1994 Rich and Taylor Banjo


Terry Baucom model, walnut. Bought this from Elderly Instruments in Michigan in 1999. My friend Jay Castleberry had a Tennessee banjo from the late 70s, which I really liked. (his was a top tension). Tennessee kinda turned into Rich and Taylor, and since the Tennessees were so hard to find, I started thinking about trying a RnT. Serendipitiously (??? is that a word?), my buddy Mike West came through town, and at the time he was playin a Sonny Osborne model R n T. I played his, and really liked how it felt, so when I saw this walnut model, I took the plunge, and sure enough, I dug it. Been playing this banjo ever since. If I ever can swing a 30s RB-4 (I mean a full RB-4, not a repro with 2 flange nuts from 1936), I'll retire this one, but until then, this'll be my banjo.

I have always been partial to walnut banjos for whatever reason, so that's why I got the Terry Baucom model; though I have nothing against Terry Baucom, if the walnut version was the Broom Hilda model, I'da gotten that one.

The Rich and Taylor company only existed for a few years in the 90s; Greg Rich is making Recording Kings and Mark Taylor is back with Tennnesee, so these aren't particularly common banjos. I read somewhere they only made 75 Baucoms. Mine is #71.

It has the Tennessee 20 tone ring on it, which sounds fine. Some folks prefer the Kulesh 10 hole, and I've thought about trying other ones (Huber, Kulesh), but I am reluctant to go dicking with an instrument I'm already happy with. (experience; mother of wisdom). I did swap out the Presto tailpiece for a Straightline. Can't say it made all that much a difference, but I didn't feel like swapping it back, so that's what's on there.

I use a standard Remo WeatherKing head, no extra spray or nothing. Tried 'em all, this one works for me. I don't really tune it to a particular pitch like some guys, I just get it to where I like how it sounds and leave it alone. I can get it there pretty quick nowadays, I know where I like it. I'd say it's tight, with a little give when you press firmly at the bridge location. I am very careful to keep the tension even across the whole head; learned how to do that right from Chris Munson, drummer extraordinaire.

I will mic it if possible, but if I gotta get loud, I use a Gerald Jones pickup into a Baggs PADI. If it is appropriate for the gig, I may slap a phaser in the effects loop, ala Pete Wernick.

TIP : if micing your banjo, avoid those cheap condensor mics. Yeah, the guy at Guitar Mart may try and talk you into one, but it's bullshit. Most cheap condensor mics are peaky/overly bright, the transients are smeary and distorted, and the patterns are very wide. (cardoid can mean many things, it's not an exact science). None of these things are particularly good for micing a banjo on stage. They do this to sell mics to beginning engineers, who think "oh wow, it's brighter and easier to find the sweet spot, it must be better". Wrong. Very Wrong. A good ol' 57 will kick those mic's ass.

I actually rigged up a strat pickup in there once, just for kicks, and sent it through my Vibrolux Reverb. I was thinking it would be funny, but was shocked how good it sounded, just couldn't get it grounded properly. Maybe if I get the time someday, I'll get that worked out.

I use Snuffy Smith 11/16" bridges, standard spacing. (I tell folks the SS stamped on them stands for my initials.) Now that Snuffy is gone, RIP, I'm gonna stash these and buy a couple new ones. One thing I do to one of my bridges is cut a tiny notch to accommodate the piece of metal that makes the pickup work. That way, the bridge is still laying flat on the head, not resting on the metal strip. If the gig is a mic only thing, I'll use a normal bridge, but if I'm plugging in, I slap the notched bridge in there. It really makes a huge difference in the plugged in sound.

My fingerpicks are Golden Gate, either the Ivoroid, or the "Hippie Vomit" (horrible multicolored things), whatever one is in my pocket. My fingerpicks are Showcase 41s, I like that "German steel".

Strings are GHS Crowe studio set, .095 on D and hi G. Maybe bump to the 'stage' set, .10s, once in a while. But never thicker. Too thick banjo strings just fucking KILL a banjo's tone.

I use HO gauge railroad spikes for 5th string capo, every fret from 6-10, and a Paige capo. (which never goes past the 5th fret, and only VERY rarely at the 5th.) I actually am not thrilled with the Paige, I had a Leno which I liked better, but it broke, just haven't gotten around to getting a new one. I'm gonna spring for an Elliot- McKinney soon and be done with it, which I shoulda done 25 years ago, but whatever.

I do all the setup work on my banjo, which took me a long time to get down right. It's not as easy as it sounds, but if I had one basic rule of thumb, it's make sure everything is tight - but not wrenched down. Don't warp the wood, just tighten the nuts.

I did split the headstock of the banjo, a story far too dumb and embarrassing to repeat; but it was repaired expertly by Dennis Berck, you can't even see the joint. See the pic below. Yeah. That bad. See how pissed I am in the picture?!