20 March 2015

Sammy Shelor on life, music, and banjos

Sammy Shelor (photo: Ted Lehmann)

Just over a month ago the BIB was delighted to learn of the video series 'Butch Robins presents - Blue Grass music, its origin and development as a unique and creative art form'. We're now delighted to learn from Bluegrass Today that Bud Bennett of Radford University, VA, has made available nearly two further hours of talk and music by another banjo-player from the Old Dominion, under the title 'Sammy Shelor talks about life, music, and banjos'.

Sammy Shelor (Facebook) has received the IBMA Banjo Player of the Year award five times and (2011) the 2nd Annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. The videos were shot early last year, and it would have been great to see them before Shelor and his award-winning Lonesome River Band topped the bill at the 2014 Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival at Omagh.

These videos are completely different from the earlier series. Butch Robins presented an analysis of the character and development of bluegrass, based on his deep knowledge of Bill Monroe and his music. Shelor, on the other hand, recounts his career as a professional performing and recording artist in contemporary bluegrass who also has very strong roots in the rich musical traditions of his home region and a great love of old-time music - for instance, Fred Cockerham's clawhammer playing. And for instrument freaks, he talks about his banjos and his own-brand fingerpicks.

A few quotations, picked at random out of many memorable sentences:

'Your mind grows musically every day. If you let it.'
'My style of banjo playing kind of came from not being able to play like anybody else.'
'After fifteen minutes of playing this banjo [Sonny Osborne's Granada] I became a different player.'
'If it's not fun, don't do it.'

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