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Jim Smoak: A "Hidden Figure" of American Banjo Music

A collection and oral history of 3-finger style bluegrass banjo player Jim Smoak by 2013 Appalachian Sound Archive Fellow Joe O'Connell.

Selected Jim Smoak Audio Recordings

Jim Smoak continues to teach music lessons in New Albany, Indiana and perform regular gigs, including his popular annual fundraiser for Salem, Indiana’s Depot Railroad Museum. These performances were recorded by Joe O'Connell at the Old Depot in Salem, IN. Jim's notes accompany each tune.

"Old John" - Heard this from my grandfather Kinsey; my mother showed me how to play it with two fingers.

"John Henry" - I heard Snuffy Jenkins play this in "D" tuning. I picked up the words from other singers.

"Come Near My Love" - Written by yours truly in 1974; played in "D" tuning.

"Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane" - I learned from Snuffy. The words were not sung then. It's played in "C" tuning.

"Life on the Farm" - Written by yours truly. The banjo here is played frailing (clawhammer) style. The second verse is a real happening concerning my younger brother and me. I probably never would have remembered this had I not received a switching that day.

It's a Long Way to Tipperary" - This is a WW I song. I played this with my aunt Catherine Weeks playing the piano.

"Smoak House Jam" - Written by yours truly. This was put down on a first recording to show off the musical instruments. Here I've added words to depict one of our family gatherings.