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Four-String Strummers Rule At Raleigh's Banjo Jamboree

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RALEIGH — Most people would say, "A banjo is a banjo," but there are two separate worlds of banjo lovers separated by one thin string. Five-string pickers play bluegrass and folk music, and four-string strummers play jazz and Dixieland. This weekend in Raleigh, it is the strummers who rule.

"Yes I got a banjo. My mother gave it to me when I was 16. It was my first banjo," said Jack Wardlaw.

At 92 years old, Wardlaw can still find his way around four strings. His B&B Silver Bell also helped him find his way around the world.

"I went three times to Europe with an orchestra and played this kind of banjo," said Wardlaw.

He did not have to travel far from his Raleigh home to be part of the Banjo Jamboree at the North Raleigh Hilton.

"There are some wonderful banjo players here. Some of the best in the whole country," said Wardlaw.

Wardlaw is among a long line of performers who also get to be part of a very appreciative audience.

The fans do tend to tip the scale in favor of those who grew up on Dixieland Jazz and Ragtime when the songs were new.

That is one reason for the four-string love-fests. It is a revival seeking new converts from the MTV generation.

"We'd really like to try and encourage young people to get into the four-string banjo. The problem is sometimes there's a shortage of teachers to teach it," said Al Smith, Banjo Jamboree Emcee.

The path of learning always ends up on stage.

"It's the biggest thrill in the world to have the audience applaud you as well as to play with other people on old songs," said Wardlaw.

All the performances and other activities of the Banjo Jamboree are free and open to the public at the North Raleigh Hilton through Saturday.


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