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north carolina banjo style

The Sandman 02 Apr 10 - 12:53 PM
Janie 02 Apr 10 - 03:36 PM
GLoux 02 Apr 10 - 03:55 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 02 Apr 10 - 04:13 PM
The Sandman 02 Apr 10 - 04:20 PM
Janie 02 Apr 10 - 04:37 PM
The Sandman 02 Apr 10 - 05:39 PM
Janie 02 Apr 10 - 06:31 PM
Gern 02 Apr 10 - 07:10 PM
GUEST,Russ 02 Apr 10 - 07:32 PM
GUEST,BanjoRay 02 Apr 10 - 07:34 PM
Janie 02 Apr 10 - 11:10 PM
Janie 02 Apr 10 - 11:21 PM
The Sandman 03 Apr 10 - 12:24 AM
Janie 03 Apr 10 - 12:32 AM
catspaw49 03 Apr 10 - 12:32 AM
Janie 03 Apr 10 - 12:56 AM
Janie 03 Apr 10 - 01:04 AM
Stringsinger 03 Apr 10 - 06:55 PM
Stringsinger 03 Apr 10 - 06:57 PM
Charley Noble 03 Apr 10 - 09:36 PM
Charley Noble 03 Apr 10 - 09:40 PM
Janie 03 Apr 10 - 11:34 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 04 Apr 10 - 09:22 AM
The Sandman 04 Apr 10 - 12:11 PM
Ebbie 04 Apr 10 - 12:23 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 05 Apr 10 - 10:59 AM
Stringsinger 05 Apr 10 - 12:28 PM
The Sandman 05 Apr 10 - 01:10 PM
GUEST,Songbob 05 Apr 10 - 02:38 PM
Valmai Goodyear 05 Apr 10 - 02:45 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 05 Apr 10 - 03:39 PM
Charley Noble 05 Apr 10 - 05:20 PM
The Sandman 05 Apr 10 - 06:19 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 24 Oct 13 - 07:56 AM
kendall 24 Oct 13 - 08:11 AM
Airymouse 24 Oct 13 - 09:05 AM
Airymouse 24 Oct 13 - 09:29 AM
Stringsinger 24 Oct 13 - 11:54 AM
Amos 24 Oct 13 - 12:33 PM
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Subject: north carolina banjo style
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 12:53 PM

can anyone give information on this 5 string old timey style,are there any videos anywhere


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Janie
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 03:36 PM

I'm not aware of an old time banjo style that is attributable to primarily North Carolina. Can you name a player who plays in the style you are particularly interested?


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: GLoux
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 03:55 PM

You could check out The North Carolina Banjo Collection on Rounder. It contains all sorts of different banjo styles by North Carolina banjo players.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 04:13 PM

Charley Poole was one of the earliest recorded.

Charley Poole


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 04:20 PM

no,i know about poole,and his 3 finger style, more Bascom Lamar Lunsford ,and his hopping indexfinger and up brush


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Janie
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 04:37 PM

Bascom Lamar Lunsford played in a style found in Western North Carolina, similar to, but not synonymous with claw hammer. I imagine you have already googled him and found the available sound files and are looking for other examples.

You might try searching the Berea collection. You can enter "banjo music - Western North Carolina." Comes up with 46 sound files, nearly all of them from one particular heritage festival at Berea College in the early 80's - so it is limited-but perhaps a start.

Here is the link to search their sound files.
http://www.berea.edu/hutchinslibrary/specialcollections/specialsound.aspx


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 05:39 PM

yes thanks, i just saw one video he does do an 0ccasional brush down


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Janie
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 06:31 PM

After doing a little research, listening to a number of different sound files, and thinking about it, I wonder if "western North Carolina style" may be a bit of a myth. I suspect that sentence, which seems to have been used originally in an article about Lunsford, got picked up by other researchers. North Carolina banjo players were very individualistic in how they played. Seems many of them incorporated both 2 finger picking and strumming - sometimes up, and sometimes down, but from listening to various sound files, I don't hear any unifying "sound" to suggest a regional style. Lunsford's banjo playing sounds quite "old-timey." J. Roy Stalcup, who uses a two finger picking combined with up strumming, has a very different feel. The style of Sheila K Adams, who, like Lunford, also hails from Madison Co., is mostly frailing.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Gern
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 07:10 PM

There is a recognizable regional style called Round Peak clawhammer, after that location near Union Grove NC. And there is a very good source of instructional materials from Brad Leftwich of this area. I eagerly recommend his songbook and accompanying CD.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 07:32 PM

Marvin Gaster

Marvin Gaster

As NC as it gets.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and banjo player)


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 07:34 PM

There is a great CD by the late Mike Seeger called Southern Banjo Sounds which gives beautifully played examples of many different styles of Old Time banjo, with lots of detail in the sleeve notes. I believe he may also have made a DVD with the similar content.

