GROWN MUSIC CELEBRATING THE TRADITIONAL MOUNTAIN MUSIC OF HAYWOOD COUNTY
- How sweet the sound: the Cox/Fairchild banjo
- By Todd Callaway
of fine instruments have to know the sound first, then the workmanship
and materials, according to Raymond Fairchild, world champion banjo
player and designer of the Cox/Fairchild banjo.
"They're Fairchild design and Cox built,"he said.
"Curly maple wood and gold engraving make a banjo fancy, but it's all secondary to the sound of the instrument," Fairchild said.
Voted best banjo picker of the year from 1987-1991, Fairchild says that designing the Cox/Fairchild model banjo is the career accomplishment of which he's most proud.
A curly maple neck and resonator, an ebony fret board, and a 20-hole, flathead bronze tone ring help make the Cox/Fairchild banjo unique. It's even been touted as the banjo of the future.
"I worked on it for three years drawing the blueprints on the way I thought a banjo should sound, look, balance, stay in tune, and perform from one end of the neck to the other,"he said. "And I got it all in one package, and I run into a banjo maker who's the greatest banjo maker in the world ... I showed him my plans and he said "I'll tell you what, I'll make a hundred nickel and hundred gold."
"There's a half a dozen secrets to the Cox/Fairchild banjo, that's why it's great," Fairchild said. But pulling those secrets from him is like pulling teeth.
Proud of his creation, Fairchild enjoys talking about the Cox/Fairchild banjo, but ask him to reveal the secrets to its sound and he'll explain it's the craftsmanship.
"Jimmy Cox is a great banjo builder because he's devoted so many years to it. He works and works on a banjo until it's right," Fairchild said.
The Cox/Fairchild banjo is made in Cox's Five-String Studio in Top Sham, Maine. Prices range from $1,100 to $3,000 for a gold-plated and engraved model.
"There ain't any tricks to making banjos, they just have to sound right," Cox said in a 1992 interview.
Fairchild is sure the Cox/Fairchild banjo will triple in value over the years. A clean, crisp, powerful sound is what makes this banjo great, he said.