Frank Bradbury

The Plectrum Banjo Arrangements of Frank Bradbury


Frank Bradbury [Vermont, 1896, 1981] was a leading banjo performer of the 20th century, and author of a very popular tutor for the 5-string classic banjo, Mel Bay’s Banjo Method, C-Tuning – Concert Style. He is less known for his work promoting the four-string Plectrum banjo. More of that below, after a short biog, courtesy of banjo researcher, David Wade:

Frank Charles Bradbury was born in Bethel, Vermont in 1896, his father was a banjo player and teacher of stringed instruments. His father was his first teacher and then as a teenager Frank spent several summers studying with Fred Bacon. When he had finished High School he formed “The Venetian Trio” and toured most of the United States. He served as a marine in WWI and afterwards returned to Connecticut to take up teaching music. In 1920 he married Ann, an accomplished pianist, who naturally became his accompanist.
Frank’s first tutor book was first published in1926 as “the Bradbury Modern Method for the Banjo” this was followed shortly by “Bradbury’s Method for the Plectrum Banjo” published the same year.
Frank was one of the original members of the American Banjo Fraternity when it was formed in the late 1940’s. He was responsible for the instigation of formal programmes at ABF rallies in 1961. He also organised The Bradbury Quintette which included his wife Ann and son John which played at many ABF Rallies and recorded 3 lps under the title on the “Pyquaug Pickers”. Half of the pieces were solos performed and half were performances of the group.
The Mel Bay Banjo Method was originally published in two volumes in 1967 – it is one of the best banjo methods and still selling. Frank drew on his vast teaching experience to write a clear, logically progressive set of lessons with superb arrangements. He was justly proud of his achievement!
Frank was made honorary president of the ABF in 1968, a position which he held longer than any of his predecessors.
Frank passed away in September 1981 at the grand age of 85. He is remembered as one of the great professional banjoist of the 20th century. [David Wade, with permission.]

I picked up the Sam Fox Collection of Plectrum Banjo Solos Volume 1 on ebay, which contains ten arrangements by Bradbury of music by various composers. It is unclear if the originals were for 5-string classic banjo or some other instrument(s). Here are the contents:

1. Ole South – J. S. Zamecnik
2. Sparklets – Walter E. Miles
3. The Drum Major – Jacob Henry Ellis
4. Butterfly Dance – Walter E. Miles
5. In A Canoe – J. S. Zamecnik
6. Sunflower Babe – Fred Heltman
7. Fair Debutante – Jules Reynard
8. Gavotte Piquante – Wm. T. Pierson
9. Flirtation – Budd L. Cross
10. Zouave – F. Jackson

The arrangements suit the Plectrum banjo perfectly, so well it is hard to conceive they were not written with plectrum in hand. A classical music influence is prevalent, but elements of ragtime, proto jazz and popular music can also be traced.

If anyone finds Volume 2 – please let me know!

Flirtation, by Bud Cross (1919):

Sparklets by Walter Miles (1919):

A wind band performance of Sparklets: