F. Lee Baldwin

I decided I wanted to play the banjo when I was 14 years old in the mid 1960s.  My mom was taking guitar lessons but I wanted to play banjo.

I went to a music store in Lewiston, Idaho and bought a Harmony tenor banjo.  Then, I went to Hirzel's music store to find a banjo instructor, and I met Mr. (F. Lee) Baldwin.

Mr. Baldwin was a dedicated plectrum banjo enthusiast.  He probably did not approve of my new tenor but kept his concerns to himself.  He pointed out that some changes were required.  He pointed out that half the brackets were missing and helped me drill out holes and mount additional brackets.

About a year later I bought an old plectrum banjo from my brother's friend.  The banjo had no tone ring or tension ring, but it was a plectrum.  I got a piece of copper tubing for the tone ring and had a local metal shop bend and weld a tension ring.  I filed out notches with a file and I had a plectrum banjo.

The first tune I learned from Mr. Baldwin was Bye Bye Blues.  Mr. Baldwin was always encouraging and always found something positive to say about the tune I had been practicing the previous week.  He was always strong on pointing out chord forms, and he would tell me which finger was on the root of the chord.  He would also tell me the names of the chords.

In 1980 Mr. Baldwin published "Lee Baldwin's Plectrum Banjo Instant Chord Finder".  He signed my copy with the words, "Plectrum Banjo Forever!"

Mr. Baldwin was fond of Vega banjos and he had a Vega Vox that was made before Vega was sold to Martin.  Note the Vega Vox banjo on the front cover of the Instant Chord Finder.

Mr. Baldwin talked about having played banjo and piano on Mississippi riverboats.  My enthusiasm for the plectrum banjo is the result of Mr. Baldwin's support and encouragement.

 

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