Each year since 1998 has afforded the American Banjo Museum the opportunity to honor the best of the best in our banjo world with their induction into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame. Originally established as The National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame, early honorees were jazz age four-string banjo pioneers as well as the contemporary artists, educators, manufacturers and promoters who carried on the traditions of their predecessors. The Museum itself was, in its infancy, an extension of the Hall of Fame. In the years preceding 2014, more than 70 individuals and entities in the four-string banjo world whose career accomplishments might have otherwise been forgotten were recognized by the Hall of Fame. As time passed and the Museum grew to embrace all types of banjos and playing styles, it became clear that the Hall of Fame should evolve as well. As such, in 2013, the ABM Board of Directors voted to establish an annual performance category to honor all styles of five-string banjo playing as well as opening the other previously four-string banjo exclusive non-performance categories to all types of banjos. With this move the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame was established. Suggestions for nomination in the categories of Four-String Performance, Five-String Performance, Historical, Education & Instruction, Design & Manufacture and Promotion may be made at any time by any member of the ABM association. Based on these suggestions, nominations are made by the Board of Directors and are then forwarded to the voting body consisting of the museum board, living members of the Hall of Fame and lifetime members of the ABM association. Like past recipients, Hall of Fame honorees for 2018 have each displayed lifelong commitments to the banjo in one of five categories. The American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame inductees for 2018 are:
BELA FLECK – Five-String Performance – Widely acknowledged today as one of the world’s most innovative and technically proficient banjo players, Fleck, like many banjoists of his generation, was inspired by Earl Scruggs’ appearance on the Beverly Hillbillies. A serious banjo student from the start, Fleck became firmly grounded in banjo tradition prior to exploring new musical territory with innovative groups such as the Newgrass Revival and the Flecktones. His solo endeavors have seen him successfully introduce the banjo into genres such as modern jazz and world music, with a certain high point being the 2011 premier of his Concerto For Banjo performed with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.
BORGY BORGERSON – Four-String Performance – Now in his 92nd year, Borgy Borgerson is often referred to as a living entertainment legend in his native Canada. Beginning in the early 1940s, Borgerson was a fixture on the Canadian radio, nightclub and concert scene. The 1970s saw Borgy’s peak of success as a headline performer at the EXPO ‘67 world’s fair. From that point forward – leading his own Dixieland jazz bands or delighting audiences with his engaging solo style at Toronto night spots such as Diamond Lil’s, Borgerson remains an “in demand” banjoist and entertainer.
EDDIE COLLINS – Historical – A journeyman musician and Detroit celebrity, the impact Eddie Collins’ 40 plus year banjo career was felt nationally. Playing at a virtuoso level on both banjo and guitar as the instruments each came of age in the 1920s and 30s, Eddie Collins’ career hit high gear when he joined Art Mooney’s Orchestra in 1948. Touring nationally on the heels of their million selling hit recordings such as Four Leaf Clover and Baby Face, Collins’ years with Art Mooney postured him to return to Detroit a musical hero – an admirable status which he enjoyed until his sudden passing in 1972.
JIM HENSON – Promotion – Through his creation of the Muppets – and the inextricable connection of the banjo with Kermit the Frog, Jim Henson and the modern day company which carries on his legacy, introduced – and continues to expose – the banjo to a mainstream audience in the most entertaining and positive manner possible. In addition to the inclusion of Kermit’s banjo along with other banjo icons such as Roy Clark and Steve Martin on countless memorable episodes of The Muppet Show, Kermit’s soulful rendition of The Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie has become nothing short of a modern day banjo anthem. (Photo Courtesy of The Jim Henson Company)
THE BANJO NEWSLETTER – Instruction & Education – Founded in 1973 by Hubbard “Hub” Nitchie, Banjo Newsletter covers a wide range of banjo topics, including features on banjo players, banjo techniques (predominantly the three-finger or Scruggs style and the clawhammer playing style), beginning banjo, music theory, banjo set-up and accessories, product and record reviews. Since 1993, BNL has been published by its founder’s sons Donald and Spencer, who serve as editor and business manager, respectively. The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awarded Hub Nitchie its Print Media Person of the Year award in 1992 and Banjo Newsletter its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2008.
Bela Fleck, Borgy Borgerson, Eddie Collins, Jim Henson and the Banjo Newsletter will be inducted into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame during gala ceremonies to be held on Friday, September 7, 2018 in Oklahoma City as part of the American Banjo Museum’s BANJO FEST weekend. In addition to the Hall of Fame gala, BANJO FEST will include informal performances, jamming, parties and a very special BANJO FEST concert. With details of this fun-filled weekend still in the works, save the dates of September 6- 8, 2018 for BANJO FEST 2018 in Oklahoma City.