For our thirtieth issue of the FJ, I was lucky enough to interview legendary comedian/actor/superstar Steve Martin. Martin is currently on tour with the Steep Canyon Rangers and Edie Brickell, but that was only a smart part of our conversation. Martin has been living and breathing banjos and bluegrass music for the last 50 years and, in typical FJ fashion, I wanted to dig deeper and talk instruments, influences and more.
Among the stories he described to me was his time spent writing for The Glen Campbell Show. “Every week, there was John Hartford and Glenn singing ‘Gentle on My Mind.’ And it was different every week,” Martin says. “There was John’s great banjo playing, doing a double-thumbing banjo, and it just sounded so good.” What made this memory even more poignant is that Martin was telling it while holding the Gibson RB-18 that belonged to Hartford (and, before that, Roger Sprung). Martin actually brought several of his favorite banjos to the interview for us to photograph—but that historic top-tension banjo was one of the highlights (and he sounded fantastic on it).
After interviewing Martin, I approached some of his banjo-toting associates such as John McEuen, Noam Pikelny and Tony Trischka. Everyone had a good Martin banjo tale to share. The feature stretched into a 20-page cover story. I’ve met a lot of great musicians and personalities over the years, but chatting with Martin was a career highlight. Subscribe today and we’ll make sure you get the new issue.