“see how your favored Banjo is made!”
In all walks of life you'll find people content to rest on past accomplishments, fame or glory. Two years ago or twenty, they remind you incessantly of what they did. Ask them what they've done lately, though, and you find yourself facing a blank stare. Then there are those who are never satisfied; who are continually perfecting and innovating, experimenting with new ideas and trying to improve on the old. So it is with the folks at Deering Banjo Company in Lemon Grove, Cal. Twenty years ago Greg and Janet Deering started out with a dream to build a quality instrument a beginner could afford. Back then, inexpensive beginners' banjos were cheaply made and sounded that way. The plastic or aluminum pots just didn't have the ring of the ones professionals played. Consequently, students quickly became discouraged and gave up shortly after trying to learn to play. (And anything that sounded good cost more than a beginner wanted to shell out.) So, in 1978, after three years subcontracting banjo parts for a high-end brand the Deerings developed and marketed their Basic and Intermediate banjos featuring a steel pot and a mahogany neck. Their rich tone and easy action still amaze listeners and pickers alike; yet the price was affordable for someone just starting out. The Deerings could have been satisfied there. Their place in that market was secure; why mess with success? But they weren't. Over the years, they went on to develop a whole line of professional quality instruments from the Sierra and Deluxe models that features a three-ply maple rim and mahogany neck to the Gabriella that features a Brazilian rosewood neck, a mother-of- pearl fingerboard and vine peghead inlay. Their six- and 12-string acoustic banjos and Crossfire electric banjos have spawned a whole new interest in the banjo from previously untapped corners of the music spectrum. They have been responsible at least in part for the instrument's crossover from a purely folk and bluegrass instrument to one now heard in the country, rock, and jazz genres. Tune around the FM dial sometime. You'll hear names like Joe Satriani, Rod Stewart, John Hartford, John Sebastian, Jimmy Olandei (of Diamond Rio),Jeff Cook (of Alabama), and Bela Fleck playing Deering electric and acoustic instruments. Coming off the success of Garth Brooks' hit single and video "Callin' Baton Rouge," that features Bela Fleck on the Crossfire, Brooks recently ordered a new Crossfire for his band, Janet Deering says. Deering has expanded its quarters as well to include new space for an additional setup bench, a new office and showroom and recently-acquired space for more room for the machine shop. As for the future, Greg smiles and admits, "I think all of us are hoping for another Deliverance," another movie like that or Bonnie And Clyde that featured banjo music and brought the instrument more publicity and increased banjo sales. "Banjo sales really jumped after that movie came out," he says. Beyond that, Janet doesn't say much about future plans. "We have things in the works right now, but we're keeping them quiet for marketing reasons." Deering Banjo Company offers free tours of our shop, see how your favored Banjo is made. So plan to pay us a visit if you are in the San Diego area.
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Deering Banjo Company
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