It’s spring, and that means it’s time for me to sit on the front porch and play the banjo. Some mysterious quality of the banjo makes it an outdoor instrument. It’s kind of like how a saxophone sounds best in a smoky, dimly lit bar, or how an accordion sounds best as it is being thrown in a dumpster. A banjo just isn’t the same when it’s in a comfy, climate-controlled room.

It’s spring, and that means it’s time for me to sit on the front porch and play the banjo. Some mysterious quality of the banjo makes it an outdoor instrument. It’s kind of like how a saxophone sounds best in a smoky, dimly lit bar, or how an accordion sounds best as it is being thrown in a dumpster. A banjo just isn’t the same when it’s in a comfy, climate-controlled room.


Maybe this comes from the banjo’s history. The instrument has its roots in traditional African music, brought into the United States by slaves. It grew in popularity among the poor and disenfranchised, mostly because it was a very easy instrument to make by hand. A banjo, technically, is just a drum with a neck and strings attached to it. Before the Civil War, almost all banjos were homemade.


Then, in the late 19th century, banjos took off. They were featured heavily in minstrel shows. At these shows, many upper class folks were first introduced to banjo music, which started a kind of craze. The instrument was mass produced for the first time and played by people all across the social spectrum. It became fashionable for the young and wealthy to join banjo clubs, where they would play arrangements of classical music.


But the banjo had its largest impact when it remained in the hands of everyday people. There it played foundational roles in folk, country, bluegrass, blues and early jazz. Much of what we now consider American music wouldn’t be the same without the banjo.



Happy birthday Friday to Janet Sall and Jane Dodson, both of Tom Bean; Karla Martin and Dee Cawthon, both of Denison; Brynn Avery Blevins, De Sisemore and Mary Oveturf, all of Sherman; Brad Sisemore of Pottsboro; William Chudyk of Norman, Okla.; Diane Weston Hudson of Woodville, Texas; Darrion Brownlow of New Braunfels; Retha Nell Thomason of Greenville; Doug Hepner of Madill, Okla.


Happy birthday Saturday to David Hartwig, Rosemary Tasker, Genevieve Wald, Felicia Walker, Paula Berrier and Phillip Morrison, all of Sherman; Kenneth Howell of Arlington; Allen Tillett and Laura Chancellor, both of Tom Bean; Aiden Howdeshell of Bonham; Jessica Tolbert of Angleton; Norma McWhorter of Greenville; Charles Robert York of Fort Worth; Diane York Wigington of Arlington; Jerry Wayne Blair of Whitesboro; Marcus Roy Pritchett of Denton; Martha Ryan of Roanoke; Nolen Peeples of Luella; Kanya Jackson of Whitewright; Leisha Hardy of Ivanhoe.


Happy anniversary Saturday to Josh and Lindsey Arrington of Gunter, 1 year.