Bands/Musicians The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time  

Ranker Music
10.5k votes 3.3k voters 85k views 86 items

List Rules Vote up the all time best banjo players in history

Who are the best musicians to have ever played the banjo? The banjo is a four or five string instrument. Early versions of the banjo were created by Africans in Colonial America, but today it is most closely associated with bluegrass, folk, country, and traditional Irish music. A mainstay of old-time American music, the banjo is a popular instrument, even today.

The greatest banjoists ever are from different eras and genres but are all hugely talented on their instrument. These best banjo players have spent years honing their skills to become the best. These musicians often helped define their respective genres, and many teach others to play the banjo as well.

The greatest banjo players of all time are from all over the world and include musicians such as Charlie Poole, Bela Fleck, Earl Scruggs, and Pete Seeger. Even comedian Steve Martin plays the banjo!

Vote up the best banjoists in history on the list below, or add a musician who you think is the best banjo player ever, if he or she isn't already on the list.
list ordered by

1
980 172
Earl Scruggs is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Bluegrass, Gospel music, Country

2
672 228
Béla Fleck is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Rock music, Folk music, Folk rock

3
200 69
J. D. Crowe is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
duststang1 added Progressive bluegrass, Bluegrass

4
261 149
Ralph Stanley is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Traditional bluegrass, Old-time music, Bluegrass

5
107 38
Don Reno is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
John N Annette Egan added Bluegrass

6
234 138
Noam Pikelny is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Progressive bluegrass, Bluegrass

7
176 95
Ranker Video
dabowd added Jens Kruger American Folk

8
133 64
Alan Munde is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Bluegrass

9
433 296
Steve Martin is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Bluegrass

10
207 122
Tony Trischka is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Tony Trischka Roots, Bluegrass

11
120 55
John Hartford is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
David Sekac added Folk music, Bluegrass, Country

12
19 1
Sonny Osborne is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Paul Kosiewicz added

13
150 103
David

14
118 75
Alison Brown is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Americana, Jazz, Bluegrass

15
82 43
Bill Emerson is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Bjoe added Bill Emerson Bluegrass

16
130 86
Grandpa Jones is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
MarkTimothyPierce added Old-time music, Bluegrass, Gospel music

17
113 74
Ron Block is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Bluegrass, Alternative Country

18
74 39
Raymond Fairchild is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
roger-dvorak added Raymond Fairchild Bluegrass

19
81 46
Eddie Adcock is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Bluegrass

20
167 128
Pete Seeger is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Folk music

21
93 60
Pete Wernick is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Bluegrass

22
96 66
Barney McKenna is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Folk music of Ireland

23
35 9
Bobby Thompson is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
RobertHomes added Bobby Thompson Bluegrass -

Backed up Linda Ronstadt on "Love is a Rose"; chosen by Earl Scruggs as tour replacement; helped develop 3-finger "melodic" or "Keith" style alternative to "Scruggs style" (https://www.nashvillescene.com/arts-culture/article/13011840/bobby-thompson-19372005)

24
48 26
Eric Weissberg is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
edwardlatham added Bluegrass, Country

25
102 83
Abigail Washburn is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Americana, Old-time music

26
8 0
Allen Shelton is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Steve Gallagher added

27
44 26
John McEuen is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
David Sekac added Rock music, Country

28
13 1
Bill Keith is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Steve Gallagher added Bluegrass, Country

29
56 42
Charlie Poole is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Country

30
43 28
Courtney Johnson is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
JBB1 added Progressive bluegrass, Bluegrass

31
59 47
Uncle Dave Macon is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Old-time music

32
44 31
Larry McNeely is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Country

33
289 301
Kit Evans is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Gareth Cotter added Kit Evans Bluegrass, Folk, Jazz Metal -


 Kit Evans (Gentlemen of Few) shot to fame through his primary school talent show back in 2002 when he opted to perform 'Let The Bodies Hit The Floor' on the banjo, his talented musical display was described as "not bad" by the school caretaker. Since then he's plateaued explaining "it's physically impossible for me to get better".

With little to no practice whatsoever, he still manages to retain his position as front-man in the popular band Gentlemen of Few.

His banjo playing style has been called unorthodox, some have gone as far as to call it ''completely incorrect".

Seen as a controversial figure in both the banjo community as well as the local community he is both loathed and loved by those closest to him.

Currently, he lives on and performs regularly with his band. 
 

34
59 48
Eddie Peabody is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Vaudeville

35
49 37
Snuffy Jenkins is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Old-time music, Bluegrass

36
100 94
Jerry Garcia is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
evanswinington added Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk rock

37
45 38
Danny Barnes is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Rock music, Folk music, Jazz

38
17 6
Eddie Shelton is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
RobertHomes added Eddie Shelton Bluegrass

39
17 7
Butch Robins is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
RobertHomes added Bluegrass

40
33 26
Tony Furtado is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
cksqrd added Americana, Blues, Jass

41
24 21
Roscoe Holcomb is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
gnicholls added Folk music, Old-time music, Bluegrass

42
8 2
Mike Gregory is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Paul Kosiewicz added Mike Gregory

World's foremost picker of the "Squared Eel" Banjo and "noted" pun-master extraordinaire.

