INSTRUMENTAL: 1968 Kay Banjo

I decided that I needed to “find myself” by traveling the world righting wrongs Kwai Chang Caine style until I found my “center”. I struck out on a long walk westward carrying only my favorite Moleskine and a freshly sharpened pencil. The next thing I knew I had been gang-pressed into the crowd at a Jill Stein rally wearing a dog-chewed clown mask and holding a poster emblazoned with the message " Hagbard for President 2016 " on the front and the single word "fnord" on the back. After much back and forth with the Stein campaign, I reluctantly agreed to leave. Only after I forced them to give me a case "Make America Great Again" bumper stickers and a Schylling Martain.

In 1967 Easton Turpentine of Webster, NC was given this Kay Banjo as a 17th birthday gift. After graduating High School five months later, he disappeared with it and a suitcase of supplies for the first of many trips he would take playing the Appalachian Bluegrass circuit. Sometimes he would wander as far west as Pikeville and Spring City Tennessee. Most of the time he kept to the towns along the Appalachian Mountains, place like Unahala, Alarka, Stecoah, Dugspur, Galax small places with either a church, community center, or road house where people got together and played “old-timey” bluegrass until the sun came up in the morning.

What is the Make/Model?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve always just called her “Kay.” Having that named saved my butt a time or two. After the show all the girls would come up and crowd around us musicians. I guess we were about the only people they were likely to meet that didn’t live within 25 miles or wasn’t kin in some way and some of these girls saw us musicians as a ticket out of town. At the time, it being the 70s and all, all us guys played along hoping to see a little action. I tired to stay away from any of these girls who were, let’s say, attached after this time in Macedonia Georgia when this redhead’s husband and all this brothers nearly killed me for getting a little too close to his wife. After that any time after the show I would be on the lookout for anyone that looked like a spurned boyfriend or husband and if it looked like I was about to get my butt stomped, I could say “Well, I gotta get back to Kay,” and make for the exit.

What is your history with the banjo?

I got this banjo in 1967 from my Uncle Verdan who made me promise to graduate high school in exchange. You know their was a war on at the time and I guess he was afraid I might drop out of school and join the Army or some fool thing. Of course, what he didn’t realize was that I wasn’t interested in leaving the mountains to go off and die on the other side of the world. My Daddy was killed in Korea five months before I was born and Verdan and Aunt Daisy help my mom raise me, so I guess he felt like I was one of his kids.

Why this one?

It was the only new banjo at the Buck’s Pawn in Sylva. I had been playing this old banjo I found in a barn for about two years. It had a crack in the neck and every time I picked it up, I wondered if that would be the last time I ever played. We were poor and the idea of paying $20 for a used banjo was just the same as paying a million dollars for a banjo. I guess Uncle Verd picked it because it was new and it would be one of the few new things I had ever had in my life.

Any good war stories?

Funny thing, I traveled so much with this that all the shows almost melt into one. I guess my favorite times with it was when I first got it. I would listen to the radio and try to imitate the music I heard. That’s when I really go to know her and know that I hold on to her until I couldn’t hold on any more. Of course there was that time Earl Scruggs picked her up accident at show in Boone North Carolina and I thought he was stealing her. I ran him down and before I could put fist to face, cooler heads prevailed and everyone realized that the band just picked up Kay because the case almost exactly like one of Scruggs backup instruments. I probably got lucky that day. There was only one of me and about six of them.