Benjamin Jonathan Allen

Our second son, Benjamin (affectionately known as "Bubba"), is 19 years old and has been playing the mandolin since July of 2003. In February, 2006, he acquired his Breedlove Mandolin from Morgan Music in Lebanon, Missouri. He loves the tonal qualities and improved sound, compared to his old instrument...

Benjamin playing his break on "Colleen Malone"

2010 Youth in Bluegrass Competition @ SDC

Benjamin "Bubba" Jonathan Allen Farnum
Bar-K Wrangler Camp / Chadwick, Missouri ~ October 18, 2008

Benjamin's mandolin skills are exceptional as he performs Bluegrass, Irish or Texas Swing!

He also plays excellent rhythm & lead guitar, as well as some cool harmonica… and now he is singing lead & harmony with his siblings!

Besides playing the Mandolin, Bubba has also taken a serious interest in the guitar and accompanies his brother, Daniel, on many of his cowboy ballads. He has also taught himself to play the Harmonica and has become proficient on some of the old folk tunes. His proficiency earned him an invitation to host the Harmonica Workshop at the 19th Annual Folk Music Festival in West Plains in June of 2013.

June 16, 2013

Benjamin Farnum hosted a "Harmonica Gathering" at the West Plains Civic Center this afternoon... FANTASTIC! I had a blast! Let me tell you... that young man has a most interesting method of playing the harmonica that blew me out of the water! I've never heard anyone do what he did... I got to get that little technique added to my style as well...

And then immediately following Benjamin's harmonica workshop, the family performed at the main stage. Wow! You should have been there!

Pastor Edwin Woolsey / Mountain View, Missouri

He takes an occasional mandolin lesson from one of our favorite musicians (and all-around great guys), Greg Bailey, who performs with Silver Dollar City’s Homestead Pickers. We all went to his studio, Stone County Recording, where Greg recorded and mastered our current Farnum Family CDs: Tomato Pickin', Folk Psalms., Leaning, A Time to Fiddle, and our newest Cowboy Album (yet unnamed).

Some of Benjamin's many interests include: Reading, Music, Computers & other techie stuff, English Country Dancing, & visiting with his many friends.

View Farnum Family Résumé Here

In February, 2006, he acquired his Breedlove Mandolin from Morgan Music in Lebanon, Missouri, replacing his older Johnson instrument.

Thinking of some days gone by...

"Bubba" at SDC in 2006

The Official Louis L'Amour Web Site

 Benjamin is a member of...


Quartz Mandolins



Mandolin and Bluegrass

Mandolins have a long history and much early music was written for them. In the first half of the 20th century, they enjoyed a period of great popularity in Europe and the Americas as an easier approach to playing string music. Many professional and amateur mandolin groups and orchestras were formed to play light classical string repertory. Just as this practice was falling into disuse, the mandolin found a new niche in American country, old-time music, bluegrass and folk music. More recently, the Baroque and Classical mandolin repertory and styles have benefited from the raised awareness of and interest in early music. Tremolo and finger picking methods are used while playing a mandolin.

The mandolin's popularity in the United States was spurred by the success of a group of touring young European musicians known as the Spanish Students, or in Spanish, the Estudiantes Españoles. The group debuted in the U. S. on January 2, 1880 in New York City. Ironically, this ensemble did not play mandolins but rather bandurrías, which are also small, double-strung instruments resembling the mandolin. The success of the Figaro Spanish Students spawned several groups who imitated their musical style and colorful costumes. In many cases, the players in these new musical ensembles were Italian-born Americans who had brought mandolins from their native land. Thus, the Spanish Student imitators did primarily play mandolins and helped to generate enormous public interest in an instrument that previously was relatively unknown in the United States.

Mandolins were a fad instrument from the turn of the century to the mid-twenties. Instruments were marketed by teacher-dealers, much as the title character in the popular musical The Music Man. Often these teacher-dealers would conduct mandolin orchestras: groups of 4-50 musicians who would play various mandolin family instruments together. The instrument was primarily used in an ensemble setting well into the 1930s, although the fad died out at the beginning of the 1930s; the famous Lloyd Loar Master Model from Gibson (1923) was designed to boost the flagging interest in mandolin ensembles, with little success. The true destiny of the "Loar" as the defining instrument of bluegrass music didn't appear until Bill Monroe purchased F5 S/N 73987[1] in a Florida barbershop in 1943 and popularized it as his main instrument.

