On Sept. 9, 2009, the American Banjo Museum opened its doors in the Bricktown entertainment district of downtown Oklahoma City. In celebration of its fourth anniversary, the museum will be offering free admission Friday through Sunday to continue its mission of celebrating the music and heritage of America’s instrument – the banjo.
Anniversary weekend visitors will be among the first to see the results of a yearlong expansion project t hathas greatly enhanced both museum collections as well as the exhibits which recount the colorful story of the banjo’s evolution in the United States. Included in this expansion are numerous historically significant banjos from the Minstrel Era of the mid-1800s, the Classic Era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and iconic five-string banjos associated with the post-World War II popularization of bluegrass and traditional folk music. When combined with the more than 300 Jazz Age banjo treasures that were the museum’s founding collection, the more than 60 new acquisitions allow the American Banjo Museum to boast stewardship of the largest and most comprehensive collection of banjos ever assembled, according to a news release.
On Sunday, a special concert will take place at the museum that will feature Arkansas’ Clarke Beuhling, museum director Johnny Baier and the internationally recognized Byron Berline Band. Through song and story, these artists will present a chronological musical history of the banjo – from the minstrel days of the mid-1800s the present day.
Special guests Sunday will include Greg and Janet Deering, owners of the Deering Banjo Company of California. As the sponsor of the museum’s new gallery focusing on the rebirth of the five-string banjo in post-WWII America, the Deering entourage will arrive in the Deering “Banjo Bus,” which is part of the current Mumford and Sons Gentlemen Of The Road tour that is stopping in Guthrie on Friday and Saturday.
The American Banjo Museum, 9 E Sheridan Ave., has teamed up with Deering Banjos to celebrate the 1 p.m. Sunday grand opening of the “Bluegrass Pioneers & New Traditions” banjo gallery, which features many of the prized Deering Banjos. Deering is the largest banjo manufacturer in the world, having made more than 90,000 banjos since their humble beginnings in 1974
Guests to the museum will have the opportunity to see a large selection of Deering banjos. Among the most unique is the prized long neck “Banjosaurus,” a 25-fret long-neck banjo loaned to the museum by George Grove of the Kingston Trio. A hand-cut dinosaur scene that took 400 man-hours to complete and spans the entire neck
Also included in the display are a Pete Seeger long neck, a Crossfire electric banjo, Deering’s 35th Anniversary banjo, a John Hartford personally signed banjo, the unique Tenbrooks Saratoga Star, an Eagle II custom Mumford banjo, the newest 6-string electric banjo called the Phoenix, the ever-popular Goodtime banjo, a Zombie Killer banjo and others. This is a singular opportunity to see a great sampling of the many Deering banjos along with a chance to talk to the manufacturing Deering family themselves.
Scheduled activities for the museum’s festivities this weekend:
Friday and Saturday: The museum will be open and free to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. A live performance by museum director Johnny Baier will take place both days at 3 p.m.
Sunday: Museum hours are noon to 5 p.m. The formal opening of the “Bluegrass Pioneers & New Traditions” gallery is set for 1 p.m., followed by performances and free banjo lessons alternating in the ABM’s Shakey”s Exhibit from 1 to 5 p.m.
Sunday’s musical selections will include the traditional bluegrass of the Byron Berline Band (1 p.m.), Clarke Buehling on his Minstrel banjo in period costume (2 p.m.), Johnny Baier playing Jazz Age banjo favorites (3 p.m.) and Harvey Reid with Joyce Anderson playing American contemporary and roots music (4 p.m.)
Deering artist Harvey Reid, described by his peers as a “giant of the steel strings” and “one of the true treasures of American acoustic music,” also will be strolling with his Deering 6-string on the first floor of the museum throughout the day. He will be accompanied by his talented wife, Joyce Anderson, on the fiddle, interspersed with special short ditties by their two young sons Otto and Levi.
On Sunday, the Deering entourage will arrive in the Deering “Banjo Bus,” which is part of the current Mumford and Sons Gentlemen Of The Road tour that is stopping in Guthrie on Friday and Saturday.
For more information, go to www.americanbanjomuseum.com.