Round Peak is an area between Mount Airy NC and Galax VA with lots of great musicians and a distinct local style of clawhammer developed originally by Charlie Lowe and others, and passed on by Fred Cockerham, Kyle Creed and Tommy Jarrell (and many others - these days Riley Baugus, Kirk Sutphin and of course Brad Leftwich)
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Janie
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 11:10 PM

introduction to Round Peak banjo on youtube


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Janie
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 11:21 PM

Kyle Creed

At same link, sound files for Wade Ward and Matokie Slaughter.

Hope this isn't turning into thread drift, GSS, in terms of what you are looking for.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 12:24 AM

no its very interesting thankyou.thanks for the links[i have aboutof insomnia at the moment its 5 15am here in west cork


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Janie
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 12:32 AM

Argh! Post lost in cyberspace.

Still not convinced there as a style of banjo playing uniform enough in sound and technique to be labeled a western North Carolina style.

Mount Airy is not considered to be western North Carolina, and while certainly on the far edge of the most northwest portion of the Piedmont, is very much at the foot of the mountains, and not in the mountains, though it sits at the foot of Fancy Gap which leads up into the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge in Virginia. One doesn't really get into the mountains of North Carolina until one is much further southwest of Mt. Airy.   What Lunsford plays does not sound to me like Round Peak style claw hammer.

Love Marvin Gaster. Agree he could be considered a quintessential banjo player reflecting old-time stringband banjo in much of the eastern half of the state, which includes most of the Piedmont, the Sandhills (Sanford is in the Sandhills) and the coastal plain. But I don't think he, or anyone else quintessentially represents a style that can be called a western North Carolina style, because I don't think there is one.

Understand, I am not a scholar or a banjo player. Just going by ear, listening experience and what I dabble around and read. I readily defer to all you banjo players.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 12:32 AM

LOL.....Thank you Janie for plugging my alma mater. Back in the 60's we were busy trying to convince the college that it needed to return to its community roots and enlist the help of all those folks who knew so much about the history and traditions of the mountains. They had sort of lost their way and while Berea did well in sending students back out, they needed to bring in the community to the College. I'm happy to see so many other programs going right now and feel we had a tiny part way back when in making it happen.

Anyway.......

Kinda' hard to think about North Carolina banjo without thinking about Frank Proffitt. The style, the sound, the fretless effect.....and did you know his second son Ronald graduated from Berea? He was sadly killed in an accident not long afterwards.

Frank at the Folk Legacy website.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Janie
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 12:56 AM

Bad night for posts going astray.

I just posted (only it didn't post) - Hi Spaw, Berea has performed a real service over the years with their recordings.

Back in the 60's some one, I think probably from Berea, wanted to field record my grandfather singing United/Old Regular Baptist hymns a cappella, probably at one of his church association meetings. Pawpaw thought he was being offered a record contract. He went off a ways to think and pray about it, then declined. I believe he was concerned it would be in service to his own ego rather than in service to his Lord.

I understand Pawpaw was a fine banjo player and quite a fair fiddler before he "got saved" and joined a United Baptist congregation that eschewed the playing of instruments as the work of the devil. I heard him sing hymns often in his fine, Appalachian tenor, (at least as good as Ralph Stanley) but never had the joy of hearing him play the banjo.

Wish he had let that Berea student record his singing.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Janie
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 01:04 AM

And that above post is pure thread drift. Sorry, I best go to bed as I can feel the insomnia bug nibbling at me also.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Stringsinger
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 06:55 PM

http://allensarchiveofearlyoldcountrymusic.blogspot.com/2010/02/obray-ramsey-sings-folksongs-from-three.html

I think that Obray Ramsey represents the North Carolina banjo styles using a three-fingered technique that was used before Scruggs and Reno. I don't know that he predates them but
his style is not "clawhammer" but was at one time referred to as "clawhammer".


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Stringsinger
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 06:57 PM

His style uses an ingenious accompaniment approach to singing that is not usual.
He is worthy of pursuing as a North Carolina style.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 09:36 PM

Dick-

This may not be what you're looking for but give it a listen: the late Obray Ramsey singing "Cold Rain and Snow": click here for mp3!

Obray did a unique style of three-finger picking with occasional brush strokes at the end of lines. He was based in Madison County, North Carolina, about an hour west of Ashville.

He was also a good shot when it came to picking off ground hog sunning themselves on the mountain side.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 09:40 PM

Gee, I should read more other posts before posting my own!

Stringsinger-

When did you run across Obray? I met him back in 1963.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Janie
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 11:34 PM

Obray Ramsey. Very nice.

listen to him play and sing Pretty Polly and Poor Ellen.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 09:22 AM

I agree that Obray Ramsey, particularly in "Cold Rain and Snow," reaches a peak of western NC banjo song style with an early and lovely three-finger picking style.

