About Me

Joel Hooks Banjo Live

Photo by Tony Thomas

A native of north Texas, I grew up just like any normal boy from the suburbs of Dallas in the 90’s.  Punk rock, skateboards, mohawk haircuts, you know the usual.

Sometime in my late teens I was drawn to a Silvertone Banjo that my Dad had in his closet.  At the time, the internet was lousy, and the only form of Banjo related music that I was aware of was bluegrass.  

So bluegrass it was, that is, until it got boring.  So the Banjos (I had added a 70’s  Japanese “masterclone” to the mix) went into their cases. 

Then, some years ago, I got involved in living history (fancy words for dressing up in funny clothes and pretending it is the 19th century).  At these events I was exposed to some great musicians playing even better music.  

 Thinking to myself, hey, I used to play the banjo, I went home and retrieved the old machine.  Armed with new strings, and a renewed interest, I began the quest to learn how to play like the “old timers”

I asked some of the musicians I knew how I should go about learning historical Banjo.  The answers I got were to get modern books.  

Instead of going the modern book route, I decided to learn from the same sources that people used in the 19th century.  I started with the early “minstrel” tutors.  Eventually I moved on to the late 19th century “guitar" style.

Interestingly, the type of music I was playing did not resemble what had been presented to me as “authentic.”  While I had heard “old time” music, my research provided a very progressive sound.  Marches, polkas, schottisches, waltzes, Quicksteps etc. 

In 2011 I made a big move to New Hampshire.  I also became heavily involved with the American Banjo Fraternity (ABF).  The ABF is a group with a living tradition that can trace a direct link back to the earliest professional banjoists, including Frank B. Converse.  I recommend joining for anyone interested in banjo playing.

© Joel Hooks 2020