Pete Ross [see
Ross and Jubilee Gourd Banjos
Scott Didlake used to say that he was "building the newest oldest banjo." That
heritage has passed to his apprentice Pete Ross. Scott had been diagnosed with
Lou Gerhig’s disease when he met the young Pete Ross who called on him in Mississippi.
The two immediately established a bond, having a common interest in gourd banjos
in addition to shared idealistic values. Pete was soon apprenticed and learned
how to make banjos with Scott¹s methodologies. Although Pete has continued to
improve upon the design of instruments that Scott was building at the end of
his life, he has also expanded his interest to re-creating banjos as they may
have existed in early America. Through painstaking research in the materials,
tools and skills, music, art, instruments, and sociology of those times, he has
been able to reproduce gourd banjos such as those depicted in the artworks "Liberty
Displaying the Arts and Sciences" (1792) and "The Old Plantation" (ca. 1800),
primarily using period tools and materials. More than just a luthier building
reproductions, Pete’s work functions as an ongoing research project. In addition
to unearthing formerly unknown written accounts and images of the early banjo,
the work on the reproductions themselves is a method to clarify the nature of
the banjo from this nearly lost segment of its history.
Pete now lives and works
in Baltimore. He has been playing and building gourd banjos since 1991. He
has made instruments for many players including Joe Ayers, Bob Carlin, West
Musician Cheick Hamala Diabate. Many of his banjos have been exhibited and
become part of museum collections; including The Musical Instrument Museum
the traveling Banjo in Virginia exhibit; Colonial Williamsburg; Appomattox
State Court House (site of the Joe Sweeney historical marker); University of
and many others. Pete is currently working on the only reproduction banjo
being used in the Birth of the Banjo exhibit which is traveling from the Katonah
of Art in New York to the Corcoran Museum of Art in Washington D.C. He is
contributing a short essay on the gourd banjo for the exhibit catalog.
Information on purchasing one of Pete’s banjos can be found at www.banjopete.com. Contact
him directly at Pete Ross, 3206 Avon Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21218, (410) 402-3070.