I brought my father's banjo in to have the owner, John, place the bridge (I tried without luck!), and tune it up.
He expertly put the bridge in, strummed it a bit, and said it was a sweet banjo.
He said the pot and the peg head were original, pre-1920, Fairbanks Vega tubaphone, and that the neck was newer, possibly mid-60’s or so. I know that my father built banjos, and if he built this one, this banjo would be even more special to me!
Then he started playing it in earnest, and I quickly picked up my cell phone and to video him playing my father's banjo. Listening to him play brought out strong emotions in me, my father played this banjo in our home when I was a young girl, and John brought it to life!
John asked where I got the banjo, and first I told him the story of finding the fifth string peg in Olema, and then I told him how a friend of my father, Jack M., reached out to me on Facebook recently and offered to send me the banjo he bought from my father in 1963. He and his wife (who works there with him) were astonished and delighted.
He said that hadn’t heard of my father before, which he attributed to his moving to Lagunitas in 1975, after my father passed away.
Then, he exclaimed, “Wait a minute, someone came in to the shop just last weekend, and while we were talking he rattled off a bunch of names of musicians he’d played with in San Geronimo Valley years ago, and J.P. Pickens was one of the names!” He didn’t remember the guy’s name, unfortunately.
When John played the banjo, it was one of the sweetest sounds I’ve heard in a long while.