PBS Arts from the Blue Ridge Mountains: Give Me the Banjo on WXXI-TV

PBS Arts from the Blue Ridge Mountains: Give Me the Banjo on WXXI-TV

Sun, 11/06/2011 - 2:00pm

This film explores the roots of American music — the minstrel show, ragtime and early jazz, blues, old-time, folk, bluegrass and country.

WXXI's PBS Arts Fall Festival continues with Give Me the Banjo, airing Sunday, November 6 at 2 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11). Narrated by actor/comedian/banjoist Steve Martin, and guided by modern banjo masters such as Earl Scruggs, Pete Seeger, Bela Fleck, Mike Seeger, Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Abigail Washburn, Give Me the Banjo explores American music from minstrelsy, ragtime and blues, to folk and bluegrass. In addition to musicians, a mix of folklorists, historians, instrument makers and passionate amateurs tells stories of America’s instrument in all its richness and diversity. Rare stills, first-hand narratives, archival footage, and recordings of historic banjo figures surround and expand on the expert commentary.

Give Me the Banjo was directed by Emmy® Award-winning writer/producer Marc Fields. Banjo master Tony Trischka, one of the most acclaimed acoustic musicians of his generation, served as music director. Michael Kantor is executive producer. Nine years in the making, the production traveled to 14 states; more than 350 hours of interviews and performances were filmed.

“What we found compelling, and what drove this project from the inception, is the fact that you can really get a new perspective on the story of American popular music with the banjo as the vehicle,” says Fields. “It truly cuts across all categories and boundaries of race, class, region, or genre. The instrument is at the root of roots music and at the crossroads where folk tradition meets commercialism, yet it’s still struggling for the respect and serious attention it deserves.”

Accompanying Give Me the Banjo, is a short documentary film produced by member station UNC-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina. This film explores the work of four Blue Ridge Mountain artists — wood carver Davy Arch, metal worker Bill Brown, potter Mark Peters and basket maker Billie Ruth Sudduth — capturing the traditions of their crafts while tapping into the creative forces that inspire more abstract expressionism.

Pictured: Steve Martin
Credit: Sandee O