A Brevard, North Carolina-based music company keeps a love of banjos alive among seasoned pickers as well as beginners. Lo Gordon started Cedar Mountain Banjos in 1993, and in 2013, his son Tim Gardner took over the business. He’s devoted to crafting customized banjos that continue to win rave reviews.
“There’s really no such thing as a one-size-fits-all banjo,” says Gardner. “Being a small builder, I can easily integrate different specs.”
Gardner says factory workers generally build the mass manufactured banjos, and this keeps the price down. But it’s difficult in that setting to offer the customization desired by many.
He crafts about 30 banjos a year, ranging in price from $1,000 to $3,350. Grammy-winning musician David Holt is among the most famous to play a Cedar Mountain Banjo, but the company also attracts beginners who don’t want to wrestle learning on a low quality banjo.
“Holt is by far the best known player—I’m headed to MerleFest where he’ll be playing one of my banjos,” says Gardner.
Gardner works on batches of five to six banjos at a time. He says each batch takes about eight weeks to complete. “I fill whatever orders I have in the cue,” he says. “I have several different models and customize from there.”