Once I had an old banjo

Folk singer Dvorak brings songs, stories & banjoes to Park Ridge Library virtual performance July 16

PARK RIDGE IL - The Park Ridge Public Library will present Chicago’s “official troubadour” Mark Dvorak in a virtual performance Thursday, July 16 at 7:00 pm central daylight time. 

“Once I Had an Old Banjo,” is Dvorak’s exploration into the origin and evolution of the five-string banjo.

“The five-string banjo is truly an American instrument,” said Dvorak who will show and play about a dozen banjoes from his collection. 

“The sound of the 5-string banjo captures something in the foundation of American roots music. It’s an essential voice in our shared history.”

 “I’ve been rehearsing up material for an all banjo record,” said the singer. “I’ve had a lot of requests for it over the years, and it feels like the right time,” he said.


The five-string banjo is said to be America’s only original folk instrument. Though its development coincides with the early history of the United States, scholars now agree that the five-string banjo originated in Africa. When Africans were brought to North America as slaves, they naturally brought with them the ability to make crude banjoes out of common materials. Thomas Jefferson noted that the banjar was the chief instrument played by slaves on his estate.

A Virginian named Joel Sweeney is credited with developing the modern banjo as we know it around 1831. When traveling minstrel shows became popular at the same time, the sounds of the five-string banjo were carried across America.

By the late 1890s, popular culture had grown tired of the banjo and minstrel shows all but disappeared. But, the five-string banjo had found a new home in the lonesome hollers of the Southern mountains. Mountain fiddlers worked at the contraption and a brand of music emerged that was neither African-American nor minstrel style, nor an exact transcription of their own old-time fiddle tunes, but a wonderful, musical mixture of them all.

The Chicago Tribune calles Mark Dvorak “masterful,” and the Fox Valley Folk Festival describes him as “a living archive of song and style.” In 2012 WFMT 98.7 fm Midnight Special host Rich Warren named him "Chicago’s official troubadour.”

Dvorak has released eighteen albums to date including 2020s Let Love Go On and Waterbug’s acclaimed Time Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me. He has won awards for journalism, and was honored with the 2013 FARM Lantern Bearer Award from Folk Alliance International. In 2008 he received the Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.

To register for the ZOOM event, visit the Park Ridge Public Library link at https://parkridgelibrary.libcal.com/event/6816722. If you are new to the ZOOM format, use the tutorial link to gain access.

For more about Mark Dvorak, visit his homepage at www.markdvorak.com.


Stay in touch • info AT markdvorak.com • PO Box 181 • Brookfield IL 60513 • 312 315 4273