Tri-State Original: The Banjo Maker - Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Tri-State Original: The Banjo Maker


HANNIBAL, Mo. (WGEM)-- You could call Hannibal native Delbert Hayes the MacGuyver of banjo making.

He's been making banjos out of ordinary household items for years now and says it's really not as complicated as you may think.

"I've been playing the banjo since I was 13 and I'll be 74 next month and it's kind of one of the loves in my life. It's kind of a passion for me," said Delbert Hayes of Hannibal.

For Hayes, playing bluegrass tunes is more than just something to tap his foot to. It's a connection to his past.

"My dad taught me to play the banjo when I was 13. I picked up his old banjo and he let me play around and I watched him play it," Hayes said.

And for more than 50 years, Hayes has been strumming away his favorite hillbilly tunes he now knows by heart. But he'll be the first one to tell you what a banjo sounds like is only half of what makes great music.

"I've basically taken all the traditions and just threw them out."

And started re-thinking the banjo, starting with what it's made out of.

"All the bracket parts in the rim are just made out of nails that are bent, I use bicycle spokes for the brackets, hacksaw blades to keep the rim from warping," Hayes said.

Hayes calls his homemade instruments redneck banjos, they cost about $30 and are made almost entirely from scratch.

He's even making a book of his designs to show just how easy making a banjo can be.

"I kind of want to get that out to some children to let them be able to build a banjo from scratch using common sheet materials and basically get their thumbs off of those little black things they play with all the time," Hayes said.

And just like his father did with him, Hayes wants to bring kids and parents together, using only a simple banjo.

"It's a give back to life because I've had fun with this thing myself," Hayes said.

Hayes is hoping to start a program soon that provides banjo making materials to children for free and easily affordable for parents.

His book should be finished sometime this year.

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