Tag Archives: travel

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

Today I’m answering a question from yesterday’s comments, because it is a question worthy of its own entry:

Dear Casey,
Did you bring your banjo (I’m sure you did). If you did, do you do anything special when you carry it on a plane or do you take the “United Breaks guitars” approach. Are you going to give a banjo show like you did last year (if so, post pictures). Keep having fun.

First of all, just to clarify, Marty is asking about me bringing my banjo down here to Miami while I work on the Super Bowl halftime show (details here). I did not. It is so freeing not to have to carry a heavy banjo case through the airport that if I don’t have to take my banjo, I don’t. Plus, if I get desperate, Cap Spence (my boss on this gig) has one that I can play.

In answer to the second sentence, I always carry it with me on the plane if at all possible. I have a Calton case, and the few times I’ve had to check it, it has survived just fine. I don’t do anything special to the banjo itself, but when I do have to check it, I always make sure to lock or tape the latches after security has inspected it. Those latches are surprisingly easy to knock open. (I’ve never done it myself, but baggage handlers apparently find it a very easy thing to do.) Now that I travel with my Kel Kroydon I don’t worry about it nearly as much, since everything on that banjo is replaceable. When I flew with my TB-11 and had to check it, I worried to death the whole trip. Even my travel case will fit in the overhead bins on all domestic flights, except little commuter planes where they will let you gate check it. But don’t ASK anyone if it’s OK to carry it on. They’ll say no. Just do it. And act like you know what you’re doing.

For more info about travel banjo options, consult this post from 2008.

And in answer to Marty’s third sentence, I doubt that this year there will be time for me to do a banjo show. The stage is SO big, and there are SO many volunteers that there is little time for the extras we had last year. If you don’t know what Marty is referring to, here and here are some posts that explain.

Casey Henry

One of my students is a pilot for American Airlines. He sometimes stops by for a lesson if he's flying through Nashville. I recently got a question from another pilot-student about easier and/or lighter options for flying with a banjo and I referred it to Willie, since he has a lot of experience in that area. I know most of you aren't pilots, but I found his answer interesting and informative:

Willie Spence here. I'm a First Officer on the 737 out of Miami with American Airlines. Been carrying the banjo with me for about 8 years. I lugged my main banjo around for a while in a gig bag and have never had a ding.  BUT ..... It was too heavy and began to be a pain in the [back]. I tried a 2/3-size Gold Tone and although it solved the weight problem, I didn't like the right hand posture on the smaller head.  On visiting a luthier he was showing me how good a well set up "cheaper" banjo could sound and pulled out a Deering Goodtime Special.  Voila... weight, size and sound problem solved.  It's about half the weight of my Heartland. I use a gig bag always to carry the Goodtime.  It's lower profile and offers reasonable protection for my instrument. I use a bath size towel (stuffed between the coordinator rod and the head) to mute my banjo when I'm playing in a hotel (it's the only way to mute it and preserve the sound if that makes any sense---no sustain like a bridge mute) and wrap it around the pot of the banjo for additional protection when carrying it (kind of looks like a weird football but lots of protection).

My general feeling about carrying my banjo.... I MUST carry it with me everywhere I go and WILL practice when sitting around otherwise doing nothing.  Pulling it out in an airport is a great way to get over playing bashfulness and I really need the practice everywhere I can get it... the banjo is a very mechanical instrument, almost anything can be fixed or adjusted and generally I've found my Goodtime to be very durable.  I would say mine takes a fair beating in our travels and holds up well... and did I say it was light???  My thinking is that if the Goodtime is somehow destroyed in my travels, I have more than gotten my money's worth out of it and would go get another one and another gig bag as soon as I could get it and keep on pickin'.

So if you see a tallish guy in an AA uniform, picking a Goodtime the next time you're at the airport, be sure to stop by and say hi!