I just came across this good quality cylinder recording of Vess Ossman playing Old Folks at home.

Is it just me or does he really attempt to play the variations too fast? You can "feel" him falling over his fingers.  It seems to be a curse of the banjo player that the better they think they are the faster they try to play. Even my hero, Fred Van Eps boasted about being able to play 14 notes a second..WHY?

Bluegrass players seem do it too, some even attempting to be the "World's fastest Banjo Player".

geez it is dreadful!   Maybe Vess fell into the trap too?


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I think he must have had an early case of bluegrass disease....Steve.

I think he'd been listening to Fred Bacon...

Actually this 'theme and variations' biz has a very long and chequered history. Piano players screw it up just as well as violinists and banjoista. The task is to take the melody and insert as many notes as you can in between whilst preserving (and properly highlighting said melody notes). Doing it well is the sign of a virtuoso. Doing what Ossman is doing is not (even though he otherwise qualifies for V status).

The World's Fastest Banjo Player?


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