Jamie: During the Epic Road Trip with the Deering Banjo Bus in 2013 we visited the Grand Canyon and got to hear what it is like to pick on the edge! We are happy to get to share this moment with you in the video above. Playing an original tune of his called "Walking Bob" is Arthur Hancock IV on his Deering Hartford banjo. I had the chance to catch up with Arthur recently and got to reflect on this adventure, playing the banjo and what he is up to now.
What was it like to pick on the edge of the Grand Canyon?
Arthur: I am obsessed with cliffs and been known to pick on top of many different mountains and in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky near my home. It was so fun to pick by the Grand Canyon, especially since I had scurried out to a place most would consider too dangerous. The best part was after I quit picking there was a huge crowd of tourists, mostly foreigners, all blown away by the sound of the banjo reverberating off the Walls of Time!
Jamie: Yes, that was amazing. I had no idea they were there, being the one holding the camera, until they started clapping! I'm curious, what originally inspired you to pick up playing the banjo?
Arthur: I always got to see JD and Pete Rowan and all kinds of bands at places, like Meadowgreen park growing up. I remember meeting Ralph Stanley as a kid and going to Rosine with my dad. He played and I picked it up when I was 13 because I had just become fascinated by it. Traditional players specifically, but I soon fell heavily into Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyers music back then.
I don't play anywhere as much as I want to. When I was on the road with Deering I played more than I ever had in my whole life and I improved dramatically. Banjo is all about practice and practicing slow and in time. I spend more time with the horses or on a tractor now than with the 5 in my hands.
Jamie: This is a question I always like to ask. What advice would you give someone starting the banjo for the first time?
Arthur: Play slow. Play slow. Play slow. Get a good simple recording from your teacher of what you are trying to play and play with it slowly until it is perfect. Also once you get going practice the things that are hard to you, but practice them slowly. Playing the same licks fast and sloppy doesn't help you at all.
Jamie: What are you up to these days?
Arthur: Since departing the banjo bus I have returned to Kentucky to take over as manager of my families thoroughbred operation. I certainly couldn't do it without the help of all the wonderful guys we have helping us. It's funny because some of them taught me everything when I was growing up. Now I try to help wherever I need to with all the horses and odds and ends on the farm work. Every day starts before the sun rises and usually ends after the sunsets. We are currently in the middle of foaling season; the time of year when we have lots of wonderful baby horses. Managing 178 horses is quite an undertaking but it's incredibly exciting and I'm so glad to work closely with my father. We both share our work and music together... It's a dream come true .
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