27 Banjo Players You Need to Listen To

Here is a list of twenty-seven banjo players that every banjo student should listen to.

As you listen, decide the players and styles that appeal to you the most.  This list is heavily weighted towards the bluegrass/modern styles, I’ve also included a few pre-bluegrass classic/parlor players.  I think these are important because it exposes the banjo student to the proper history of techniques.

I have included a few links as I think they provide a good example of each players styles.

(Please note that this list is not meant to be exhaustive, everyone can’t be included, and it’s not up for amendments or revisions. I’m sorry if I left off your favorite banjo player but you are free to create your own list if you’d like)

The modern banjoists is faced with a HUGE library of music to listen to.  I have made this list to give listeners new names that they may not be familiar with.  There are some very popular banjo players as well as some obscure ones.

In some cases parts of our banjo history are in danger of being forgotten.  Let’s keep remembering, in no certain order:

1)Earl Scruggs-Most famous of all-time, one of the founding father’s of Bluegrass Music.  No banjo player interested in the bluegrass style should overlook Earl.

2)Don Reno-One of the Big Three banjoists, Lots of “single-string” playing

Ten Minute Jam

3)J.D Crowe-Heavily influenced by Scruggs, Specific Albums:Live in Japan, Old Home Place

4)Sonny Osborne-Heavily Influenced by Scruggs

5)Allen Shelton-Mix of Scruggs/Reno/jazzier chords and repertoire. Albums:Jim&Jesse “In the Tradition”, “Shelton Special”

Allen Shelton

6)Fred Van Eps-Classic Era, pre-bluegrass

7)Vess Ossman-Classic Era, pre-bluegrass

Silver Heels

8)Parke Hunter-Classic Era, pre-bluegrass


9)Bill Keith-One of the founding father’s of “melodic style”,  One of my favorites is “Bluegrass Breakdown” that he did with Bill Monroe

10)Bela Fleck-Modern. Albums-“Whitewater”, “Tales of the Acoustic Planet”

11)Noam Pikelny-Modern, Is in the band The Punch Brothers with Chris Thile

12)Bill Emerson-Traditional.  Album-“Home of the Red Fox”, lots of original songwriter

13)Alan Munde-great mix of melodics and Traditional sound

14)Carroll Best-one of the father’s of “melodic style”


15)Jens Kruger-Modern, Classical-Influenced

16)Pat Cloud-Jazz Banjo, “melodic” approach, jazz/bebop

17)Joe Mullins-Modern Traditional Player, Reno/Osborne influenced.  Albums:Traditional Grass-“The Blues are Still the Blues”

18)Gene Parker-Traditional Player, Unique/Bluesy style

Struttin To Ferum

19)Vic Jordan-Great “melodic player”.  Album-“Pickaway”


20)Raymond Fairchild-Reno influenced

21)Ralph Stanley-Traditional Early Founding Father, Check out “Clinch Mountain Backstep”, “Hardtimes” and all the stuff the Stanley Brothers did.

22)Ron Block-Modern Player who uses lots of bends.  Plays with Alison Krauss

23)Tony Furtado-Modern Blues, “melodic” styles

24)John Hickman

25)Jim Mills-Modern Traditional.  Album-“Bound to Ride”

26)Alison Brown-Modern Player

27)Bobby Thompson-one of the founding fathers of melodic style, played on Hee-Haw

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  1. Ric

    Mike Munford is missing…..But a good list nonetheless!!!!

    • 01/15/2017

      I love Mike Munford’s playing, I saw him for the first time with The Tony Rice Unit in 1996, he played incredible. Thanks for tuning in!

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