When I was younger—until fairly recently actually—I had the attitude that I was powerless to do anything about, well. . .anything! I have never been much of a crusader for any cause, and have always had difficulty nailing down just where I stand concerning the issues of the day. This was borne of my childhood desire to blend in and not make waves. The current highly-polarized political climate has perhaps had a strengthening effect on my beliefs and convictions. Don’t worry though, this essay is about something much more important than politics—the four-string banjo of course!
Growing up in a banjo band, I thought everybody played the banjo; outside of school, my whole social life centered on the banjo, so “everybody” did play it! I wasn’t trained to be an organizer or band leader; my role was simply to play. So, not being a leader—coupled with my naïve childhood perception of banjo abundance—led me to the adult attitude of “let someone else do it.”
Well, something started happening during my own 10-year hiatus from playing (1978-88); player and audience numbers—which never really were that high to begin with—started diminishing more and more quickly. The 1920s “founding” generation starting passing in earnest, and less and less new players/fans were being found to replace them. When I did get back into it, I was so busy paying bills and raising a family that the true scope of the player/audience-pool shrinkage didn’t really register with me. Then I rejoined the Army in 1999, and spent the next 15 years mostly overseas.
So now that I’m retired and finally have time to get involved, I fully-realize how few of us there are left; that’s why I’m so determined to go to every show I can—while they still exist! Writing this blog has given me a voice and more of a crusader attitude; no longer do I say “let someone else do it.” I have learned a great respect for those who have been “banjo activists”; I wish to be a part of that small crowd, and I encourage others to get more-involved also. Now I proudly think “so much for blending in and not making waves; I’m a banjo player!”