Podcast 112: Author and Banjo Expert Bob Carlin

There are some books that belong on every fretted instrument fan’s shelf. Nacho Baños’ Blackguard tome. Richard Johnston’s Martin Guitars: A History. Tom Wheeler’s Stratocaster Chronicles. Even if you don’t own a Tele, a D-28 or a Strat, these books are informative, interesting and bound to fill your brain with details you won’t soon forget, long after you’ve lost track of where you left your car keys, your significant other’s birthday, etc.

I’d argue that Bob Carlin’s Banjo: An Illustrated History belongs on your bookshelf, too, regardless of your stance on the five-stringed instrument. On today’s Fretboard Journal Podcast, I talk to Carlin about this expansive coffee table book, the process of writing it and how it all came together.

Over the course of this book’s 250 photo-heavy pages, Carlin walks us through the history of the banjo, from its African roots up through the Industrial age, the minstrel era, ragtime and bluegrass. He also introduces us to some of the banjo world’s larger-than-life performers, luthiers and collectors. Listen to today’s podcast to hear how this project began, what banjos didn’t make the cut and more. We also talk about the new guard of open-back banjo makers, including Jason Romero, Doc’s Banjos and Kevin Enoch.


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