Traditional Banjo Track offered
2016 Monroe Mandolin Camp

We at MonManCamp have been pondering how to bring you more Monroe music to sink your teeth into.  Other than resurrecting Mr. Bill through the "Walls of Time', the answer was obvious.  We've decided to offer special tracks on other bluegrass instruments simultaneously with the mandolin classes.  The MonManCamp'16 Traditional Bluegrass Banjo track will cover some of Bill's instrumental tunes for the banjo over the years, as well as distinctions on how the banjo contributed as a backup instrument in the classic bluegrass ensemble formed with the Blue Grass Boys and Bill.  

We are proud to present this year's banjo instructor, Alan O'Bryant, banjo great from Reedsville, North Carolina.  Alan will be coaching intermediate and up students only, for an intensive look at the inner workings of traditional bluegrass banjo.  This class is an intimate size with a maximum of 15 students.  

W e asked some banjo greats and colleagues of Mike Compton's to share a few words about the impact and importance that the banjo contributed to Bill's band, and the players that have influenced them in their careers, and impacted their lives.     Enjoy reading the thoughts of some of our great banjo players of today.  

We are looking forward to seeing you at MonManCamp '16, 
September 14-18, Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, TN.  For details about the camp and to register, visit

-Mike Compton
"In my opinion, the missing element in Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys was the syncopated, yet true to melody banjo style brought into the band by Earl Scruggs.  With all the men in place now, a fresh, new sound was born to American Music.  The addition of Earl Scruggs would now set Monroe apart from his contemporaries, who were known generally as "string bands".  Earl Scruggs banjo style gave Monroe's music another voice to express the song's melody, and brought playing instrumentals to a new level.  Earl's banjo was the perfect counterpart to match Monroe's driving mandolin, and the swing of Chubby Wise and his fiddle.  Their performances and recordings sparked a quick and widespread interest amongst rural music fans, and created a completely new generation of stringed instrument players who desired to carry on the unique sound of this edition of Monroe's Bluegrass Boys.  Some of my favorite banjo players who worked as Bluegrass Boys are Don Reno, Rudy Lyles, Don Stover, Bill Keith, Jack Hicks, Bob Black and Curtis McPeake."
-Charlie Cushman
Butch has written a book and has videoed 6 hours worth of material on the role of the banjo, and his music with Bill Monroe and after.  To ask him to compact that down to a few hundred words, difficult.  Here's a "nutshell" answer: "The sound of the banjo is simply an integral part of the form.  Extraordinary ones, to my ear and personal preference, were Earl Scruggs, Rudy Lyle, and Lamar Grier.  Check out the video archives of the McConnell Library @ Redford University." 
-Butch Robbins 
  "Bill Monroe once called the five-string banjo the "Fifth Child' of his music and it is well-known that Earl Scruggs was the fifth and final band member to join what is now acknowledged as the first - and classic - Bill Monroe-led bluegrass band.  Monroe's music wouldn't be bluegrass without the presence of a Scruggs-style bluegrass banjo in the band.  Monroe had a hand in writing several classic instrumentals that he designed as "banjo numbers", such as "Bluegrass Breakdown", "Shenandoah Valley breakdown" and "Crossing The Cumberlands"  Blue Grass Boy band greats Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, Rudy Lyle, Bill Keith, Bob Black, Butch Robins, and others, helped to push Monroe's music forward as well as expand the technical and musical possibilities of the five-string banjo for the rest of us.  Having said all of this, to play Monroe's music well - really well - on the five-string banjo is a challenge: just ask Noam Pikelny.  Monroe's melodies played note-for-note on the banjo are life-long challenges and a full exploration of how Monroe's music can be successfully played on the five-string banjo is a challenging, lifelong pursuit.  That's an indication of its greatness."
-Bill Evans
"The addition of the three-finger style banjo to Bill Monroe's band in the late 1945, in the hands of Earl Scruggs, added a significant amount of fire and excitement to Monroe's music with its rapid staccato notes and distinctive sound.  It served to help "propel" and "drive" the music that Monroe had thus far developed, both rhythmically and in lead solos.  The arrival of Scruggs also served as a catalyst in forcing Monroe to "best" the banjo solos and vice versa.  Both Monroe and Scruggs played off one another in a friendly but competitive nature, and both possessed an innate desire to "drive" a band's sound.  The final ingredient to Monroe's music, the addition of the banjo ultimately tied together all of the other elements in the Blue Grass Boys.  The banjo also markedly distinguished the sound of bluegrass as a genre from the sound of other musical genres.  For me, Earl Scruggs (with guitarist Lester Flatt) and Rudy Lyle (with guitarist Jimmy Martin) come to mind as strong examples of what the banjo offered in terms of influencing, shaping, and affecting Bill Monroe's music."  
-Dave Talbot
"There is hardly anything more exciting and musically satisfying for me than being part of a bluegrass band.  This could be playing with others for my own enjoyment of taking an audience through the range of emotion that a good performance can create.  This is the dynamic process of action and reaction of musicians with each other and the folks listening.
I think it was Monroe's genius and good fortune to surround himself with the players he inspired and in turn inspired him.  Lightening must have surely struck the elements in place when Earl Scruggs joined Bill's band, the sound became defined and assumed a life force of it's own.  Since then, Bill Monroe's music, the bluegrass band and the banjo have been joined at the hip.
As a young man I remember hearing and seeing Bill Monroe's band and thinking, "this is truly an incredible time to be alive and get to see this."  I later had the good fortune to spend time with him, play music with, and perform in his band.  Once again, I pinched myself and thought, "I can't believe I get to do this."  I've been doing this for 40 some years now and the truth is, I think it's incredible anytime I get to do it, especially with players so directly influenced and inspired by Bill Monroe as Mike Compton.  I look forward to the Monroe Mandolin Camp." 
- Alan O'Bryant (our 2016 Traditional Banjo Track Instructor)
"I feel that the banjo in the hands of Earl Scruggs led to a rebirth for Bill Monroe and his music. Before 3 finger style, Bill's music was wonderful, but it wasn't close to what it would become.  The fancy 3 finger picking was that hook that was needed for this music to reach out and become truly incredible.  There are many examples of small groups that have rocked the world of music.  In Jazz, Rock, and Bluegrass, a small group can raise an awful lot of dust!  The leaser creates the place for it to happen, and is brave enough to surround himself with musicians that are his equal.  When Earl left, Bill was fortunate once again that Earl had ignited a banjo revolution, so Bill had no shortage of incredible players to recruit for his bands as time ripened them.  My favorites include Bill Keith and Jack Hicks, maybe because they were such creative players that found a way to thrive musically within the tight restraints of Bill's band.  And he gave those guys a lot of rope, partly because of his deep respect for their musicianship, but also because he had learned a long time back from Earl Scruggs that the right banjo player could lead to rebirth for his music." 
- Bela Fleck 
" Bill Monroe loved the fiddle. He said, "Charlie played guitar, Burch had the fiddle, so I had to play mandolin." The influence of Uncle Pen lasted throughout his life and the body of work from a creative standpoint was in favor of fiddle and mandolin tunes. A banjo picker would have to "steal" a tune there. Fiddle dominated the music throughout the years and he called the banjo the fifth child of Bluegrass. Maybe he was attempting to downplay the awesome popularity of Earl Scruggs. Maybe he didn't want the banjo to get too much attention. Either way, Monroe's music was unique and the banjo play more of a supportive role. I usually rolled with the fiddle and chopped rhythm when Bill was playing back up or a break. He really emphasized playing the melody. He also tried to keep his sound intact by not letting swing or jazz infiltrate the breaks. Bill was the driving force in American Bluegrass and a creative genius, For this old country boy, it was quite a ride."  
- Blake Williams

