By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
The Dallas Banjo Band claims to have formed back in 1989, and you'd be hard pressed to find any history on them prior to that. At first, it would appear as though this group of nearly three dozen passionate and talented banjo players materialized out of thin air with nothing drawing them together except fate, free time and a mutual love of four-string pickin'. And that's exactly what our government wants us to believe.
You'll notice that most of DBB's current lineup just happens to be retired military personnel or have some other skill or trades training that would make them ideal candidates for a shadowy secret government operation. Founder Bobby Albright (tenor banjo) served as an MP in the Army overseas. Vince Gallo (plectrum banjo) was a fighter pilot in the Air Force. Larry Sullivan (plectrum banjo) is a mechanical and electrical engineer. Tom Sanders (tenor banjo) was the first baby born in Seminole County, Oklahoma, in 1934. That's no coincidence. These sorts of things don't just happen all on their own.
Recently declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act detail the Dallas Banjo Band's original inception as a top-secret military project once known only as "Operation: Severed Cheetah's Paw." Created in an underground laboratory located deep within an active island volcano during the early-to-mid-1970s, the Dallas Banjo Band was designed by an elite group of scientists, musicologists and ninjas to be the world's deadliest collection of banjo players. In 1974, military doctors fused genetic material from banjo legends Willie "Lazy Eye" Chumbbers and Benjamin "Brown Gravy" Albernabther to produce a half-android, half-super-human banjo virtuoso named "Lazy Gravy." While his picking abilities were exponentially enhanced by a bionic thumb and forefinger, the unnecessary inclusion of hair-triggered, shoulder-mounted laser cannons proved to be a fatal addition, resulting in the accidental incineration of most of the attendees at the annual St. Claire Country Fun Run and Quilt-A-Thon in the spring of 1984.
It was back to the drawing board for project coordinators as the "Lazy Eye" prototype was destroyed and "Operation: Severed Cheetah's Paw" was scrapped and renamed "Project: Fish Whistle (AKA The Reckoning)." Under the Reagan administration, the group then began to take on its current shape and size, an impressive ensemble of 30 or so banjoists (and a tuba or two) mastering a variety of traditional folk, bluegrass and jazz styles against a magnificent wall of Appalachian sound. The syncopated strumming of so many banjos at once caused test subjects to report physical sensations of "whimsical euphoria" not unlike those associated with "one helluva good time."
In the late 1990s the group was ordered to abandon the mission, as budgetary restraints required that funds be reallocated toward a new project, "Operation: Dead Horse (AKA The Beating)." The Dallas Banjo Band continues to perform, but to this day members will disavow any knowledge of a secret government conspiracy. But there's still a helluva good time to be had.