OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The American Banjo Museum in downtown Oklahoma City has announced the 2023 inductees to its Hall of Fame.
Established in 2013 as an expansion of Guthrie’s National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame, the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame seeks to honor all styles of banjo performance and promotion.
“From iconic names such as Earl Scruggs, Steve Martin, Alison Brown, 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,” said the American Banjo Museum.
Here are the 2023 inductees to the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame:
Buck Trent – Five-String Performance: Born and raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Buck Trent was performing on local radio stations by age 11. He moved to Nashville in 1959 where he joined the Bill Carlisle Band and first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry.
Stints as a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys and Porter Wagoner’s Wagon Masters set the stage for his unforgettable performances with Roy Clark on Hee Haw from 1974 to 1982. The recipient of numerous awards from the Country Music Association and Music City News, Trent joined Roy Clark as part of the first country music act to tour the Soviet Union prior to taking up a long-standing residency as one of Branson, Missouri’s premier entertainers.
Kurt Abell – Four-String Performance: Throughout a 50-plus year performance career, Kurt Abell has tirelessly worked to prove that the banjo is an instrument in a class by itself.
Career highlights include playing at the Red Garter Saloon in San Francisco in the early ’70s, television and movie appearances, a 10-year relationship with the Washboard Wizardz, headlining banjo festivals from coast to coast, performing as a jazz musician in Europe and Asia, and appearing as a guest artist with the Modesto Symphony. Abell has over a dozen recordings to his credit and most recently appeared with the Catsnjammer Jazz Band, Kurt Abell and his Rhythm Knickers, The Creole Jazz Kings, and Galen Drake & Athens Abell – LIVE. His technique of teaching banjo artistry is close to his heart but performing is his passion.
Grandpa Jones – Historical: Louis Marshall “Grandpa” Jones was born in 1913 in Niagara, Kentucky and spent his teenage years in Akron, Ohio where he began singing country music tunes on a radio show on WJW. By the late 1930s, he took on the “Grandpa” persona, learning to play banjo and joining the WLS Barn Dance in Chicago.
After serving in WWII, in 1946 Jones joined the Grand Ole Opry, becoming a mainstay of the institution for decades. However, Jones period of greatest national recognition began in 1968 when he became a regular on the long-running ‘Hee Haw‘ television program. When Grandpa Jones passed away in 1998, the banjo world lost one of its most beloved ambassadors.
Akira Tsumura – Promotion: Although born in Japan, Akira Tsumura has had a lifelong affection for American popular culture. This musically manifested itself in 1956 when Akira became interested in Dixieland jazz and acquired his first banjo. The music and instrument ignited his banjo passion and, after earning a degree from the University of Michigan, he began amassing what would become the finest and most comprehensive collection of vintage banjos ever assembled. In addition to well over 1,000 instruments, Tsumura’s collection included enough banjo related statuary and ephemera to fill several museums. His legendary book, ‘One Thousand and One Banjos‘ remains a definitive work which mirrors his passion for historically significant vintage banjos.
Norbert Pietsch – Design & Manufacture: In a small shop located in Bremen, Germany, luthier Norbert Pietsch is hand-crafting custom instruments which many players around the world consider to be the finest banjos ever made. Favoring exacting and precise specifications to mass production, Pietsch does his own woodwork, metalwork, carving, inlaying, engraving, and finishing. A one-man operation, Pietsch’s mantra is to provide the working musician with a banjo which produces full and balanced sound, is easy to play and beauty to behold. His many international supporters from Stephen DiBonaventura to Ken Aoki to Sean Moyses all feel he has achieved his goal.
The five men will be inducted into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame during the annual BANJO FEST weekend, October 12-14, in Oklahoma City.