For someone so legendary in his own time, tantalizingly little information is readily available about Joe “Banjo” Roberts. (If anyone out there has more information than we have in this truncated little post, I know my readers would be glad to hear it). We know that he played the Palace in the 1920s. We know that he started out as a violinist, developed an injury and as a result, switched to the banjo, applying violin technique to that instrument. We know that he inspired Roy Smeck as a boy, who saw him in vaudeville and actually paid him for a couple of lessons. We know that he played theatres all over the country — plenty of glowing notices can be found for him online. And according to his grandchild, “he married a chorus girl.” And he cut a couple of records. Thanks, Tim Gracyk, for sharing this one:
For more on vaudeville history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.