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Bob Black

Bob Black has bluegrass roots going straight back to Bill Monroe, “The Father of Bluegrass Music.” As a Bluegrass Boy, Bob toured and recorded with the late great musical master for 2 years (1974 – 1976). During this time he learned much about songwriting and performing, which he now brings to audiences all over the world with his wife, Kristie, and their band, BANJOY.

Drawing on bluegrass, folk, and gospel music traditions, Bob creates his own brand of “Midwestern Roots” music, which features both original and traditional bluegrass songs and instrumentals.

“…a hero of the 5-string banjo…” —Bluegrass Unlimited

Bob has written a book entitled Come Hither to Go Yonder (University of Illinois Press, 2005), about his experiences travelling and playing with Bill Monroe. This book won Bob the International Bluegrass Music Association “Print Media Person of the Year” award in 2006.

“This is a stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable book that I would recommend to anyone interested in Monroe’s music.” —Tom Adler, folklorist and bluegrass historian

“It is obvious that Bob Black cherishes his time with the Bluegrass Boys and his mentor Bill Monroe. Come Hither to Go Yonder is the fascinating story of bluegrass before the phenomenon of Oh Brother.” —Sing Out!

Bob has also written a second book entitled MANDOLIN MAN (University of Illinois Press, 2022), which is the first in-depth biography of the pioneering bluegrass figure Roland White.

“Superb. . . Bob Black has delivered another instant classic biography of one of bluegrass music’s most valuable, but perhaps under-appreciated, influencers and torch-bearers. If you read but one bluegrass history or biography this year, make it Mandolin Man: The Bluegrass Life of Roland White.” —Bluegrass Unlimited, Apr. 2022

Bob has published several articles in Bluegrass Unlimited, and has been featured numerous times in Banjo Newsletter. He was the recipient of the 2002 Traditional Arts Award, presented by the Iowa Arts Council in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the Arts in Iowa. A 1971 graduate of Drake University in Des Moines, Bob Black holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in the field of graphic design.

“Bob’s banjo music is a dipperful of cold well water at the end of a long hot dusty day.” —Greg Brown

Recording artist for Copper Creek, Rebel, County, Ridge Runner, MCA, Green Valley, and Hinkletown Records, Bob Black has performed with Ricky Skaggs, John Hartford, Emmylou Harris, Marty Stuart, The Whites, Ralph Stanley, Rhonda Vincent, Frank Wakefield, and many others. He is a singer-songwriter and instrumentalist of international acclaim. He has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry many times.

Bob has recorded with Bill Monroe, Kenny Baker, John Hartford, The Whites, Norman Blake, Sam Bush, Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey and many others (well over 40 albums in all). His iconic 1979

“Ladies on the Steamboat” album gained many glowing reviews in the popular bluegrass publications of the time, and is still considered a “must have” among banjo players today.

“…passion, love, and artistry.” —The Iowa City Press-Citizen

Bob has been teaching banjo for many years. He has participated in numerous Jam Camps and conducted banjo workshops all over the U. S. His teaching style is friendly, positive, and inspirational, and his students include players of all levels—from beginning to advanced. He is always willing to help students one-on-one, sharing his knowledge gained from more than 40 years as a professional banjo player. He has produced a 6-hour audio instruction course entitled Fiddle Tunes on the 5- String Banjo, and his latest project is an instructional DVD for students of all levels, entitled Indispensable Banjo Licks. This DVD outlines many of his approaches to backup and fill-in licks for banjo in a bluegrass band setting.

“I believe Bob Black is the best playing fiddle tunes of any banjo player.” —Bill Monroe

The above quote is from an interview with Bill Monroe in Masters of the 5-String Banjo (Tony Trischka and Peter Wernick, Oak Publications, 1988). Bob’s melodic style of banjo playing is indeed based largely on old-time fiddle music. His early musical training included lots of playing with some of the best fiddlers—including Kenny Baker, Lyman Enloe, Gene Goforth, Blaine Sprouse, Alan Murphy, Tommy Jarrell, Delbert Spray, and many, many others.

Bob Black has contributed much to the genre of banjo music, and for many years he has been an important influence in America’s tradition of acoustic music. He truly is a “Master of the 5-String Banjo.”