Jimmy Boyd and Jared Boyd

Clawhammer Banjo and Moonshine Stories

Master Artist
Jimmy Boyd
Apprentice
Jared Boyd
Folkway
Clawhammer Banjo and Moonshine Stories
Location
Franklin
Jimmy, left, and Jared Boyd pick at their campsite at the 78th Galax Old Fiddlers Convention.  Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Jimmy, left, and Jared Boyd pick at their campsite at the 78th Galax Old Fiddlers Convention. Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program

The “clawhammer” banjo style is an essential aspect of “old time,” an ensemble-based, hard-driving music form which has inspired dancers across Southern Appalachia for generations. Unlike the more popularized bluegrass style which moves the banjo into the forefront, the clawhammer technique essentially turns the banjo into a rhythm instrument, with the player’s thumbs bouncing off the short fifth string and stroking down on the others. Jimmy Boyd, of Franklin County, Virginia, is a true master of this playing style. Jimmy grew up in a family of old time music players, including the legendary Uncle Charlie Boyd (who was buried with his fiddle). In 1981 Jimmy and his brother Billy Boyd founded the Dry Hill Draggers, who remain one of the most beloved old time bands in Virginia. Along with old time music, Franklin County has been known historically for the manufacturing and distribution of “moonshine,” or homemade corn liquor. Jimmy is well versed in this craft as well. He will be teaching his promising young grandson, musician Jared Boyd, the tricks of the clawhammer banjo, and passing along some of the legendary stories and history of Franklin County’s other trade.