Banjo Museum In OKC Has Largest Display Of Banjos In The World

Wednesday, June 20th 2012, 4:55 pm
By: Craig Day

Bricktown in Oklahoma City has a lot of great attractions.

One you may not know about has music lovers from around the world visiting our state, to celebrate the banjo.

If you think the American Banjo Museum would be just a few old banjos in a garage somewhere; that would be a mistake.

It's actually the largest display of banjos on display anywhere in the world. And it's in Oklahoma.

"We're the only banjo museum in the world, obviously that makes us the best banjo museum in the world," said Johnny Baier, Executive Director of the museum.

It's a $5 million facility in the heart of Oklahoma City's Bricktown, which includes a replica of a Shakey's Pizza Parlor, the first pizza chain where every one of the restaurants had a banjo player.

The museum celebrates the instrument and how it was instrumental in American culture for 400 years.

Visitors can learn about the evolution of the banjo in American history, beginning with its origins as an instrument brought to America by slaves.

"Almost 200 years it was exclusively an instrument of the slave culture for entertainment on plantations and the old south," said Baier

From there it evolved, and was used in all kinds of acceptable styles of play: from classical to waltzes.

"If you are a serious musician and you choose to make the banjo your instrument, you can do almost anything with it," said Baier.

And then there's the history of the not so acceptable minstrel shows played for 100 years.

"Then came the Jazz age of the 1920s, where the banjo was like the electric guitar of today, and banjo players were like rock stars," said Baier.

There are 340 banjos on display.

The oldest is from the 1890s. The most expensive is a 1937 Gibson, worth about $170,000.

While it's not fancy, others are elaborate and amazing in their detail.

"Some of these more modern banjos that are right behind you were commissioned as works of art."

Not only will you find beautiful banjos, there are also interactive displays and an exhibit on prominent banjo players and their banjos.

It's a unique Oklahoma attraction with a unique sound, and a unique place in American culture.