Can the sound of a banjo change your life? It did for this Tulsa man

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TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- The original song, the one that hooked Rob Bishline, was 'Dueling Banjos' from the movie 'Deliverance'.

Rob Bishline was 13 years old when he first heard it, and it was a moment that changed his life.

"When I heard that sound I thought, 'this is it,'" he recalls. "I love this sound."

The construction of an instrument mirrors his own development.

A block of wood starts it off.

Bishline mowed lawns until he earned enough to walk into Service Merchandise and buy one.

Rob says, "My parents were like, 'Do you think he's okay? Should we have him checked out?'"

After that he just played and played.

Rob learned his way around a banjo so well he started making them.

Bishline Banjo was the straight string he followed right to where he is now.

"I was teaching banjo in a music store and making banjos on the side," he says. "Then I started selling more of the banjos."

A few years ago he moved into an old prosthetic leg factory and formed it to his own musical purposes.

He might make 120 banjos in a year, most of them high-end with lots of inlay and intricate wood grain.

The tone is the same one he heard as kid.

Rob agrees, "Oh yeah. It never goes away.'

Of course Rob knows all the banjo jokes ever told.

"What's the difference between jumping on a banjo and jumping on a trampoline?" asks Rob.

The answer, "You take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline."

While his son teaches lessons in the other room and the work of making great banjos continues, Rob keeps his sense of humor.

"The definition of a gentleman," smiles Rob, "Is a person who can play a banjo but doesn't."

When you're secure of your place in the world, when you know you can do one thing better than just about anyone else, a few jokes about a funny little instrument bounce right off.

They're drowned out by the kind of happy tune than only a banjo can produce.

Bishline Banjo is located at 4633 East 33rd St. in Tulsa.

For more information about the business go to

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