"In some of the filming we did for the Earl Scruggs Center, Earl speaks about his early days of playing what has become known as the "Scruggs Style".  He says "I knew I was doing something different.  I didn't know if anyone would like it or not."  Earl's legacy is not just that he was a great banjo player.  It's what he did with the banjo that created that legacy.  He helped change the way people thought about the banjo and helped shape an entire genre of music.  That was never his intent but it is what happened.  When Earl joined Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in 1945, that is the moment many historians and musicians say bluegrass music was born.  It was the addition of Earl's banjo and the way he played and how he and Monroe responded to what the other was doing that began to create a shift in this music.  People went nuts that night at the Ryman and you began to see other bands copy Monroe and his Boys by adding banjo to the mix and seeing more bands playing that style of music.  Earl was never tied to a genre or type of music but instead went where his music led him.  Whether he was playing the Grand Ole Opry or joining folk artists like Joan Baez, sitting down with Ravi Shankar or playing in the Revue, he always brought something new to the mix.  He was known for his willingness to try new things with his music and for his innovation.  His impact is worldwide and I believe will be lasting as will this style of music as it continues to be passed through the generations as people share the legacy of the "founding fathers" such as what we are doing at the Earl Scruggs Center and what you are doing for Bill Monroe.  What a gift these two men have left for the world and what a responsibility and honor to help share it!"
-Emily Epley, Executive Director of the Earl Scruggs Center
 to register for the Banjo Track or Mandolin Camp, and for all the details about our 
our camp.

Monroe Mandolin Camp, LLC 
PO Box 2222, Mt. Juliet, TN 37121 

Sponsors and Partners