Banjo Crazy was created in 2008, when musician Paul Roberts became affiliated with the Gold Tone Musical Instrument Company. At that time, Gold Tone had just brought cello banjos back into existence after these large, low-tuned instruments had become all but extinct for nearly a century. Cello banjos had originally been played in early banjo ensembles. When the popularity of these ensembles began to fade, there was no longer a need to manufacture cello banjos.
Fast forward to our day and age: Musician Marcy Marxer was instrumental in bringing cello banjos back to life. Mike Seeger had loaned Marcy his vintage Gibson cello banjo, and Marcy began playing wonderful music on it, using it like an octave mandolin/melody instrument; something that had not been envisioned when these instruments were first created.
Here's where banjo maestro Bob Carlin entered the picture. Marcy Marxer's use of the cello banjo attracted the attention of Carlin, who had become affiliated with Gold Tone, as the creator of the Carlin banjos. He directed the attention of Gold Tone president Wayne Rogers to what Marcy was doing with the instrument, and this ignited Rogers' imagination. And the move was on for Gold Tone to bring cello banjos back into existence.
I came on the scene with Gold Tone after many years performing as a global music, multi-instrumentalist and composer. When Rogers brought me together with the 4 and 5-string cello banjo that Gold Tone was starting to produce, I immediately became very attracted to them and began incorporating them into my music. In fact, for many years they became the focal point of my music. Because I was so inspired by cello banjos I conveyed my enthusiasm to other, becoming an early advocate of the instrument.
After some time, I developed a modification for the instrument, whereby the neck is repositioned to raise the fingerboard above the head and using a taller bridge. The result is a more parallel relationship between the strings and the head, and further distance between the strings and head. This "neck-lift" mod results in much better access to the full tonal spectrum along the string, between the bridge and the rim. For me, this modification has served to expand variety and richness of tones that cello banjos are capable of producing. Ron Chacey helped me introduce the "neck-lift" to others, by coming up with the idea and executing it on my cello banjos. Later, I had Gold Tone luthiers perform the modification on banjos for some of my customers who felt that this would upgrade the instrument, as I did.
Here are a couple of my original cello banjo compositions, playing CEB-5 cello banjos with neck-lifts.
Wild Geese Flying on the CEB-5 Cello Banjo
Harvest Moon on the CEB-5 Cello Banjo
Paul Roberts and his father, renowned neurobiochemist Dr. Eugene Roberts. Photo taken at the Folk Music Center in Claremont, California.