Banjo for Clay Lillard

by Murrell Thixton
Posted January 31st, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Around the Sullivan Banjo Company we have a great friend that stops in to visit us on a regular basis. This friend’s name is Bob Burkett, a local banjo picker, multi-talented individual and just all around great guy. Bob not only loves to pick the banjo but he likes to tinker around in the shop on the banjo building side of the business.

Bob keeps an eye out for old banjo parts and likes to piece together banjos just to see what he can come up with. After Bob puts the instruments together you’ll generally find him giving them away to folks in need. Bob’s most recent project is one that we think our friends in the banjo community will find really interesting and heart warming.

During his latest scavenging for parts, Bob found himself with an old Oriole block rim, all the necessary metal, an old Gibson resonator (early 50’s at our best guess) and the most interesting part a prewar plectrum neck. You might ask why an old plectrum neck would be of any interest to a fellow that puts together 5 string banjos but that’s the coolest part, especially for those that like to fiddle around with banjo parts and pieces. Bob saw an opportunity to take an old discarded neck (it was actually quite a disaster, with numerous holes in the peg-head, just pretty much left for the trash bin) and turn it back into a useful neck for this parts banjo project. He started by splitting the neck in half and then inserting a piece of old growth maple between. The lamination gave him a neck blank large enough to reshape the original narrow plectrum neck into a five string banjo neck. It turned out fantastic.

Bob is originally from southwestern Virginia, a place well known for it’s large pool of traditional music loving musicians. He found out that his relative Clay Lillard had not only taken up the banjo but he had become quite accomplished at the instrument. For about the last year he has been the banjo picker for traditional bluegrass artist James King.

A number of years prior Clay lost his father suddenly. Clay’s father was a banjo player and due to circumstances (which we won’t get into here) unfortunately none of his father’s instruments found their way to Clay. Bob was aware of this situation and felt his relative deserved a fine instrument with which he could follow his vocation. Well you know how the story ends. James and his band took a little pit stop at the store but the real reason for the stop over, unbeknown to Clay, who was very pleasantly taken aback by the whole experience. Needless to say when he saw a banjo hanging on the wall with his name on the truss rod cover he was more than a little surprised!

Bob you’re one fine friend and we’re proud to know you.

Keep pickin’ that 5 Clay!

No comments currently exist for this post.
Add a comment

* Name

* Email Address

Website Address

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree