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Through The Lens: The Banjo Maker

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Over the years the banjo has been the butt of a lot of jokes and everyone is quick to make a Deliverance reference but when you get right down to it the banjo is fun to listen to.  It’s been said that you can’t play a sad song on the banjo.

Today I went to do a story on Chuck Lee and his Banjo company in Ovilla.  Lee was a plumbing contractor for years and one of his clients bartered with him and gave him a banjo.  He started playing the instrument and then he began buying and selling them.  When he ordered a custom banjo he waited and waited.  He found out two years later it still had not been built so he decided to go into custom banjo making.

He makes each and every banjo from start to finish and each one has it’s own look and characteristics.  He does some really nice custom inlay made our of pearl.  He cuts each little piece of the inlay and can put it in the fret board or the head.  He recently did one with Eeyore holding some balloons that is very neat.

One of the neatest things about Chuck is that he has just started playing Santa at Christmas time and his bear and hair are white as snow and watching him hammer frets into the neck of a banjo gave me the feel of being in Santa’s workshop.

Chuck couldn’t play for me because of a wrist issue he is having but one of his friends Lee Thomas of the Salt Rick Rounders came by to pick a little for the story.

Lee says he loves making the Banjos but says he isn’t done there.  His instrument isn’t complete until the customer plays it and is happy with it’s sound.   It is definitely a sound that is unique and will always get your attention.

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