Steve Martin Purchases SwallowTail Banjo

Actor Steve Martin, who starred as Inspector Clouseau in the box-office hit The Pink Panther, purchased a top-of-the-line "SwallowTail" banjo, designed by Geoff Stelling and Tom Hanway.

Tom Hanway, after a tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland in 1997, inspired Geoff Stelling to create and perfect the Standard and Deluxe SwallowTail models which went into production in 1998, manufactured by Stelling Banjo Works, Ltd., Afton VA. The SwallowTail Deluxe, which Tom himself plays, is also the new banjo of choice for actor Steve Martin, who says he loves everything about the instrument that Geoff sent him a few weeks ago.

With his SwallowTail, Tom is featured in the April 2005 issue of Banjo NewsLetter magazine. Meanwhile, the Stelling SwallowTail is becoming a popular model worldwide.

Tom and his Stelling SwallowTail at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford,
during the 2004 International Guinness Bluegrass Festival
(photo by Denise Hanway)

Tom, originally from New York City, is well known to Longford, Ireland residents through his appearances at area schools, the Longford banjo festival, Backstage Theatre and Temperance Hall, where he presented a Benefit Concert for People in Need in May 2004.

Tom is leading the movement in “Celtic Fingerstyle” banjo, and in the 1990s did extensive field recording, innovated playing techniques and authored the Complete Book of Irish & Celtic 5-String Banjo, which has given a Celtic repertoire to legions of banjoists and is a popular seller worldwide. With over 100 tunes from all six Celtic nations and the diaspora, it is the first work of its kind for 5-string banjo. In January 1999, Bluegrass Unlimited wrote: “What Earl Scruggs’ book did for bluegrass banjo Tom Hanway’s book may well do for the 5-string in Irish and Celtic music…. [This work] will certainly become regarded as ‘the bible’ for any 5-string player with an interest in this joyous music”.

Tom has traded licks onstage at festivals, concerts and on Broadway with many greats, including Mick Hanly, Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna), Warren Haynes (Allman Bros./Govt. Mule), Rick Danko and Levon Helm (The Band), Prof. Louie and the Crowmatix, Merl Saunders (Jerry Garcia Band), Derek Trucks (Allman Bros.), Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Jack Lawrence (Doc Watson), Doc Watson, Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan, Tony Trischka, Bill Keith, John Herald (Greenbriar Boys), Buddy Cage (New Riders of the Purple Sage), David Nelson, Zen Tricksters, and the Provincetown Jug Band. Hanway performed with fiddler Kenny Kosek in the off-Broadway bluegrass musical, Feast Here Tonight. In 2000, Tom recorded ‘Hot Corn, Cold Corn’, a radio broadcast with David Bromberg -- live from Studio A -- for WFUV’s City Folk Live II CD. Tom performed with Ritchie Havens for the latter’s Natural Guard nature walks for children. Tom has recorded on dozens of albums and has several releases of his own.

Tom Hanway has written for Banjo NewsLetter, 5-String Quarterly, The Banjo Gazette (UK), Bluegrass Europe, Bluegrass Ireland and The Celtic League, and in the late 90s was the monthly “Banjophiles” columnist for Acoustic Musician magazine. As a Web editor for Netscape’s Open Directory Project and as a freelance music journalist, Tom helps others in their quests for bluegrass, Celtic, folk and world music sources.

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