Augusta’s “long neck banjo player”


Kurt Rhodes, co-owner of Rhodes Market in Augusta, often looks like one of the busiest people in the area. But there’s a lot of truth to the adage that you take time for the things you love.

For Rhodes, this is exactly what is happening. At least once a year, during the annual Home for the Holidays event, Rhodes brings together a group of her friends who choose their instruments to put on a musical performance at the market, helping to add even more festive air to the opportunity.

Rhodes denied having a cast for the performance each year. “It’s always a different cast,” he said. “We prefer to have a bass, a violin, a mandolin, a guitar and a dobro. The whole point of good manners is to give everyone who wants to contribute an equal chance to play. A loud or bossy musician can spoil the fun.

Rhodes said the inspiration for his musical style and evolution came from attending music festivals. But part of that also stems from his childhood.

“My dad played music,” he says. “I have always been very close to all types of music, maybe closer than the others. I find that when I find a musician playing in a style that I really love, I want to recreate that special sound.

“You get to know the people who play. There were more festivals where you could walk around and participate in a session. If they like your game, they will remember you and you will remember them. At the next gathering, you are looking for yourself.

“A crucial aspect is your manners. Rude pickers are never tolerated. A young or a new musician is always welcome, if he behaves well.

Rhodes credited the area’s late fame, Otis Henry, with nicknamed him the long-necked banjo player. “A four-string tenor banjo has a short neck,” Rhodes explained. “A five-string banjo has a longer neck.”

But Kurt Rhodes’ story doesn’t just end in Augusta. “Right now I have two groups, one in Havana and the other in Lewiston, Missouri.”

As it turns out, Rhodes does a lot of pickin ‘- and maybe just a tiny bit of grinnin’. And that’s how he likes it!

Rudy Kemppainen is the Eagle-Scribe correspondent. Email [email protected] with any comments or questions about this story.

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