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Give Me the Banjo (2011)

Steve Martin , Bela Fleck , Marc Fields  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Give Me the Banjo + Love Has Come For You + The Crow: New Songs for the Five String Banjo
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Product Details

  • Actors: Steve Martin, Bela Fleck
  • Directors: Marc Fields
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: June 12, 2012
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0071BY2PU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,962 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

If any musical instrument can be said to be quintessentially American, it is the banjo. GIVE ME THE BANJO is a musical odyssey through 300 years of American history and culture, featuring contemporary banjo masters such as Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, Taj Mahal, Mike Seeger, Alison Brown, Sonny Osborn, Don Vappie, Cynthia Sayer and Abby Washburn in interviews and performances, combined with rare archival footage, stills, recordings and first-hand narratives.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Banjo Documentary Falls Short of the Mark October 6, 2013
The PBS Documentary "Give Me The Banjo", while praiseworthy for an attempt to trace the history and music of the instrument in America, falls short of giving an accurate portrayal of banjo history. The film almost entirely focuses on the five-string banjo and its relation to bluegrass. In doing so, it almost completely ignores the four string banjo and its relation to jazz and popular music, and does a tremendous disservice to American musical history and the instrument itself.
From 1910 through 1960 the four-string banjo WAS America's banjo, while the five-string banjo and bluegrass music passed into relative obscurity. The four-string banjo was significantly more popular than the five-string ever was, and was seen and heard in concert halls, dance bands, radio, television, and recorded music. While watching this documentary, my thoughts were: this is great history, and very interesting in terms of bluegrass, but when are they going to begin a discussion about the four-string banjo in American music?
They never did. A few seconds of Don Vappie, and a brief segment on Cynthia Sayer in the special features is all the listener is given. This video has re-written the history of the banjo in America, and not in an accurate way. While praising to the skies the great bluegrass stylists on five-string the producers and writer completely ignored contemporary four-string mega-talents like Buddy Wachter, who is arguably the greatest living banjoist in the world. And the legends of the four-string banjo, both tenor and plectrum, such as Eddie Peabody, Perry Bechtel, and Harry Reser are either glossed over or completely ignored.
This video should be titled "Give Me Bluegrass: A History of Country Banjo in America". We are still waiting for the quintessential history of banjo in America. This video isn't it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than expected, Better! November 26, 2013
By john
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Not what I expected. Better! Recommended to me while waiting on line for a Bela Fleck, Tony Trischa, Eric Weissberg, Bill Keith, Richie Sterns, Noam Pikelny autographs. After seeing Steve Martin at this year's IBMA concert, I appreciate how serious he takes his banjo playing and it's history. This DVD was a nice mix of history and music that sheds new light on the banjo. I enjoyed it from start to finish and thank that guy who stood behind me for recommending it. So now I recommend it to you.
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
I watch documentaries about every subject under the sun, not just topics that I have a pre-existing knowledge and/or interest in. I know this may sound like a crazy notion to some, but it has allowed me to learn about a myriad of topics as well as discover hundreds of incredible films that I might not otherwise have viewed! I say this in preface to reviewing "Give Me The Banjo" because I am not a banjo enthusiast. If you love the instrument and its contributions to several musical genres, I certainly wouldn't attempt to dissuade you from enjoying Marc Fields' loving tribute. But in attempting to cover 200 years of history in a scant 84 minute presentation, the film seems as distinguished by what is left out as by what is included. Instead of a comprehensive history, you get several interesting anecdotes and mini-profiles of a handful of prominent figures (Gus Cannon, Charlie Poole, Pete Seeger, and Earl Scruggs leap right to mind).

The movie is most successful in charting the progression of the banjo throughout several musical genres. From its origins as an African instrument, to its inclusion in minstrel shows, to its incorporation into ragtime, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass, and country (and many genres in between), the banjo has evolved and been redefined throughout the years. The film highlights a few performers along the way that were pivotal to this evolution. I was familiar with some, while others were new to me. The most fascinating tale was the hard luck story of Charlie Poole, and the most individual time spent is probably dedicated to Earl Scruggs. While "Give Me The Banjo" certainly held my attention, its goals were perhaps more ambitious than could be pulled off in such a short period.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give Me The Banjo is great January 28, 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I remember seeing this before on PBS but having my own copy is great.I have watched it 4 times already and still see something new each time.I especially enjoy Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers.The additional footage with select artists was very good.The banjo rules in a jazz setting.Thanks for a great presentation.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent documentary October 26, 2012
I recently read a great book about Eddie Peabody, one of banjo's early superstars (Man with the Banjo by George Robert)that piqued my interest in this instrument. I watched this DVD to see if I could find more information on Eddie Peabody, but although he was referenced only briefly, I still found this documentary well worth watching. This is an excellent and highly entertaining documentary following the history of the banjo and it's influence on American music, specifically Blue Grass. It seems that this instrument has recently enjoyed a resurgence in popular music used by artists such as Taylor Swift, The Civil Wars, Mumford and Sons, Modest Mouse, etc. and this documentary provides a good history of the instrument. I also enjoyed Steve Martin's narration and performance with his band.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic!
Oh, this is a treasure-trove of information about banjo history and construction, also techniques for playing.various styles and banjo adaptations.. Read more
Published 1 month ago by ann parks
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Banjo Documentary
I enjoyed this DVD about the Banjo. My Grandfather use to play when I was a kid. It brought back old memories of him, the good ole days. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Master1349
5.0 out of 5 stars Give Me the Banjo
I throughly enjoyed the DVD although I expected to see more of Steve Martin. It was an interesting history of the banjo,
not at all disappointing. Read more
Published 2 months ago by JDZdesigns
4.0 out of 5 stars Does a great job with covering (relatively) modern Banjo.
I thoroughly enjoy the five string banjo and this film. If your're looking for something about the history of the instrument there is some in here but I'd recommend "Throw Down... Read more
Published 5 months ago by matthew kidwell
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction
Though it certainly can't cover every aspect and famous performer it is a great introduction to the history and culture of the banjo.
Published 6 months ago by Tyler Oliphant
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative Doc
I recently decided to fill a long time desire to play the Banjo. This Doc provided me with a rich history on this instrument that I was completely unaware of. Read more
Published 6 months ago by R.J.Camera
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Educational
Educational and entertaining look back on the surprising history of the bajo. And The Carolina Chocolate Drops made it even better!
Published 7 months ago by GoHeels
5.0 out of 5 stars Give me the Banjo
Very informative documentary with pictures and stories about the origins of the banjo. Also gives a history of the different styles of playing as well as the development of the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Delisa Kunkel
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be in any banjo players library
I play banjo and saw this on TV when it first aired, I liked it a lot and wanted to have this in my personal library. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Whichdoctor
3.0 out of 5 stars Banjo disappoints
While its a wonderful history lesson on the orgin of the Banjo, I was disappointed that there was very little Banjo music.
Published 8 months ago by Steven B. Zaboji
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