We’re revisiting music in Appalachia and taking a look back at banjo making in Appalachia, from its origins in West Africa to mountain musicians in the 1970s. In this region, banjos typically had a skin drumhead and were unfretted. It wasn’t until later in the 20th century that luthiers started adding frets, fifth strings, and metal components. Scroll down for recommended reading and pictures from some of the interviews conducted in the 1970s!

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Listen to our original episode on folk music and instruments in Appalachia here.

Stanley Hicks clamps the body of a banjo.

Stanley adds a bridge on top of the skin head.

Stanley Hicks playing one of his banjos outside his home.

Stanley sawing frets onto a dulcimer.

Banjo pieces made by Tedra Harmon.

Tedra Harmon and a Foxfire student hold up a groundhog skin to be used for a banjo.

Dave Sturgill with a modern banjo in his workshop.


Web resources:







Clawhammer vs Scruggs style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5LeYKLhk6Q 


We also recommend reading African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia by Cecelia Conway, 1995.