3-finger is basic to that region, having been used there for "classical" and other sorts of banjo picking from an early date. However, there's another style that's probably more typical and I think was far more widespread in the old days.

It's worth listening to the numerous recordings Bascom Lamar Lunsford of South Turkey Creek, particularly those he made for the Library of Congress. His simple up-pick down-strum fifth-string rhythmic style is the one that, by the way, Pete Seeger adapted for his basic strum, and Lunsford did not appreciate it.

That style is distinctly Lunsford's own. However, it also represents Lunsford's summation of a number of banjo styles he had heard in his travels through the mountains as a salesman and country lawyer, often putting up at night in mountain cabins and swapping songs with the people who lived there. His banjo learning was solidly in the traditional mold; he had a great respect for the old original ways of playing and singing, and scorned innovation.

It thus might be said that the Lunsford style is very basic to western NC, and representative of at least some of what was being played there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It's rare to get a listen to something that old and that long gone.

Bob


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 12:11 PM

maybe my ears are deceiving me ,but lunsford sounds as if he is picking with index finger and hopping over to the first string with his index,sometimes instead of using the strum,similiar to round creek,but with the left hand pull off omitted,so as well as using bum ditty,he did a melody and ditty that didint involve a brush but used an upward single first string pluck and then a fifth string pluck,is that right?


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Ebbie
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 12:23 PM

Interesting that this thread has come along at just this time.

Day before yesterday I was out walking with a banjo picker originally from Missouri. He has several banjos and picks both 3-finger and clawhammer. He said that the next time he is in North Carolina he is going to study their 'two-finger' North Carolina style."


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 10:59 AM

Regarding North Carolina two finger picking, I believe that the most well known picker that uses this is Doc Watson.


Hoot


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Stringsinger
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 12:28 PM

Hi Bob

I can't agree unfortunately with your assessment of Pete pickiing up his playing style
from Lunsford. What Lunsford did was to pick an individual note with his index finger and use an upward brush rather than the down brush that Pete uses. It may be that Pete developed his style from listening to Pete Steele, the coal miner from Hamilton, Ohio.
Check out his version of "Pay Day at Coal Creek".


Lunsford was a crochety old cuss and didn't appreciate Pete's politics. He was pretty mean about it. He, of course, was a great old-time ballad singer, one of the best.

As to being "solidly in the traditional mold" that is a pretty shaky category. I believe that
the evolution of the banjo style must be attributed to the African-American slaves
that were incorporated into the "minstrel show" tradition which found it's way into the Appalachians via "Uncle Tom's Cabin". My point is that the "traditional mold" is not fixed in cement but contains earlier forms of musical styles.

I am however a fan of Bascom's playing and singing. His "Mole in the Ground" is a classic although I'm not really sure it represents the three-fingered style of North Carolina as does Charlie Poole or Obray Ramsey. Bascom is more eclectic in my opinion.

Frank


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 01:10 PM

is it true that Pete Seeger originaly played the banjo with a plectrum,but changed taking heed of the advice of Lunsford.
i can see certain advantages of a plectrum particularly if the player has played tenor banjo before,however having experimented with this it seems the bum ditty is easier with an upward brush [to bring you up close to the g string],but double thumbing[with plectrum] is difficult

from the first string to the 5 string but not so difficult from 4 and 3 string. to 5,
has anyone of any note ever used a plectrum for 5 string banjo[did Reno?]
I am still having fierce problems with a metal finger pick it feels like its going to come off all the time,and being primarily a concertina player I cant have long nails[they dont grow anyway without splitting]


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 02:38 PM

Obray Ramsey learned to play a semi-Scruggs style banjo after a folksong collector suggested he add accompaniment to his singing -- this was around 1952 or so, as I recall. His style hardly predates anything, much less Scruggs.

It's interesting to talk of individual and regional styles simultaneously, since most instrumental stylistic differences seem to be based on one individual influencing others in his/her geographic region, giving rise to a "regional" style. You get one influential player setting the tone, and others copying in their own fashion. Once radio and 78s came along, regional styles began to become more nearly national, and only concentrated pockets where music is constantly played (Round Peak) kept "their" styles. That is, in some places, regional styles were vitiated by pop culture influences, but other areas, and there are only a few, kept hold of their culture. I suspect it's the presence of long-standing festivals, such as Galax, that helped this tendency.

Bob


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 02:45 PM

May I draw attention to an all-day workshop on North Carolina Song & Society with Joe Penland in Lewes, Sussex, on Saturday 22nd. May? Joes sings and plays guitar and banjo. He is the guest performer at the Lewes Saturday Folk club in the evening.

