Alternative Weekend: Banjo, The Uncool Instrument

in Musiclast month

How many decent songs do you know that contain the humble banjo?

I have often felt the sound of this instrument does not sound appealing and that’s possibly why it is virtually never used in popular music.

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We all play air-guitar but how about air-banjo?

So it’s not going to happen and are there any songs outside George Formby ones that exist?

George was way before my time, but I remember him being mentioned by my late father. When I heard the music I thought it dated and fucking awful but I was just a kid at the time.

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I felt there was NEVER any room in any music from current times that this instrument could ever fit into.

And so… I present to you THREE songs that are not from the 18th century, are tasteful and fit into present day music.


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Dreamboat Annie - Heart (Dreamboat Annie -1977)


Back when the Wilson sisters were delectable they released their debut album, which is an absolute gem.

The album contains THREE different versions of the title track and what a lovely song it is, and one to play to your baby while trying to get the little screaming bugger to sleep.

All this is a bit soppy and not really me, but I truly love this song, and one version contains a very clear banjo strumming along on the second verse.


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Sing - Travis (The Invisible Band - 2001)



These Scottish rockers had a big hit with this song just after the turn of the century.

It got my ear and I noticed the banjo right away that churns its way throughout the entire track.

Since then I have heard little from the band, though this could be attributed to my focus on current music going to almost zero once the noughties started.


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Trains - Porcupine Tree (In Absentia - 2002)


Apologies for mentioning this band again, but I was struggling to find my third and final banjo track.

Trains could well have been a decent single as it is more main-stream than the rest of the bands’ work from this time.

The banjo comes in around halfway through the song and arrives unexpectedly. I do feel it adds some flavour and is used well.

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Do you know of songs that are not grandfather's favourites, are decent, and fit the song well? They are quite rare but feel free to add any in the comments.


...'sorry George old pal, but you need to stay in the last century, my stance has not changed about your music. It is for Grandfathers'...

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I don't really know Heart stuff before their 80s hits. Another band who passed me by. Travis can pass me by, but they did have some catchy songs. Trains is brilliant and I must have noticed the banjo.

George played ukulele or banjolele, but I'm not sure if he played an actual banjo, which is a distinct instrument with its own technique. Some of his songs are filthy though.

Here's a classic that everyone knows, but they may not know who it's by. It has a prominent banjo part.

I will admit to liking The Eagles.

I only started listening to the Eagles again a couple of years ago, just love their music but never heard this one though; nice one!

I have that album on vinyl. Did you listen to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? It was the theme tune. Hotel California is one of my favourite albums and I have played a few Eagles songs at the pub, including the title song. Even learned one of the solo parts.

I never listened to that, live in South Africa so that explains why I never heard it. The vinyl album is quite a collector's item I'm sure!
My absolute favourite DVD is their Farewell Tour in Melbourne, simply fabulous! So you're into music I see, enjoy!
My dad was a brilliant musician, self taught, played multiple instruments; I used to play the piano but mine is ancient and badly in need of restoration, very frustrating but at least I can listen to the music!

Music is important to me. I am lucky to have some good friends to play with.

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Here's a classic that everyone knows

I did not know this tune, but recognised the Hitch-Hikers tune as I used to watch it.., decades ago! A supremely ban-joey song if I ever heard one!

Apparently Douglas Adams suggested the theme should be something 'spacey' with a banjo, but probably had this in mind.

It's not quite the same as the one they used for the TV show.

Seems there were several arrangements for timing and rights reasons.

Banjo in songs absolutely gives me the boak!!

'boak' - I had to look that one up. But but.. Travis are your country compatriots.. where's the loyalty? 😏

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I used to like them!! But I could never forgive them for that heresy. I suspect that was their downfall :0D

Boak is a great word!

I have a hard time with figuring out what instruments are used in a song, and a lot of the times my guesses are wrong. But I am a fan of the Cult Movie "Harold and Maude, and the soundtrack is Cat Stevens music. "Wild World" is one of them, although I must say it would qualify for grandfather status music since I am old enough to be a grand father. 1971 was a long time ago.


I still like this movie, and I still like Cat Stevens music even if it is somewhat dated.

I do know the song, and although Cat Stevens is technically before my time, I did delve back into the past during one part of my life and found all the good stuff from the late 60's and early 70's.

So I do know 'Morning has Broken' and 'Matthew and Son', and like both. Watching the latter now, it's dated badly.

Definitely an old video, style's have changed quite a bit from then.

I love the banjo! I also love Dreamboat Annie! Great pick. There are a ton of good songs, you just have to expand your genres a little bit. :) Check out some Old Crow Medicine Show. If you don't like the bluegrass feel check out Taylor Swift "Mean".

Dreamboat Annie, what an album.. if only their others were as good. Listening to 'Mean' now, the banjo makes for a very country sound.. I figured you might like this style.

I have only seen the banjo online and haven't touched it before. Though I'm not too familiar with their sounds but with your explanation on the video I think I know how it sounds.

It has this somehow kind of string sound. I don't really fancy the sound and I think I do hear it very well in indian music or so.

I liked the 3rd video but the Inception of the banjo in 3:20 broke my vibe for the music.

I also liked the first video also. Thanks for sharing.

It has been appreciated with my tiny upvote and a reblog 🤗😊

Yeah, I'm not a great fan of it but it can work in some tunes.

I really really like the banjo...really really doesn't give me the boak! Who cannot like the Duelling Banjos from Deliverance?
Sounds like I'm trying to build a case here for banjos not so!
Thanks for the music!

Who cannot like the Duelling Banjos from Deliverance?

I haven't see it in years, had to go and have a look to refresh my head!

It's from a long long time ago when you were a young lad so it's not surprising that you've forgotten! Giving my age away here not so;)

I've always loved the sound of a banjo for some reason. It's rolling, sometimes plucky sound kind of makes me happy.

Enjoyed the songs (except Cleaning Windows... a good voyeur theme? ha ha couldn't listen to the whole thing).

Had not heard Sing before, but I like it.

It is a happy sound, that probably why I am not a fan. I am more into melancholic music.

Have not heard anything from this actually. Here in Latvia completelly different tastes of music, but seems great music:)

Banjo.... Indeed we don't often hear this instrument. Thanks for mentioning it!

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