The Art Of The Gourd Banjo

my left-handed fretless cherry wood gourd banjo

I’ve played old-time music for 15+ years. Often, in the late afternoon, I can be found sitting out on my deck, watching the sun disappear beneath the redwoods while playing a tune from West Virginia or the Round Peak area of North Carolina. From the banjo, old sounds of a half-forgotten past filter through the air.

I was introduced to the banjo by my close friend Martin Simpson. He played me a recording of Dock Boggs’ Country Blues. To this day, that song still haunts me in the best way possible. I have also had the good fortune of learning the banjo from one of my dear friends and musical heroes, the inimitable Jody Stecher.

I have always been attracted to the sounds of the gourd banjo, which is exactly what it sounds like – a banjo made from a gourd (think: veggie with a neck!) For years, I have played a banjo made by Bob Thornburg from Bishop, California. It has served me well, but like all organic things, has started to revert back to its more original, compostable state. When I decided that I wanted a replacement, I turned to Jeff Menzies, a wonderful banjo maker (and lovely human being) from Toronto, Canada.

Jeff approaches his art and his craft with boundless energy, love, and precise attention to detail. Having him create a superb gourd banjo for me has been nothing short of a joyous experience. For anyone interested in a banjo built with love and expert skill, I can unreservedly recommend Jeff’ Menzies. Feel free to tell him I sent you…

Jeff’s website:

A short biography on Jeff can be found at:

A very nice history of the gourd banjo can be found here:

Here is a sound sample of me playing my Jeff Menzies banjo.   Groundhog


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