Give Me the Banjo
I bought this DVD without ever having seen it. I’ve heard about it for years. Years ago, I heard there was going to be a documentary about the history of the banjo. It would be aired on PBS. Steve Martin would narrate. It would deal with all things banjo: 5-string [both Scruggs-style and clawhammer], plectrum, tenor, etc.). I had heard my friend and former teacher was going to play a significant role in its production.
I bought my copy two weeks ago. Most of what I heard turned out to be right except for the part about the scope of the piece. It is about all things banjo. It’s almost exclusively a 5-string thing. There was very little 4-string stuff in it at all. There was a very short quote from New Orleans tenor banjoist Don Vappie and a five minute interview with Cynthia, but her piece wasn’t even in the main documentary. It’s in the Special Features section of the DVD.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I’ve watched this thing at least three times already. I fully endorse it (not that my endorsement means much), but I do wish there was more 4-string stuff here. I’m not just saying this because 4-string is a major part of my arsenal. I’m saying it because 4-string banjo is such a huge part of banjo history.
Get a copy of Give me the Banjo and watch it a couple of times. You’ll learn a lot. I know I did. Because of this documentary, I’m now rethinking much of what I had always been held about the banjo’s history. This DVD is a great resource in terms of learning and re-learning about our most quintessentially America instrument (and, by extension) in terms of learning about America.