Owner and crafter, Dave Dillard, was encouraged to first start playing the banjo in high-school, when his Dad wisely noticed that football practice wasn’t going so well. After graduating with an engineering degree from Clemson University in ’86, Dave loaded his red Chevy pickup with a banjo, fiddle, mandolin, two stuffed deer heads, and moved to Nashville.
“Those were exciting days. I found myself playing in bands with Vassar Clements, Kenny Baker, Josh Graves and other music giants. I had worn out their records in college, and now I was getting to make music with them.”
Years later, following a career spanning music, engineering, and non-profit work, Dave was once again captured by the ring of a banjo.
This time it was the sound of traditional open back banjos that resonated. Not just the old-time bands and tunes, but also newer music from innovative artists like Sarah Jarosz, Ruth Moody, Rhiannon Giddens and others.
“The more I learned, the more I knew there was more to life than my Chinese-made factory banjo. Goat skins, tone rings, rim sizes… the options were endless and I wanted to try them all.”
One day, while drooling over banjo pictures online, Dave happened across a video of someone building banjos in a home workshop. That day he discovered his destiny. Dave was determined to learn everything he could about building banjos and soon began designing and crafting his own instruments in his south Nashville workshop. After his first build, Dave was hooked.
“It’s magical how wood, brass, skin and strings can come to life in your hands. And there’s something very magical about the sound of a banjo; I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t smile when they hear one. It’s a real gift.”
In addition to building banjos for new friends and old, Dave is teaching his wife Robin how to play. He’s also helping his son, Jonathan, build a fretless banjo when he’s home on leave from the Coast Guard. But perhaps the highlight of his week is when his daughter Pauli drops off grandson James for his weekly banjo lesson. We start them young here in Nashville!
Today’s Nashville is growing by leaps and bounds, but you can still find corners of Music City like Nashville Banjo Co. where the old-time flavor mixes with the new. Please drop us a line if you’re ever in the area. We’d love the chance to meet you, show you around the workshop, and maybe share a few songs together.