43
16 13
Dock Boggs is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Howard Vogel added Old-time music

44
29 30
Ranker Video
bill-cli added Buddy Wachter Jazz, Pop, Classical -

AMERICA'S BANJO VIRTUOSO

Master of the four string banjo, the uniquely American instrument, Buddy Wachter is acknowledged to be America's greatest virtuoso banjo player. Andrew John "Buddy" Wachter was born on February 3, 1953 in Baltimore. After displaying a natural talent and love for music at an early age, he began studies on the mandolin at age nine and soon after, the guitar and banjo, as well. By the age of 13 he was performing regularly around Baltimore.

Buddy first gained national attention in 1969 when the Vega Banjo Company of Boston arranged for him to perform with the legendary banjoist Eddie Peabody in an exhibition called Banjo Spectacular at the Palladium in Hollywood.

At age 16, he auditioned for the Fred Waring Show and a month later he was offered a job. In 1970, he graduated a year early from high school and began his professional career as a featured performer with the famed Pennsylvanians. Over the next two years he logged nearly 500,000 miles while touring to hundreds of cities throughout North America.

Since then, Buddy's life has been a campaign to bring the four string banjo to the world's concert stages; and, he has done so with unprecedented virtuosity, playing more than 4000 performances to audiences in over 50 countries. Exploring a wide variety of musical styles from jazz to pop, as well as his own adaptations of virtuoso classical works, he commands the attention and respect of audiences, musicians and critics alike. He has appeared with Arthur Fiedler, Marvin Hamlisch, Richard Hayman, Erich Kunzel, Benny Goodman, Ferrante and Teischer, Teddy Wilson, Max Morath, Bob Hope, the Count Basie All-Stars, and Bela Fleck–his 5-string counterpart. He has also made numerous radio and television appearances including the David Frost Show, Larry King Live, Germany's NDR Talk Show and Good Morning, India.

 In 1982, the German SR television network sponsored Buddy's first European tour which culminated in the taping of a television concert special: BUDDY LIVE. The program received wide acclaim by European critics and its popularity has taken Buddy back to Europe for regular concert tours and jazz festivals.

 Since 1990 Buddy has performed and taught internationally as a musical ambassador under the auspices of the US Department of State. Combining music tours with a love for hiking and adventure travel, Buddy and his banjo have crossed the deserts, rafted the rivers, and hiked the mountain ranges of five continents– playing for tribal communities in the Andes, the Himalayas, on the Sahara, at the Antarctic Circle and deep in the Amazon basin. This has done much to unite the world banjo community and to introduce the instrument to some of the remotest parts of the world.

Buddy also appears regularly as a soloist with symphony orchestras. In May of 1992, he made his Carnegie Hall debut as guest soloist with Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops. Highlights of recent symphonic appearances include the Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Baltimore, Hartford, Nevada, Billings, Buffalo, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Missoula and Cape Cod Symphony Orchestras, the Chicago Pops, and the National Orchestra of Venezuela.

Buddy has five solo recordings and appears on many others. He has published numerous articles and instructional materials for the banjo, and leads banjo clinics internationally. He has created a library of more than thirty works for banjo and orchestra through new transcriptions, arrangements and original compositions.

REVIEWS

"One does not normally see a banjo take center stage at an orchestra concert, yet after hearing Buddy Wachter one is left feeling that there is no better instrument to demonstrate the heritage of American music"~ Walter Cronkite

"He has elevated America's premiere folk instrument to a level of concert legitimacy"
 ~ The New York Times

"Wachter seems to be doing for the humble banjo what Andres Segovia did years ago for the guitar"~ The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"More impressive than Wachter's technical and musical virtuosity was the man himself . . . with the sense, the skill and the heart to embrace an audience as only a masterful performer can"~ Traverse City Record-Eagle

"His energetic and engaging manner with his obvious technical mastery of the banjo, seemed to greatly please Friday evening's audience."~ Cape Cod Times

"Wachter's charm and virtuosity captivated the audience"~ Grand Rapids Press


 For more details, visit:  www.buddywachter.com

45
39 44
Lonnie Hoppers is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
ragtime added A Monroe Bluegrass Boy

46
35 40
John Hickman is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Ragtime

47
12 11
Mike Seeger is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Jonathan Brown added Folk music, Old-time music -

Seeger brought a half dozen of the musicians like Roscoe Holcomb and Doc Boggs to our consciousness - he also discovered a ton of old time music.  At the end of his life he did some innovative work with Banjos in the same way Bella Fleck has done.

48
15 15
Bernie Leadon is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Jdwalther added Rock music, Country rock, Country

49
5 3
Rhiannon Giddens is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Bob Barleen added

50
14 15
Fred Van Eps is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Banjo Players of All Time
Howard Vogel added Ragtime, Jazz