Andy Boarman – “The Banjo Man”

Here’s a great story from my father-in-law… When he was a physician in West Virginia he knew a man by the name of Andy Boarman. Andy was a barber in Hedgesville and was known to be a fine banjo player and maker of banjos. Rumor had it that when big names in country and bluegrass would come through town, they’d call on Andy to come sit in and he would oblige. But when they asked him to come out on the road he turned them down every time in favor of staying close to his home, his barber shop and his workbench.

A tiny bit of sleuthing on the internet revealed all kinds of good stuff about Andy Boarman including the video above. According to the State of West Virginia, the barber shop that Andy owned in Hedgesville also acted as his instrument and repair shop. In a 1979 article for Goldenseal Andy said that running two stores from one shop required some explaining to the state health inspectors. On one occasion an inspector walked in to find the barber shop filled with musical instruments in various states of repair. Realizing that the owner had two businesses operating in one store he said, “I’ve found one guy in West Virginia who wants to work. Just keep it up.”

According to that story which was written by Peggy Jarvis and Dick Kimmel and later compiled in the book Mountains of Music: West Virginia Traditional Music fromĀ Goldenseal, Andy did finally hang up his scissors in 1974 and turned his barber shop into a full time music store.

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11 Responses to Andy Boarman – “The Banjo Man”

  1. Interesting stuff! Mr. Boarman’s lack of using fingerpicks and extra partial measures on this “Home Sweet Home” arrangement are peculiar, but I really enjoyed his tremolo accompanied by slow bass notes at 0:53. What a way to switch it up: that was a pleasant surprise!

  2. Vernon Huff says:

    In the market for a new banjo in 1979 I spotted an ad in the paper where a guy had two banjos for sale. I made an appointment to check them out and pick a little on each. One was a Mastertone and the other was one was a custom banjo with no name. After playing both I was blown away with the sound of the no-name and purchased it. On the back of the peghead were the initials AFB and the word DIXIE. After doing som research I discovered it was an Andy Boarman banjo. Since then I’ve only seen one other. Daryle Sanders who played with Bill Harrell owns it. Andy made the neck and put it on a 1935 Epiphone Recording B pot. He also made some strange modifications to the flange. I can’t say how the sound might have changed, but I’ve never had a desire to own any other banjo.

  3. Justin Kolb says:

    andy lived right down the road from my parents i grew up 100yds from him and had no idea he was the person described online. Pretty cool..

  4. Sharon says:

    Yes, Andy was my great grandfather as well. My father’s grandfather. Very talented individual.

  5. Amber Murphy says:

    Hello I have a Andy Boarman Dixie Grand Bango, mint in case, signed inside, even newspaper article with him & this Bango. Its one of his last ones he made. Looking to sell it, if you know of anyone interested please email me. Amber Manor Murphy – armurphy3@gmail.com

  6. chris phillips says:

    andy boarman was “uncle Andy” to me—my grandmothers brother….so glad to see this entry and know that other folks know him and what a great guy and musician he was.. what at legacy he left us!

  7. Bruce Davidson says:

    Just amazing to come across this on the internet and see and read about Andy again. I got to know him well through his disciple Jim Steptoe, a great banjo player and person from Martinsburg WV who died in 2009 way too young. Andy and Lois (his wife) had a great daughter Beverly, who had a soon named Raven, who won an award in high school for an Andy Boarmann appreciation. Andy was a good friend to me, got me instruments I still play, put necks on terrific pots like the Gibson Granada he found for me. Andy made a Dixie Grand with 3 tone rings in it that Jim bought and was stolen from Jim and never recovered. It was heavier than hell but made an amazing sound. It’s out there somewhere. I have Andy’s album, banjo on one side, autoharp on the other, it’s like being in his shop again, giving him shit and getting it back from him double. A prince of a person, an amazing banjo mechanic, musician, and friend to anyone halfway worthy. One of his friends was a urologist in the area who bought a bunch of Andy’s instruments, Doctor Kimball I think his name was. To Andy’s relatives and friends–I salute you!

    Fang aka Bruce Davidson

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