The mandolin orchestras never completely went away, however. In fact, along with all the other musical forms the mandolin is involved with, the mandolin ensemble (groups usually arranged like the string section of a modern symphony orchestra, with first mandolins, second mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos, mando-basses and guitars and sometimes supplemented by other instruments) continues to grow in popularity. Since the mid-nineties, several public-school mandolin-based guitar programs have blossomed around the country, including Fretworks Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra, the first of its kind. The national organization that represents these groups is the Classical Mandolin Society of America. (CMSA)

Single mandolins were first used in southern string band music in the 1930s, most notably by brother duets such as the sedate Blue Sky Boys (Bill and Earl Bolick) and the more hard-driving Monroe Brothers (Bill and Charlie Monroe). However, the mandolin's modern popularity in country music can be directly traced to one man: Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music. After the Monroe Brothers broke up in 1939, Bill Monroe formed his own group, after a brief time, called the Blue Grass Boys, and completed the transition of mandolin styles from a "parlor" sound typical of brother duets to the modern "bluegrass" style. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1939 and its powerful clear-channel broadcast signal on WSM-AM spread his style throughout the South, directly inspiring many musicians to take up the mandolin. Monroe famously played Gibson F5 mandolin, signed and dated July 9, 1923, by Lloyd Loar, chief acoustic engineer at Gibson. The F5 has since become the most imitated tonally and aesthetically by modern builders. Monroe's style involved playing lead melodies in the style of a fiddler, and also a percussive chording sound referred to as "the chop" for the sound that is made by the quickly struck and muted strings. He also perfected a sparse, percussive blues style, especially up the neck in keys that had not been used much in country music, notably B and E. He emphasized a powerful, syncopated right hand at the expense of left-hand virtuosity. Monroe's most influential follower of the second generation is Frank Wakefield and nowadays Mike Compton of the Nashville Bluegrass Band and David Long, who often tour as a duet.

The other major original bluegrass stylists, both emerging in the early 1950s and active still, are generally acknowledged to be Jesse McReynolds (of Jim and Jesse) who invented a syncopated banjo-roll style of crosspicking and Bobby Osborne of the Osborne Brothers, who is a master of clarity and sparkling single-note runs. Highly-respected and influential modern bluegrass players include Herschel Sizemore and Doyle Lawson and the multi-genre Sam Bush who is equally at home with old-time fiddle tunes, rock, reggae and jazz. Ronnie McCoury of the Del McCoury Band has won numerous awards for his Monroe-influenced playing. The late John Duffey of the original Country Gentlemen and later the Seldom Scene did much to popularize the bluegrass mandolin among folk and urban audiences, especially on the east coast and in the Washington, DC area.

Jethro Burns, best known as half of the comedy duo Homer and Jethro, was also the first important jazz mandolinist. Tiny Moore popularized the mandolin in Western swing music. He initially played an 8-string Gibson but switched after 1952 to a 5-string solid-body electric instrument built by Paul Bigsby. Modern virtuosos David Grisman, Sam Bush and Mike Marshall, among others, have worked since the early 1970s to demonstrate the mandolin's versatility for all styles of music. Chris Thile of California is the best-known of the younger generation of players; the band Nickel Creek features his virtuoso playing in its blend of traditional and pop styles.

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A harmonica is a free reed wind instrument which is played by blowing air into it or drawing air out by placing lips over individual holes (reed chambers) or multiple holes. The pressure caused by blowing or drawing air into the reed chambers causes a reed or multiple reeds to vibrate up and down creating sound. Each chamber has multiple, variable-tuned brass or bronze reeds which are secured at one end and loose on the other end, with the loose end vibrating and creating sound.

Reeds are pre-tuned to individual tones, and each tone is determined according to the size of reed. Longer reeds make deep, low sounds and short reeds make higher-pitched sounds. On certain types of harmonica the pre-tuned reed can be changed (bending a note) to another note by redirecting air flow into the chamber. There are many types of harmonicas, including diatonic, chromatic, tremolo, orchestral, and bass versions.

The harmonica is used in blues and American folk music, jazz, classical music, country music, rock and roll, and pop music. The harmonica has other nicknames, especially in blues music, including: "harp," "blues harp," and "mouth organ."[1] Other less-common names include: hand reed, Mississippi saxophone, pocket sax, toe pickle, tin sandwich, ten-holed tin-can tongue twister, and French Harp.


