to the astonishment of the mourning congregation.


Although it was an unseasonably balmy Saturday for celebrating the changing colors of the autumn  landscape, Sunday brought overnight thunderstorms introducing surprisingly chilly breezes to our Show-Me state.

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On the Antebellum Steps

Nestled on the shoreline of the Missouri River, the township of Boonville has a rich history. Its centerpiece is the Thespian Hall theater built 1855-1857.IMG_1153 (1)

When the Civil War erupted, the building served as a hospital and later a barracks for Federal Troops. Although the Hall had transfer of ownership on several occasions in the many  years that followed and saw some hard times, the community ultimately organized to preserve it. It now resides in the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a venue for music festivals and theater productions.

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The BRC founder`s band performs at Boonville`s annual Festival of Lights street fair each autumn, and this year our benefit  gig was staged on the steps of this historic building which is the oldest active theater west of the Alleghenies. At tune-up time, the temperature was 90 degrees, but a cool breeze and shade from the church steeple across the street soon made the bandstand a welcoming platform. The townsfolk were appreciative of the Bluegrass music and generous in their donations to the Children`s Hospital.  School girls danced on the nearby street corner, and young lads with skateboards across the street gave the band members a thumbs-up.  It was a fun evening for the festival goers and musicians.Screenshot_2017-09-14-19-35-23 (4)

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Historic Sites, a Special Jam, Remembrance

In 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition observed many natural saltwater springs in the Missouri Valley. The BRC founder and his bassist frequently bicycle along the shores of Big Muddy where the expedition trekked and camped. Moments after the below trailside photo was taken, a magnificent bald eagle swooped overhead in full flight bathed in morning sunlight.

IMG_1189The largest salt spring was `Boone`s Lick’ named after two of pioneer Daniel Boone`s sons , Nathan and Daniel, who partnered-up with two other entrepreneurs in 1805 to harvest commercial salt.  A few remnants of their frontier work site remain on the grounds of what is now the Boonslick State Park. It is the site of a yearly autumn Folk Festival featuring local arts and crafts and traditional Missouri music. An enthusiast exhibits a spectacular Indian arrowhead collection, and storytelling Civil War reenactors have a booth of relics.

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For many years, the festival`s jam session was cultivated by fiddler John White who recently passed away at age 80. He was a master fiddler who taught musicianship for 18 years at the Bethel Youth Fiddle Camp as well as being  an instructor for the Missouri Traditional Arts Apprentice Program.




As pictured at the brew pub (left) where the BRC founder`s band performs on Sunday afternoons, John is seen graciously sitting-in on some tunes during one of our weekly jam sessions to benefit  the Children`s Hospital. John was a generous teacher  and a wonderful fiddler who will be missed by all.

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