Banjo Newsletter/SPBGMA Workshop
February 7, 2004
Directed by Jack Hatfield
Music City Sheraton, Nashville, Tennessee
Featured instructor: BUTCH ROBINS with Ross Nickerson, Charlie Cushman, Tony Wray and Wayne Erbson

The workshop at Music City Sheraton, Nashville, Tennessee, on February 6, 2004, featured Butch Robins, formerly with Bill Monroe, author of new book What I Know 'Bout What I Know. Also: Ross Nickerson, Jack Hatfield, and Charlie Cushman (Nashville studio/touring pro, plays with Mike Snyder and does final setup of Gibson banjos before shipping) on banjo setup/maintenance. Tony Wray, supervisor of the Gibson banjo department, and Wayne Erbson of Native Ground Music (prolific banjo book author and teacher) were special guests.

The workshop was extremely well received. With two special guests there was more variety than ever before. Jack Hatfield guided beginners through murky waters with tips and techniques to make practicing and playing more efficient. Wayne Erbson taught a basic clawhammer lick and BNL columnist/associate editor Ian Perry brought his own perspective to the workshop. Especially interesting were his ideas on the mental approach to playing well ~ getting in the correct mental state to let the music you already know come out effortlessly. Charlie and Tony brought some pre-war Gibson banjos and made some very important points about banjo setup, the Gibson company, and history of the Gibson banjo department, and spoke at length how to get the sound you want out of a banjo. Ross covered about as many intermediate aspects as could be included in 90 minutes with his unique perspective, and Butch Robins was considered by many to be one of the most interesting and engaging speakers to ever do a SPBGMA/BNL workshop. He spoke also at length on the mental/psychological/spiritual aspects of playing music and related many anecdotes and epiphanies he received as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass boys. He also spoke about his role in founding the Newgrass Revival and the Nashville Bluegrass Band (originally named The Bluegrass Band when Butch was leader) ~ and of course he played some wonderful arrangements and tunes he has recorded. For more on Butch Robins and his recordings and book, go to or read the October and November issues of Banjo Newsletter, which features an in-depth interview with Butch. For more on Ross Nickerson go to his website: For more on Charlie Cushman go to

Most workshop attendees shook the hand of Earl Scruggs, who appeared on Sunday, February 8, at Gibson's Opry Mills location, three miles away from the SPBGMA convention. This autograph session was free!