Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways

March 2017

In 2013, Smithsonian Folkways Records released a compilation CD of Classic Banjo.
The original press release about the CD can be viewed on the Smithsonian Folkways News & Press website, and the CD can be sampled and purchased here


Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways, a 30-track compilation that captures the great versatility of the banjo and how it helped shape American musical identity, including the instrument’s vital role in the 1960s folk revival. The history of the banjo stretches across a complex, international terrain, from West Africa and the Caribbean, to North America and around the world.

The collection offers an introduction to some of the many faces behind the music of the banjo, such as a recording of a young Pete Seeger performing a rapid-fire banjo medley as well as Doc Watson’s 1976 rendition of “Rambling Hobo,” the first banjo tune Watson, better known for his guitar playing, ever learned. Other featured performers include Elizabeth Cotten, Bill Evans, Snuffy Jenkins, Bill Keith, Dink Roberts, Roni Stoneman, Tony Trischka, and Don Vappie.

Classic Banjo was compiled by ethnomusicologist Greg Adams and archivist Jeff Place from over 300 albums in the Smithsonian Folkways collection, and is the 22nd album in Smithsonian Folkways' acclaimed Classic series. Place, archivist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s Rinzler Archives, has produced more than 50 Smithsonian Folkways recordings, including the GRAMMY-winning Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection. Adams is also currently an archivist in the Rinzler Archives and has been playing banjo and studying its history since 1994, working closely with scholars, musicians, and collectors to raise awareness of the banjo’s broader multicultural significance.

As with every compilation in the Smithsonian Folkways Classic Series, Classic Banjo explores the breadth and depth of a genre while the liner notes offer insight into the cultural and historical contexts of each selection. During the last 10 years, Smithsonian Folkways has released Classic compilations of bluegrass, folk, blues, maritime, old-time, and mountain music, among others.

Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways tracklist:


1. Fly Around My Blue-Eyed Girl / Cripple Creek / Ida Red / Old Joe Clark — Pete Seeger
2. Banging Breakdown — Hobart Smith
3. Johnson Boys — Frank Proffitt
4. Peachbottom Creek — Wade Ward
5. Coo Coo — Dink Roberts
6. Josh Thomas's Roustabout — Mike Seeger
7. Jaw Bone — Willie Chapman
8. Bright Sunny South — Dock Boggs
9. Coal Creek March — Pete Steele
10. Mississippi Heavy Water Blues — Josh Thomas
11. Walk Light Ladies — Rufus Crisp
12. Buck Creek Girls — Bill Cornett
13. Gut Bucket Blues — Don Vappie
14. Skylark / Roaring Mary — Mick Moloney
15. St. Anne's Reel / La Renfleuse Gorbeil — Ken Perlman
16. Smokey Mokes — Roger Sprung
17. Golden Bell Polka — A.L. Camp
18. Banjoland — Tony Trischka with Bill Evans
19. Sally Ann — Snuffy Jenkins
20. Lonesome Road Blues — Roni Stoneman
21. Fox Chase — Lee Sexton
22. Hop Along Lou — John Tyree
23. Cotton Eyed Joe — "Big Sweet" Lewis Hairston
24. Foggy Mountain Top — Ola Belle Reed
25. Rambling Hobo — Doc Watson
26. Old Rattler — John Snipes
27. Georgia Buck — Elizabeth Cotten
28. I Wish to the Lord I'd Never Been Born — Irvin Cook
29. Black Eye Susie — Roscoe Holcomb
30. Bluegrass Breakdown — Bill Keith with Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys