Seeing Dave Ramey's offering today on eBay of his Banjo-Orchestra
nickelodeon prompts these recollections.
Back in the 1960's the Smithsonian Institution used to occasionally
have people bring their mechanical music objects to the National Mall
and play them for the public. Jim Wells brought his Wurlitzer 165 to
the steps of the Smithsonian's Museum of American History a couple of
times. Someone once brought a trailer of various instruments. I have
no idea who it was, but the trailer was rather dark and had several
items in it. The only one I remember was a banjo, an Encore probably.
It was the most fascinating of the machines there and thus the only one
I wonder if any MMD'er is familiar with that collection and can shed
more light on it?
But it wasn't until last summer, at the MBSI Mid-Am Chapter's Wabash,
Indiana, band organ rally, that I realized what a good banjo-orchestra
can sound like. At Frank Rider's open house we were treated to a lot
of instruments, and one of the best was his new Ramey Banjo-Orchestra,
playing rolls arranged by Art Reblitz. The measure of a musical
instrument is the crowd it draws. By that measure the Banjo-Orchestra
scored a perfect ten. As listeners crowded around, Dave Ramey stood
against the other wall, beaming like a proud Dad at his offspring.
It took the combination of Ramey mechanical genius and Reblitz musical
talent to bring out the most in the mechanical banjo, putting the one
I heard in the 1960's in the shade. The Ramey Banjo-Orchestra isn't
cheap -- nor are the new Reblitz rolls -- but the combination makes
a real crowd-stopping attention grabber.