On January 30, world-renowned banjoist (and occasional comedian) Steve Martin led the Steep Canyon Rangers (the Grammy award winning American bluegrass band from Asheville, N.C.) through a rendition of their new single “California” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Many people know that Martin played his banjo while doing standup comedy or on Saturday Night Live, but not as many know that he is a serious musician — he started playing banjo at age 16, has played with and learned from some of the best players in the business, has released six music albums, and has won two Grammy awards for his music.
Martin also created The Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, which provides the winner with an unrestricted cash prize of fifty-thousand dollars, as well as a bronze sculpture created specifically for the prize by noted artist Eric Fischl. Created to bring recognition to an individual or group for outstanding accomplishment in the field of five-string banjo or bluegrass music, the prize highlights the extraordinary musicianship of these artists and bluegrass music worldwide. The winner is determined by a board consisting of J.D Crowe, Pete Wernick, Tony Trischka, Anne Stringfield, Alison Brown, Neil V. Rosenberg, Béla Fleck, and Steve Martin.
In 2014, Martin talked to Making Music magazine about how he started playing banjo, his music and collaborations, and his then-new album with singer Edie Brickell. If you haven’t read the article, check it out here:
The Steep Canyon Rangers — who are frequent collaborators with Steve Martin — are made up of Woody Platt on guitar and vocals, Graham Sharp on banjo and vocals, Mike Guggino on mandolin/mandola and vocals, Nicky Sanders on fiddle and vocals, Mike Ashworth on drums and vocals, and Barrett Smith on bass and vocals.