Banjo ready for action…

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Older fans who remember Don’s 1970s concerts will be delighted to know that he is definitely going to play this instrument during his upcoming British shows.

He is bringing a specially modified long neck banjo that has been custom made for him by Vega.

Those who’ve read the biography will know that, aged 16, Don McLean became friends with Erik Darling of the Weavers and would visit his apartment in NY, talk about music and play his various instruments. On one occasion Darling allowed Don to borrow and take home his most precious banjo – a specially designed long neck Vega. The banjo that Don has had custom made, and which he will be playing on this tour, is an exact replica of Darling’s banjo.

Earlier this year, shortly after Don took delivery of the new banjo, he was browsing the classified section of Mandolin Magazine and to his amazement there in the “For Sale” section was Erik Darling’s original custom Vega banjo. In the late 60s, Darling had fallen on difficult times and had sold his prize possession to a New York stockbroker who’d been taking lessons. Of course, Don wasted no time and completed the purchase!

11 thoughts on “Banjo ready for action…

  1. I know that many fans will be overjoyed to read this. I know Don told us he was having a new banjo made when we talked to him in Ireland in 2005, but apart from one isolated sighting at a concert in the US earlier in the year there was no sign of it ‘touring’.

    What chance ‘Babylon’ at the Albert Hall…??? 🙂

  2. Great news about the banjo coming with Don on tour.Its such a long time since we’ve heard it.
    But why only Babylon at the RAH Bill? what about all the other concerts too?I’m hoping for others such as Careless Love or maybe Shenandoah that would just be beautiful .Whatever we get it will be fantastic.Only two weeks to go Hurray.

  3. Some background on the Vega Long-neck Banjo….

    The Vega Long Neck Banjo was first created for folk singers that wanted to be able to sing in keys
    that would have to be played up the fingerboard on a conventional banjo neck.

    The 25 fret Long Neck
    enables the player to play an E tuning in the open position: E,A,E,G#,B. This low tuned banjo is not
    only beautiful sounding as a solo instrument, but it does accompany the voice with a deep, full and yet
    sparkling sound. When a capo is applied to the third fret, the banjo becomes a standard G tuning and
    the string length is then the same length as any 22-fret five-string banjo.

    Artists like Pete Seeger (said to have “invented” the Longneck by sawing the original headstock off of a standard banjo, inserting the extra lenth and regluing it) and Dave Guard (of the Kingston Trio) were the first long neck banjo players and have inspired generations
    of banjoists to play the sweet and versatile long neck banjos.

    The Vega Long Neck is made with Deering’s hand made, classic Tub-ba-phone tone-ring. The solid
    brass bracket band is hand fitted to the three-ply rim. This pot design gives the Vega Long Neck Banjo
    a round full tone that sustains with a pure and clear sparkle.

    The Long Neck has 25 frets in the ebony fingerboard. The neck is full yet fast in the Vega tradition
    and the geared fifth string peg is mounted near the 8th fret. The neck is made from curly maple, stained
    with a dark walnut stain and a high gloss finish. It is fitted to the rim with two solid brass coordinator
    rods in the same way they were in the 50’s and 60’s.

  4. Excuse the ignorance of a non technical person (at least about guitars and banjos) but was the banjo Don played in the 70s a ‘long-neck’ banjo. It looks pretty long in the picture but……??

  5. Yes Bill it was. I saw him play 3 different concerts with a vega long kneck or better known as a frailing banjo in the Dallas area. I was at the Mobile concert earlier this year, I wish he would have debued it then.

  6. Bill,

    Hope you and the all the fans will get a great surprise in Royal Albert Hall. This is one of the venue I would love to be see DM in concert. In my past posting I did write that his solo performance that I saw on TV (when I was 16+) is ingrained in my mind!!

    Enjoy and do do a few YouTube recording…

  7. I have seen Don play the Long-neck Banjo in Concert many moons ago. I can only hope Don plays the Banjo in Liverpool any song would be great but Babylon Fantastic !!

  8. Hi…I’m Bob and I’m constructing a long neck banjo from scratch..I am having trouble finding the measurements from the 1st to the 8th fret…would you mind measuring one of yours for me and giving me those deminsions and scale Thanks Bob Bailey Sarasota Florida

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