Sowell Family Donates Banjo Ukulele to ABM

During the International Bluegrass Music Association conference held recently in Raleigh, North Carolina, the Sowell Family Pickers stopped by the American Banjo Museum booth to present a very special gift. Strongly rooted in faith coupled with musical excellence, the banjo community has watched with pride as the Sowell children have progressed from enthusiastic aspiring youngsters to professional level musicians and performers. In Raleigh, in addition to their showcase performances for the international Bluegrass community, the Sowell family presented the museum with a custom banjo ukulele which was built in the 1980s by Hall of Fame luthier Dale Small. This instrument is special in so many ways… First off, it is a beautiful example of Dale Small’s early period craftsmanship which was originally made for June Bealmear – a longtime friend of the museum and the entire four-string banjo world. The instrument features a unique design with the tailpiece integrated into the armrest assembly as well as construction elements of exotic wood and inlay materials. And, above all, it sounds and plays absolutely marvelous. Cemented into public consciousness by British entertainer, George Formby, the banjo ukulele is a combination of a ukulele neck on a banjo body, providing ukulele players with more volume and percussive rhythm than is available from a typical wooden uke. With a worldwide ukulele craze going on, the acquisition of this special instrument comes at a perfect time, allowing the museum to continue sharing with its visitors the varied and colorful evolution of different types of banjos. Dale Small was inducted into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame in 2008 in recognition of the nearly 500 custom made banjos built during his lifetime. The museum is pleased and proud to welcome this new addition from that storied craftsman to our permanent collection and thank the Sowell family for their donation as well as the spirit in which it was given.