Each year since 1998 has afforded the American Banjo Museum the opportunity to honor the best of the best in the banjo world with 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. In its infancy, the museum itself was 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 gone unrecognized 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 must 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.
With each passing year, the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame grows in acceptance and stature among the worldwide banjo community. The inclusive nature of its mission is seen through its honoring of a diverse body of banjo notables. From iconic names such as Earl Scruggs, Steve Martin and Belá Fleck to little known – yet equally important – contributors to the art or industry of the banjo, the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame continues to recognize those who have shaped the banjo’s colorful past, exciting present and unlimited future. Like past recipients, honorees for 2020 have each displayed a lifelong commitment to the banjo in one of five categories. The American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame inductees for 2020 are:
GARY “BISCUIT” DAVIS - Five-String Performance - Davis began playing banjo at age 10. He was Tennessee State Champion by the age of twelve and since then he has been two-time Kentucky State Champion, four-time Alabama State Champion and National Banjo Champion on four separate occasions...first in 1979 at age 16 – then again in 1988, 1996 and 2012. Davis began playing professionally at age 13 in Chattanooga and later he moved to Pigeon Forge in 1988 where he joined Jim and Charlie Smith‘s Southstar Band and Dollywood. There he evolved to be the band leader and record producer for Dolly Parton. Davis currently performs daily at Dolly’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Theater while teaching private banjo and guitar lessons and traveling to host banjo instruction clinics and concerts throughout the year.
ED “FAST EDDIE” ERICKSON - Four-String Performance - "Fast Eddie" Erickson began his banjo/guitar career in the San Jose, California area in the mid 1960s performing at Capone's Warehouse and Disneyland. From there Ed went to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando where he was featured in the Class of '27 show, starred in the Banjo Kings in the Magic Kingdom and, from 1978 to 1983, led the Riverboat Rascals show band on board Disney's Empress Lilly Showboat in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. A beloved musician/entertainer in the classic jazz world, Erickson continues to be a featured performer at countless jazz festivals, parties, and concerts around the world.
DON RENO - Historical - A product of the North Carolina concentration of bluegrass banjo pioneers, Don Reno’s banjo playing stands proudly as one of the most innovative and recognizable five-string banjo styles of all time. Influenced by old-time banjo player, Snuffy Jenkins, Reno developed his own three-finger "single-string" style that allowed him to play scales and complicated fiddle tunes note-for-note. As a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys and the banjoist who brought the iconic Dueling Banjos to life, the name Don Reno will be forever tied to innovative and musical banjo playing.
GEOFF STELLING – Design & Manufacture - Since 1959, while still in high school, Geoff Stelling has been either playing the banjo or trying to improve on its design. His Stelling Banjo Works was established in 1974 while Geoff was at a Naval Base in San Diego. As a semi-professional banjoist in various bluegrass bands since the mid-60’s, Geoff developed an ear for banjo tone and experimented with the mechanics of banjo construction until he patented the revolutionary designs which his banjos are famous for today. Included among Stelling’s innovations are his wedge-fitted pot assembly, the “pivot-pin” tailpiece, and compensated bridges and nut assemblies. Combined with the simple elegance of Stelling’s visual dynamic, his contributions to sound and playability make Geoff Stelling’s banjos internationally revered.
ROGER SPRUNG - Instruction & Education - An argument could be made that Roger Sprung was the first progressive five-string banjoist. While his contemporaries in the bluegrass world were experimenting with swing in the 1940s and 50s, Sprung was expanding the acceptable banjo repertoire to include swing, ragtime, pop and classical styles as well. Credited with introducing bluegrass banjo techniques to the folk music world, Roger’s eclectic musical influence is reflected today in players such as Bela Fleck while Sprung himself continues to explore new and exciting musical possibilities for the banjo.
Gary Davis, Ed Erickson, Don Reno, Geoff Stelling and Roger Sprung will be inducted into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame during gala ceremonies to be held on Friday, September 11th, 2020 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 10-12, 2020 for BANJO FEST 2020 in Oklahoma City.