As most of the world has been turned upside down because of COVID19, the American Banjo Museum has been experiencing the effects as well. It is with a heavy heart that we’ve been forced to reimagine this year's ABM Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and, in line with many similar events, are planning to host virtual celebrations during the week of October 12-16, 2020.
Each year since the museum opened in 1998, we have had the opportunity to honor the best of the best in the banjo world with induction into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame. Originally established as The National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame, early honorees were jazz age four-string banjo performers, educators, promoters and manufacturers. In 2014, embracing the opportunity to honor all types of banjos and playing styles, with the addition of the categories honoring five-string as well as other types of banjos, the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame was established.
With each passing year, the Hall of Fame grows in acceptance and stature among the worldwide banjo community. The inclusive nature of its mission is seen through its honoring of a diverse body of banjo notables. From iconic names such as Earl Scruggs, Steve Martin and Belá Fleck to little known – yet equally important – contributors to the art or industry of the banjo, the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame continues to recognize those who have shaped the banjo’s colorful past, exciting present and unlimited future. Like past recipients, honorees for 2020 have each displayed a lifelong commitment to the banjo in one of five categories. The American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame inductees for 2020 are:
GARY “BISCUIT” DAVIS - Five-String Performance - Davis began playing banjo at age 10. He was Tennessee State Champion by the age of twelve and since then he has been two-time Kentucky State Champion, four-time Alabama State Champion and National Banjo Champion on four separate occasions...first in 1979 at age 16 – then again in 1988, 1996 and 2012. Davis began playing professionally at age 13 in Chattanooga and later he moved to Pigeon Forge in 1988 where he joined Jim and Charlie Smith‘s Southstar Band and Dollywood. There he evolved to be the band leader and record producer for Dolly Parton. Davis currently performs daily at Dolly’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Theater while teaching private banjo and guitar lessons and traveling to host banjo instruction clinics and concerts throughout the year.
ED “FAST EDDIE” ERICKSON - Four-String Performance - "Fast Eddie" Erickson began his banjo/guitar career in the San Jose, California area in the mid 1960s performing at Capone's Warehouse and Disneyland. From there Ed went to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando where he was featured in the Class of '27 show, starred in the Banjo Kings in the Magic Kingdom and, from 1978 to 1983, led the Riverboat Rascals show band on board Disney's Empress Lilly Showboat in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. A beloved musician/entertainer in the classic jazz world, Erickson continues to be a featured performer at countless jazz festivals, parties, and concerts around the world.
DON RENO - Historical - A product of the North Carolina concentration of bluegrass banjo pioneers, Don Reno’s banjo playing stands proudly as one of the most innovative and recognizable five-string banjo styles of all time. Influenced by old-time banjo player, Snuffy Jenkins, Reno developed his own three-finger "single-string" style that allowed him to play scales and complicated fiddle tunes note-for-note. As a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys and the banjoist who brought the iconic Dueling Banjos to life, the name Don Reno will be forever tied to innovative and musical banjo playing.
GEOFF STELLING – Design & Manufacture - Since 1959, while still in high school, Geoff Stelling has been either playing the banjo or trying to improve on its design. His Stelling Banjo Works was established in 1974 while Geoff was at a Naval Base in San Diego. As a semi-professional banjoist in various bluegrass bands since the mid-‘60s, Geoff developed an ear for banjo tone and experimented with the mechanics of banjo construction until he patented the revolutionary designs which his banjos are famous for today. Included among Stelling’s innovations are his wedge-fitted pot assembly, the “pivot-pin” tailpiece, and compensated bridges and nut assemblies. Combined with the simple elegance of Stelling’s visual dynamic, his contributions to sound and playability make Geoff Stelling’s banjos internationally revered.
ROGER SPRUNG - Instruction & Education - An argument could be made that Roger Sprung was the first progressive five-string banjoist. While his contemporaries in the bluegrass world were experimenting with swing in the 1940s and ‘50s, Sprung was expanding the acceptable banjo repertoire to include swing, ragtime, pop and classical styles as well. Credited with introducing bluegrass banjo techniques to the folk music world, Roger’s eclectic musical influence is reflected today in players such as Bela Fleck while Sprung himself continues to explore new and exciting musical possibilities for the banjo.
In past years, Hall of Fame took place during gala ceremonies held in Oklahoma City as part of the ABM BANJO FEST weekend. However, with the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, safety is our top priority. As there simply is not a means of organizing such a large event with people from all around the country while ensuring everyone’s safety and well-being, this year’s induction ceremonies will be a virtual event streamed via the internet.
As we cannot host our banjo friends from around the country who would typically be “road-tripping” to OKC, we're going to bring the Hall of Fame experience to you from the comfort of your living room! Leading up to the induction ceremonies, we invite you to tune in at noon CDT each day from October 12-16 for an interview with each of our inductees about their life’s work with the banjo. Then, on Friday, October 16 at 7PM CDT, we’ll be broadcasting a coast-to-coast road trip as we visit each of our honorees and present their induction ceremony into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame from their hometowns. In addition to presentations to our honorees, the Hall of Fame program on October 16 will include special guest appearances by Dolly Parton, Tony Trischka, John McEuen, Jason Skinner, Bill Dendle, Shelley Burns and many others. To watch daily interviews or the virtual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, visit www.americanbanjomuseum.com from October 12-16. After the live broadcasts, interviews and the complete Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be available at the website as well.
For more information on upcoming events, or to become a member of the American Banjo Museum, visit www.americanbanjomuseum.com or call at (405) 604-2793.