the greatest and certainly the most popular banjoist of all time, Olly
Oakley is a fascinating and controversial figure who even today has the
power to arouse devotion and hostility amongst players and followers of the
banjo. The son of a Midlands jeweller, Oakley decided on the banjo at the
age of twelve after hearing the pioneering Bohee brothers in concert. During
a career stretching over thirty-five years he made more than five hundred
recordings, toured widely throughout Britain and abroad, formed a highly
successful concert party as well as a banjo quartet and a dance band, and
was, as far as the circumstantial evidence suggests, a key figure in the
development of the zither banjo.
was the secret of Oakley’s success with the general public? Why is he,
nevertheless, criticised as
often as praised by fellow banjoists? The articles by notable commentators
and biographers reproduced here form an irreplaceable bank of information
and we are indebted to the enthusiasm and painstaking efforts of these
authors. However, they also contain factual inaccuracies and, in some cases,
contentious statements which require clarification and critical comment.
Therefore, each article we reproduce has a link to a discussion page in
which we address these matters to the best of our ability and according to
our present state of knowledge.