8 of the Best & Most Famous Banjo Players

NATIONAL BARN DANCE, from left, Jean Heather, Charles Quigley, 1944
Everett Collection

The passing of Roni Stoneman, The First Lady of Banjo, and Hee Haw regular got us thinking of legendary banjo players, not just the dueling banjos from Deliverance. Some may surprise you!

Earl Scruggs

CIRCA 1965: Earl Scruggs performs circa 1965.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Known for popularizing the three-finger picking style commonly referred to as “Scruggs style,” a characteristic of bluegrass. You may know one of his songs and not realize it, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” better known as the theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies. He died in 2012 at the age of 88.

Roy Clark

The Beverly Hillbillies Roy Clark, 'Cousin Roy', (Season 6, aired April 3, 1968), 1962-71

Everett Collection

You may know Roy Clark and Buck Trent or “The Dueling Banjos.” He was also known as America’s Super Picker as a great guitar and banjo player and also for hosting the show Hee Haw. Clark died in 2018.

Kermit The Frog

THE MUPPET MOVIE, Kermit the Frog, 1979,

Henson Associates/courtesy Everett Collection

Ever wonder why there are so many songs about rainbows? What a Muppet classic!

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton on 11/2/77 in Chicago, Il.

Paul Natkin/WireImage

Bet you didn’t know that country music icon Dolly Parton was a banjo player! The country queen knows how to write songs, perform, and play instruments. She truly does it all!

Steve Martin

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 1962-92, guest host Steve Martin, 5/23/77

NBC/Everett Collection

This SNL alum and current Only Murders in the Building comedian/actor also has a love of the banjo. He has been playing since he was a kid and incorporated music into his early comedy routines. While he eventually began to focus more on acting, he performed with various bluegrass acts over the years and played with Earl Scruggs. He won several Grammys for his music including Best Bluegrass Album and Best Country Instrumental Performance.

Pete Seeger

The Alan Douglas Show Pete Seeger performs, 1960s

Everett Collection

Seeger has helped many people learn the banjo. He wrote the first version of How to Play the Five-String Banjo in 1948. He was also a folk singer and social activist, known for being a member of The Weavers in the 1950s. In the ’60s, he performed a lot of protest music. Pete Seegar died in 2014 at the age of 94.

Ralph Stanley

Western Beat with Billy Block Host Billy Block, Ralph Stanley, 2000, 1999-2001

Everett Collection

Stanley was known for his singing and banjo playing as part of The Stanley Brothers and later The Clinch Mountain Boys. He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor. Stanley passed in 2016.

Béla Fleck

Béla Fleck performs during Tony Trischka's 75th Birthday Bash at City Winery on January 19, 2024 in New York City

Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Fleck is known for being an innovative banjo player and doesn’t just play bluegrass music but classical, jazz, rock, and more. He has won 15 Grammy Awards.


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Queens of Country

November 2019

Get your toes-tapping as we give a nod to the queens of classic country music.

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