Valmai (Lewes)


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 03:39 PM

Frank, Schweik and Songbob, you've all made valid points, which seem just to me. I'd only note that Lunsford used more than one style.

And, of course, I should be more wary in stating anything categorical about Pete Seeger, who uses so many different styles drawn from a wide range of players, together with some innovations of his own. Pete Steele was indeed a major influence on him; also noteworthy is Seeger's mastery of the difficult Kentucky picking of Walter Williams on "East Virginia." Lunsford, however, does seem to have been an early influence, especially in introducing Pete to the unique sound of the instrument. In addition to that, I seem to recall Pete saying sometime or other that that particular lick was decisively influenced by Lunsford, but that was many years ago and I could well be remembering wrong.

Re Pete and the plectrum, Alan Lomax's notes to his 1950 debut LP for Folkways, Darling Corey, say he "played the tenor banjo in his school jazz band" before hearing the 5-string played at "the North Carolina Festival in Asheville," evidently the one run by Mr. Lunsford. The tenor is typically played with a plectrum—a flatpick—and no doubt Pete used one too, but only on the tenor.

Though Pete has used metal fingerpicks on the 5-string (recommending against using one for the thumb, "too loud"), to the best of my knowledge he has never used a flatpick on it, if that's what's implied by the word "plectrum."   

Bob


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 05:20 PM

"Obray Ramsey learned to play a semi-Scruggs style banjo after a folksong collector suggested he add accompaniment to his singing"

I'm not sure I can agree with this statement. Obray's playing just doesn't sound like bluegrass to me.

However, in 1963 Obray was experimenting with his first set of Scrugg's tuning pegs and having a lot of fun with them.

Another song that Obray sang that I'll always remember was one based on "The Cruel War is Raging" which he titled "I'll Cook for You Johnny." The chorus ran:

I'll Cook for you, Johnny,
I'll wash all your clothes,
Just take me with you, Johnny,
For you know I love you so!


Another favorite has to be "The Song of the French Broad River."

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 06:19 PM

yes to me flatpicks are plectrums and plectrunms are flat picks,thanks bob coltman,Iam just learning about banjoes


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 24 Oct 13 - 07:56 AM

About Obray Ramsey, yes, his style is an early three-finger picking style, no matter when he learned it.

North Carolina was the focus of 3-finger styles, apparently from early in the 20th century. Now I'm going to venture into memory territory where I'm not sure of anything; but long ago I think I remember Earl Scruggs being quoted as being inspired to develop his modern 3-finger picking from hearing North Carolinians Charlie Parker, ?Snuffy Jenkins? and another North Carolinian, unnamed. North Carolinian Fisher Hendley used an early 3-finger—to my ears; some might call it 2-finger, not sure. And so on.

All those styles were distinctively different from Scruggs, which only goes to show Earl's striking inventiveness, and some were used only for background, not lead picking. But listening, you can hear those players are thinking along the same lines. Some say minstrel picking (largely claw hammer) did involve 3-finger at an early date; and of course those hillbilly pickers were also listening to "classical banjo" players like Vess Ossman and Fred Van Eps whose records were popular early in the 20th century.

So when Obray learned, he turned deliberately to those early styles and learned those. (He also did a not very successful attempt at Scruggs-like (not Scruggs-style, though) picking on, I think, his Riverside LP, which showed the limitations of moving in that direction.

His basic style, though, as on his "Three Laurels" record, is a gem—unique, and all his. It certainly influenced me as I was working on my own 3-finger style.

Bob


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: kendall
Date: 24 Oct 13 - 08:11 AM

One of the things I love about the south is the traditional music. The first time I heard Granpa Jones play the banjo I knew I had to learn clawhammer style.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Airymouse
Date: 24 Oct 13 - 09:05 AM

CAveat: I don't play the banjo, and as usual I don't know what I'm talking about. One style, which I think of as a western North Carolina style, is called the "double-knock" style and it works well with a fretless banjo. If you are interested in this style, Google "Rick Ward".


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Airymouse
Date: 24 Oct 13 - 09:29 AM

You'd better Google "Rick Ward double knock", or you'll get some politician I've never heard of.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Stringsinger
Date: 24 Oct 13 - 11:54 AM

One name comes to mind. Obray Ramsay.


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Subject: RE: north carolina banjo style
From: Amos
Date: 24 Oct 13 - 12:33 PM

Craig Johnson is a master of what I think of as the North Carolina style, for example on his wonderful "Away Down the Road" CD. Art Thieme was a friend, and covered Craig's song by the same name with its haunting refrain:

Blow your whistle, up through the pines
And out across the mountains on the Clinchfield line
Blow for better times, away down the road.


Anyway he may be an example of a North Carolina style, but I am no banjo specialist for sartin sho'.


A


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