In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree

Björn in Sweden writes:

I am a beginner on the banjo and would love to play clawhammer. Have bought a banjo high quality and was wondering what you recommend for strings. I want the sound to be big and dark when I play along with guitar and piano. I do not play with a plectrum but with the nail. Would be glad if you have any good tips on strings or other tips to get an old sound of the banjo. See also the attached file.
Thanks in advance and your banjo playing is super!
Normally, I play bass in a New Orleans band.


John form Pennsylvania showed up at our door unexpectedly the other night. He wound up getting a quick banjo workshop out on the front porch with Dear Old Dad, and even managed to catch the sunset at Janes Island before he was back on the road.

It really was a nice surprise visit!

He snapped this selfie with Dear Old Dad and myself before he hit the road. It was nice to get a copy. We have done a lot of slefie-style photographs with folks at workshops, but I hardly ever get a copy of the picture for myself!

selfie with Pat & Patrick

Janes Island sunset

Dang Me

Hi Patrick,
Seems I’m running about 3 months behind on the lessons these days. Hah! I finally did something with the 3/4 time. I heard George Cessna’s cover of this Roger Miller song. Seems perfect for the banjo. Hope you like – it’s a sad song with silly lyrics. My cup of tea.

Johnny Borrell’s Banjo

A few months ago, Johnny Borrell mentioned me in The Guardian. Apparently he had taken up the banjo and was watching me on YouTube.

While it was cool getting a mention, the teacher in me has fretted ever since concerning how he is coming along with the old five-string. Not because of his pop-start status – that means little to me. I think of, worry about and pray for all the folks who use our resources.

While it may seem goofy in this cynical age, I care. It’s who I am.

I did run across a nice piece in The Independent that starts out with Johnny giving his interviewer a banjo lesson: Johnny Borrell interview: Razorlight’s motormouth goes back to the day job

Johnny Borrell

The banjo lesson was a sweet start to a slightly mean-spirited article. I don’t know that much about Johnny, but it sounds like the press in his neck of the woods likes to give him a hard time. Bastards!

Anyway, a Google search doesn’t bring up much more about Johnny Borrell and his banjo. From what I understand, he is playing a bit of banjo in his live shows. If anybody out there has seen him could you please let me know how he is doing? I just want to know that he is coming along okay.