The American Banjo Museum in the Bricktown area of Oklahoma City is serious about banjos. And they don't want to mislead you about what's inside. This place is chock full of wall-to-wall banjos. Everywhere you look, guess what? Banjos! So when it came time to give it the ol' Top 5 treatment, we got into full "banjo mode!"
It's worth mentioning that I don't know anything about banjos or banjo music so if/when I get some detail wrong please go easy on me. And with that plea for mercy, here's the Top 5 Banjos at the American Banjo Museum:
5. Hummingbird by Renee Karnes
If you don't think about banjos that much then you probably never think about how banjos are made. But it's a unique art form and someone who is particularly good at it as Renee Karnes. She was inducted into the Banjo Hall of Fame in the "Design & Manufacture" category in 2005. This is one of her creations.
4. Gibson Bass Banjo
I don't know if I've ever seen or heard of one of these but it seems like it would fill the same role as a standard upright bass in a musical group. I don't think I've ever seen footage of it being played and I'm genuinely curious as to what it sounds like.
3. Roy Clark's Banjo
You might remember (depending on your age) the legendary Roy Clark as one of the hosts of Hee Haw but he's also a very prolific musician, member of the Grand Ole Opry, and an inductee in the Country Music Hall of Fame. He also lived in Tulsa and sang at (fellow Oklahoman) Mickey Mantle's funeral. This is one of his many banjos.
2. Gilbrech Automatic Banjo Entertainer
You're probably thinking to yourself, "That doesn't look like a banjo!?!" And you're right it doesn't. The museum describes it as "a one-of-a-kind banjo curiosity!" It's essentially the equivalent of a player piano. It was made to play on its own, no banjo player necessary. That's the kind of banjo I could play.
1. Smokey Montgomery's Banjo
Whenever I try to fake my way through a banjo conversation (it happens more than you'd think), I play the "Smokey Montgomery card." The reason is because he's one of the few banjo players I've actually heard of. He was a member of the "Light Crust Doughboys" and I worked on a documentary project involving his work a few years back so I was pleased to see one of his banjos here.
So the next time you're in the mood for some pickin' and grinnin' you know just where to go to create you're own favorites list.