Here are ten 6 string banjo songs that showcase the history and versatilty of the instrument. The banjo in these songs is one of the primary instruments used (in some cases the only instrument used) and is not just a faint banjo sound buried in the background of the mix. You can see that these songs range from recordings from the 1920’s to today. They also range in styles from traditional jazz, blues, old time, country, and rock. There are no limits for the 6 string banjo.There are many other songs where the 6 string banjo is an essential part of the song. This list is just a snapshot of a few. Let us know of others in the comments section below!
1. Taylor Swift - Mean
Taylor Swift’s song “Mean” was featured on her 2011 album Speak Now. This song made it to #11 on the Billboard charts. Taylor Swift used her Deering Boston 6-String Acoustic/Electric banjo on this recording. She first performed this song live at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in 2011. She also performed this song at the 2012 Grammy Awards.
2. Keith Urban - Somebody Like You
Keith Urban uses his Deering Boston 6-string banjo on a number of songs, but the banjo was really in focus both in the song and in the video for his 2002 song “Somebody Like You”. This song was the first single for his 2002 Album Golden Road.
3. Johnny St. Cyr - Got No Blues - Louis Armstrong Hot Fives
Johnny St. Cyr is one of the earliest 6-string banjoists to be recorded and used the banjo on a number of very important recordings for American music. Most notably would be the use of the banjo on the Louis Armstrong Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings. Although he is a sideman here and Louis Armstrong’s cornet is the primary instrument, one tune on these recordings the banjo takes the opening lick and lick during breaks. This tune is Got No Blues. Take a listen.
4. Danny Barker - Eh La Bas
Danny Barker is one of New Orleans’ most beloved musicians and was a very accomplished banjoist, guitarist, and songwriter. One tune that the 6 string banjo really works well on is the old Creole tune Eh La Bas. Eh Las Bas showcases some of the Caribbean elements that soaked into early New Orleans jazz.
5. Eric Church - Creepin
Eric Church is one of today’s Country music superstars and used his Deering Boston 6-string Acoustic/Electric banjo on his 2012 hit single “Creepin”.
6. Sylvester Weaver - Six String Banjo Piece (1927) Unissued
Born in 1896 in Louisville, Kentucky, Sylvester Weaver was the first blues guitarist to ever be recorded. Along the way he used the 6 string banjo a few times on recordings. One such time was in 1927 on an unissued piece without a proper name. This piece displays the history of the 6 string banjo as well as its great fit for fingerstyle blues playing.
7. Harvey Reid - Jesse James
Harvey Reid is one of the top fingerstyle guitar players on the scene. Harvey has used both the 6 string and 12 string banjo on a number of recordings. Harvey even made an album dedicated to the 6 string banjo entitled The Artistry of the 6 String Banjo. “Jesse James” is one tune that Harvey plays on the 6 string banjo that shows the versatility of this instrument. “Jesse James” is an old time tune that is usually played clawhammer style on a 5 string banjo. Here Harvey uses a clawhammer style to play this tune on a Deering Maple Blossom 6-string banjo.
8. Reverend Gary Davis - Please Baby
One of my personal favorite fingerstyle blues guitarists, Reverend Gary Davis also used the 6 string banjo a fair amount. One recording that I particularly like that he uses the 6 string banjo on is “Please Baby”.
9. Joe Satriani - The Feeling
Joe Satriani is one of the biggest selling instrumental rock guitarists of all time. He has also used the 6 string banjo on a number of his recordings, most notably the album Flying In a Blue Dream which was released in 1989. This album featured the instrumental “The Feeling” which Joe Satriani performed live on MTV’s Unplugged.
10. Kacey Musgraves - Merry Go Round
Kacey Musgraves used her Deering Boston 6-string Acoustic/Electric banjo on the debut single “Merry Go Round” from her 2013 album Same Trailer Different Park which won a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Country Album and a 2014 ACM Award for Album of the Year.