The harmonica was developed in Europe in the early part of the 19th century. Free reed instruments like the sheng were fairly common throughout East Asia for centuries and were relatively well-known in Europe for some time. Around 1820, free reed designs began being created in Europe. While Christian Friederich Ludwig Buschmann is often cited as the inventor of the harmonica in 1821, other inventors developed similar instruments at the same time.[6] Mouth-blown free reed instruments appeared in the United States, South America, the United Kingdom and in Europe at roughly the same time.

Early instruments

The harmonica first appeared in Vienna, where harmonicas with chambers were sold before 1824 (see also Anton Reinlein and Anton Haeckl). Richter tuning was in use nearly from the beginning. In Germany, Mr. Meisel of Geschichte des Akkordeonbaus in Klingenthal, Schwarzmeisel and Langhammer, bought a harmonica with chambers (Kanzellen) at the Exhibition in Braunschweig in 1824. He and Langhammer in Graslitz copied the instruments; by 1827 they had produced hundreds of harmonicas. Many others followed in Germany and also nearby in what would later become Czechoslovakia. In 1829, Johann Wilhelm Rudolph Glier also began making harmonicas. In 1830, Christan Messner, a cloth maker and weaver from Trossingen, copied a harmonica his neighbour had brought from Vienna. He had such success that eventually his brother and some relatives also started to make harmonicas. From 1840 onwards, his nephew Christian Weiss was also involved in the business. By 1855, there were at least three harmonica-making businesses: C. A. Seydel Söhne, Christian Messner & Co., and Württ. Harmonikafabrik Ch. WEISS. Currently, only C.A. Seydel is still in business.

Owing to competition between the harmonica factories in Trossingen and Klingenthal, machines were invented to punch the covers for the reeds. In 1857, Matthias Hohner, a clockmaker from Trossingen, started producing harmonicas, eventually to become the first person to mass-produce them. He used a mass-produced wooden comb that he had made by machine-cutting firms. By 1868, he began supplying the United States. By the 1920s, the diatonic harmonica had largely reached its modern form. Other types followed soon thereafter, including the various tremolo and octave harmonicas. By the late 19th century, harmonica production was a big business, having evolved into mass-production. New designs were still developed in the 20th century, including the chromatic harmonica, first made by Hohner in 1924, the bass harmonica, and the chord harmonica. In the 21st century, radical new designs are still being introduced into the market, such as the Suzuki Overdrive and Hohner XB-40.

Diatonic harmonicas were designed primarily for the playing of German and other European folk music and have succeeded well in those styles. Possibly unforeseen by its makers, the basic design and tuning proved adaptable to other types of music such as the blues, country, old-time and more. The harmonica was a success almost from the very start of production, and while the centre of the harmonica business has shifted from Germany, the output of the various harmonica manufacturers is still very high. Major companies are now found in Germany (Seydel, Hohner - once the dominant manufacturer in the world, Japan (Suzuki, Tombo, Yamaha), China (Huang, Leo Shi, Suzuki, Hohner) and Brasil (Hering). Recently, responding to increasingly demanding performance techniques, the market for high quality instruments has grown.

Early use: Europe and North America

Shortly after Hohner began manufacturing harmonicas in 1857, he shipped some to relatives who had immigrated to the United States. Its music rapidly became popular, and the country became an enormous market for Hohner's goods. President Abraham Lincoln carried a harmonica in his pocket,[7] and harmonicas provided solace to soldiers on both the Union and Confederate sides of the American Civil War. Frontiersmen Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid played the instrument, and it became a fixture of the American musical landscape.

The first recordings of harmonicas were made in the U.S. in the 1920s. These recordings are 'race-records', intended for the black market of the southern states with solo recordings by DeFord Bailey, duo recordings with a guitarist Hammie Nixon, Walter Horton, Sonny Terry, as well as hillbilly styles recorded for white audiences, by Frank Hutchison, Gwen Foster and several other musicians. There are also recordings featuring the harmonica in jug bands, of which the Memphis Jug Band is the most famous. But the harmonica still represented a toy instrument in those years and was associated with the poor. It is also during those years that musicians started experimenting with new techniques such as tongue-blocking, hand effects and the most important innovation of all, the 2nd position, or cross-harp.

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