Banjo tuition: Dick Smith, London's No.1 point of call

This is first in a series of articles where I hope to point you in the direction of that illusive group of people who teach Banjo in the UK. And I am setting the standard high with my first addition - Dick Smith.

I first saw Dick play Bluegrass Banjo about 18 months ago, during his stint in the Coal Porters, and was really blown away by his speed and technique. At the time it hadn’t occurred to me that anything happened above the 5th fret of a Banjo without the intervention of a capo, but that night Dick demonstrated a variety of sounds and rhthems, with his hands flying around the fretboard like a hillbilly Van Halen! I have since been in touch with Dick and told him about my blog and asked him if I could write an article on him and add him to my up coming list of Banjo tutors in the UK, and here we are.

Like many Banjo players, Dick started on guitar playing the sort of music you would expect from a young bloke growing up in the the late 70s early 80s. He came by his first Banjo in 1987 when a mates Uncle gave him a banjo in payment for helping him move to Forest Hill, in addition to scrambled eggs with chives and garlic and a couple of tins of beer. Said Banjo served as little more than wall decoration until 1989 when Dick’s partner noticed ( her description) "A hairy man kept walking past the house with a bath-tub on his back staring through the window". A few weeks later they met said hairy man at their local on what turned out to be his 33rd birthday, who turned out to be Chris Rudd of the then embryonic skiffle band, "Lost T-Shirts of Atlantis".

The Bluegrass cassette never stopped playing, and Dick was well and truly hooked!

That night they went to his house and jammed on a variety of home-made instruments and he was asked to do a gig the following Friday, playing guitar, uke, dustbin drums and bath-tub bass. With the addition of Sammy Pope on drums, they went onto for a busking busking band, saved their pennies and brought an old London taxi!! They then drove to Cornwall to attend Dick’s sisters daughters christening, found an apartment in St.Ives and hung out for a week. Whilst busking on the high street they befriended an older guy with a brimmed hat whom on our departure gave us a cassette of bluegrass music*. Dick had never really heard bluegrass before, but this tape (the only one in the taxi) was played continuously! After Cornwall they decided to go to Edinburgh, the Bluegrass cassette never stopped playing, and Dick was well and truly hooked!

Dick is currently focusing his time on passing on his knowlege to who ever wants it and is offing Banjo classes/workshops in London SW17(Tooting) & E17(Walthamstow).

If your interested then you can contact Dick by email: or visit his website

*The cassette was : Butch Robbins - The Fifth Child (Hard to find, deleted) and John Hickman

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to sharing a nice post. Beat with a groove as it sounds twisted, I like it! Stop those crazy little guy, the singer of the Falgoust their intense, ubiquitous, high-five fans and photographers ING front!

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About Me

I have been playing guitar for over 20 years, at first playing in indie bands, followed by a long stint playing rockabilly on the streets of Oxford, a short excursion into dance music, followed by looking at early blues styles. Now after a few years of listening to Dylan, Guthrie, and early Americana I find myself in possession of a banjo, and I'm addicted! Currently I play Banjo and Guitar in an Oxford based group called Swindlestock, you can hear our music our myspace page.

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