I started playing banjo in 1989 and like most people, once I was hooked, I devoured all the banjo I could find. In my quest for the latest, coolest bluegrass, I ended up covering most of the music recorded in the ’80s. It took years to discover because (brace yourself, kids) there was no streaming or internet to bring it to us. We found music by buying CDs, listening to friends’ CDs, going to shows, and trial and error. In this list, I tried to represent the successful bands and players from the decade, who were recording music just before I fell in love with banjo.
Some of my favorite current music from formative years just missed the deadline, like Alison Brown’s “Simple Pleasures,” which was released in 1990, but I tried to stick with the ’80s only. I love these banjo players, bands, and songs. To this day, if I get sleepy driving in the middle of the night, I can turn on this music and get a second wind. I hope you enjoy these 19 glimpses into the ’80s. — Kristin Scott Benson
We’re giving away a Recording King Songster Banjo in honor of Banjo Month! Enter to win your very own RK-R20 here.