Friday, 10 October 2014

At Home in Huddersfield: Deering Banjos & The Kruger Brothers

Close your eyes for a few seconds and think of towns that you would associate with Bluegrass and banjos. So, who was on your list? Was it Galax, the home of the annual Fiddlers Convention in Virginia, or Union Grove which has held the Ole Time Fiddlers & Bluegrass Festival for over 75 years – or how about Rosine in Kentucky, the resting place of Bill Monroe? What about Huddersfield in West Yorkshire? If not, maybe it should.

Huddersfield is where you will find Eagle Music, Deering Banjos’ No. 1 dealership world-wide.

The Deering Banjo Company was the recipient of a Distinguished Achievement Award at IBMA 2014. The citation from the IBMA states: Greg and Janet Deering started the Deering Banjo Company as a family business in 1975. In its 39-year history, the company has created more than 100,000 banjos, all built by hand in Deering’s Spring Valley, California facility. The company’s mission statement is “to champion the banjo and inspire creativity around the globe by supplying the best quality, American-made banjos to players of all abilities.” Noted Deering players are many, and include BĂ©la Fleck, Jens Kruger and Eric Gibson.

So, what’s the story behind the association between Deering Banjos and Eagle Music?

Eagle Music was established in 2004 by Steve Noon and through their ethos of being run ‘by musicians for musicians’ they have built up an enviable reputation for first-class customer service and perfectly presented instruments to suit musicians of all abilities. Steve Noon explained that, from the outset, Deering Banjos would be a focal point of the Eagle Music’s business and, within a few years of opening, Eagle Music became Deering Banjos’ No. 1 dealership world-wide. In 2009 Steve was invited to speak at Deering’s ‘Banjo Summit Meeting’ and, in 2014, Eagle Music celebrates its No. 1 dealership status for the 8th consecutive year.
To celebrate this status, Eagle Music has annually held a Deering Banjo event and this year sees “Deering Banjo 8”. Steve Noon explained that “the event came about when Eagle Music became the number one banjo retailer in the entire world for the Deering Banjo Company. Each year Greg and Janet Deering have been guests of honour at the event, and as such have presented Eagle Music each year with a plaque in recognition of Eagle Music’s status and service to banjo customers. The world-acclaimed Kruger Brothers have played at the event on six occasions, and along with other world-class artists making the event the biggest on the banjo and bluegrass calendar. Eagle Music has [so far] arranged [for] the following artists to perform at the ‘Banjo 8’ Event … The Kruger Brothers, The Old Grey Dogs, The House Devils, Andre Dal (Portugal) and The Kentucky Cow Tippers. Special guests of honour will be Greg, Janet and Jamie Deering.

The Kruger Brothers

“Deering Banjo 8” will involve on-stage workshops and performances as well as the chance to have Greg Deering look at and adjust attendees’ banjos and a finale of a concert by The Kruger Brothers.

Joe McIlvenny of The Old Grey Dogs will be running the picking sessions that will take place between the afternoon and evening sessions. Joe said “It's [the] one day each year that the world’s greatest banjoist visits the UK, along with the other members of the Kruger Brothers. Their musicianship is wonderful to the ear and creates a lasting emotion and memory in the listener. Plus we have Greg Deering in attendance to demonstrate his wonderful banjos. Put this together with some of the UK's top players in support and the event becomes unmissable. Everyone appreciates the work that Steve Noon and his team puts into this day and, if you've not been, you’re missing the best day in the UK calendar.”

From the 2013 event - The Kruger Brothers with Joe McIlvenny of the Old Grey Dogs:

So.. to return to the original question about towns associated with Bluegrass and banjos; maybe Huddersfield with Eagle Music as the world’s No. 1 retailer of Deering Banjos (who are themselves recognised with a Distinguished Achievement Award from the IBMA) deserve a place alongside Galax, Union Grove and Rosine.

“Deering Banjo 8” will take place on Saturday November 8th 2014 at The North Light (behind Eagle Music Shop), Brooke’s Mill, Armitage Bridge, Huddersfield, HD4 7NR and more information can be found on the Eagle Music website.