George Banjos is located in historic, scenic Somerville, Tennessee, just a few blocks away from the court square and town center. Somerville is just shy of midway between Memphis and Jackson.
There are no CNC routers at George Banjos. Everything is crafted by hand using rasp, file, lathe, bandsaw and sanders. Though we have tried to present different banjo "models" to give customers a starting point to order a George bnajo, we are really a custom shop and each banjo that we make is unique. Please take a moment to read about Tommy and Christian below, and then peruse the Gallery and In Progress pages to see stunning examples of the work that is created at George Banjos.
We have an additional facility and shop in Memphis, Tennessee, where Christian works when he is not out at the main shop in Somerville.
George Banjos on Tennessee Crossroads
Tommy George is the founder and master luthier at George Banjos. He built his first banjo in 1970 at the age of 20, and he is an accomplished bluegrass banjo picker, playing with the band Cypress Creek of Tennessee throughout the mid-South. For six years he was the in-house instrument repairman for Yarbrough Music in Memphis, Tennessee, and he still takes in the more difficult repairs and restorations that they send out. Over his career as a banjo luthier, Tommy has turned out some of the most breathtaking bluegrass banjo resonators that have been built in the modern era. Be sure to check out the Lion resonator and Fleur-de-Lis resonator on the Gallery pages. Memphis native and 1975 National Banjo Champion Randall Morton plays a custom built George resonator model and swears it is the best banjo he has ever played.
Tommy's open back banjos and banjo ukuleles are aquiring a reputation in the region as being of the highest quality and moderate price. Ms. Vera Victoria of the Side Street Steppers owns and plays George banjos and banjo ukes, and both Val June of Memphis and Helen Keller's Ukulele of Huntsville, Alabama, own and play custom George banjo ukuleles.
Tommy also plays banjo for the 52nd Regimental String Band, a popular band at Civil War reenactment events in the region. The picture at left shows the band at a recent event in Germantown, Tennessee.
If you are interested in hiring the 52nd Regimental String Band or learning more about them and their music, you can go to their website at this link:
Christian Stanfield began studying and working with Tommy in the summer of 2007. Over the past four years he has more than 20 banjos and banjo ukuleles of his own, plus assisted Tommy with custom orders and commissions. He has had a shop of his own in Memphis, Tennessee, since the summer of 2010, which has become a kind of "George Banjos West." Christian has garnered numerous commissions for George Banjos over the past few years, including Val June's banjo uke, Helen Keller's Banjolele and Joe Robertson's 25 1/2" scale 12" rim banjo that inspired the "Festival Favorite" model (see the open back gallery).
Christian manages content for GeorgeBanjos.com and takes George banjos on the road to festivals and old-time music gatherings throughout the region. He spends at least one day a week in the Somerville shop with Tommy, where he continues to hone his skills and learn the art of crafting heirloom banjos of exceptional quality. Check out Ms. Vera Victoria's "Perfectly Suited" and Mike Albert's "Fair Trade" in the open back gallery, as well as Vera's "Golden Girl" banjo on the In Progress page, to see some of Christian's recent builds.
In the Shop
The photos below show Tommy and Christian at work in the shop, finishing out a neck and rim on a custom Irish tenor banjo that will soon be on it's way to a new home in West Virginia. The George Banjo shop is stocked with tools that date from yesterday back to a hundred or more years ago. Dowel stick tendons are made with a cutter that was used to make wheel spokes back in the days of covered wagons, and this vintage technology stand alongside the latest Grizzly spindle sanders and Jet bandsaws. The George shop not only does all of the wood work, inaly, fretting, assemby and setup for banjos - we also make many of our metal parts, which are sent out for plating. Tension hoops, tone rings and bracket bands are amongh the metal parts fabricated at the George Banjo shop.
Odie, the shop cat
Odie is the most recent addition to the George Banjos family, and as you can see from the photo, his services are indispensible. Odie enjoys mousing, napping and getting in the way when delicate parts are being assembled. Each and every George banjo is personally sniffed and inspected by Odie, and he takes great pride in his work.
The Side Street Steppers
The Side Street Steppers are a page from America's past, playing rare and popular music from the 1920's and '30's on vinatage and hand-made instruments.
Ms. Vera Victoria of the Steppers plays a George custom banjo ukulele, "Starry Uke," that features a dark-stained curly maple neck and rim a with Bill Rickard tension hoop and star MOP inlays. She uses three George 5-string banjos in live performance - a short-scale banjo, "Perfectly Suited," with walnut and maple 5-piece neck and maple rim, featuring card suit inlays; her "Golden Girl," a 25.5" scale neck on a 12" pot with gold-plated hardware and fleur-de-lis & slotted sqaure inlays; and a deco-inspired beauty of black laquer and tons of pearl for three-finger style playing.
The Side Street Steppers play and endorse George Banjos and Banjo Ukuleles!
Breakin' Up Winter 2012
Christian and Vera took George Banjos on the road the first weekend of March to attend Breakin' Up Winter 2012, held just outside of Nashville at Cedars of Lebannon State Park in Lebannon, Tennessee. Rebecca Holbrook came as well, and she brought her George banjos trio, which were a great hit. In the photos below, Andy Cohen, Blind Boy Paxton, Dan Gellert and Matt Hinman fight over who gets to play which banjo next - Rebecca's trio are a banjo uke, an a-scale banjo and a 25.5" scale banjo, all made of cherry and maple with raw brass hardware and Pegheds tuners.