Downtown Music

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Blues Brothers Step Aside for the Blues Babies

Normally, these posts are about my father and his exploration of the music world, but as a family, we are all in love with the magic of music.

So, I would like to take a moment to introduce you to my sister, Jessica Brakefield. We have been posting a lot lately about our brand new and exciting class, the Blues Babies, which will be under her direction. She has several years experience in education, and with two little ones of her own, she is more than qualified.

She is so excited to fill this gap for us. Although our philosophy is all people should have access to music education, our one on one lessons are really only beneficial to children 5 and up typically.

So, being the brilliant mind she is, she had the phenomenal idea to have a hands on, wiggle ready, group class that keeps the kids interested while allowing them the freedom to be kids!

The children will be combining crafts, songs, dance, poetry, and plenty of hands on shakes, rattles, and rolls.

The class meets one time a week (4 times a month) and is available for kids as young as two.

I know these kids are going to be in loving hands, as my sister just has a way with these future musicians and it will be such an easy transition to one on one classes when the kids are older. They will be able to know many of the basics of music like rhythm, tempo, pitch and so much more.

We hope you will consider adding your little guys and gals to our Downtown Music family. We can’t wait to explore with them!

For more information on this class, check out our Facebook page or call our store!

The Hunt for the Old Banjo

For most people, something as simple as needing some work done to an instrument is a simple errand. But my dad (Joe Hardin), doesn’t meet strangers, he is making friends. This turns any of our weekend to do list into mini adventures and our latest one had us traveling to Hickory, NC.

The Banjos

The first thing you have to know to really see how amazing this trip was, is my dad’s long time search for his holy grail of banjo tone. If you listen to the Beverly Hillbillies, you will hear that iconic Earl Scruggs banjo and you will notice today’s banjos–well they are a whole different sound.

But hey, some people love the loud and proud banjos today–most people actually. But, for my dad, his ear had been trying to replicate the heart of his childhood. Through a series of lengthy phone conversations, an elderly man in New Jersey turned friend (as happens with Dad) sold a couple of banjos that have had my father giddy for weeks. Christmas morning (as it seemed) and his first banjo arrived–a ’68 Earl Scruggs Vega–and there it was. The tone. It was near perfect and anyone who would listen was bound to hear him roll a few notes.

The second banjo–a 1925 Gibson–made his heart jump even further. If you have ever had that sensation of trying to remember a song but only having the melody in your head, then you can probably relate to the relief when Dad finally heard such a close match to this sound he has been chasing for decades.

But as we sat with these two old banjos, they needed a little bit of TLC and we knew just the man to trust.


The Banjo Maker

So we drove them into Hickory, NC where Warren Yates, the man to see when it comes to Banjos, welcomed us into his workshop. We took up quite a lot of his time, but he was pretty gracious with us. One can describe him as half passion, half comedian.

When it comes to banjos, his knowledge seems limitless. His shop boasted several in various stages of being built and with a quick few movements, the first banjo was apart and getting a good thorough inspection.

The really special thing about Mr. Yates isn’t just about making banjos, it has more to do with solving problems like my dad had. His real talent is in being able to recreate sounds of the past. His prewar replicas mimic so closely the tones of an era gone by that someone wishing to relive a piece of their past need only close their eyes.

He also makes picks, straps, and basically anything banjo related, but when he placed his handmade Yates banjo in Dad’s hands and asked him to give it a go–well that’s when it was easy to understand why he has such a stellar reputation.

There it was, that perfect sound. Years of searching and getting closer and closer, came down to one that wasn’t even old at all. A brand new banjo with all the “wear and tear” of a memory made my Dad’s smile go ear to ear–and made the hour long drive home a little one-sided. How is it possible to calculate and test your way into a feeling? I’m not sure how all the magic is done, and I think Mr. Yates likes it that way, but I can say it is nice to know we don’t have to say good-bye to the things we loved from our past.

I should also note, that any time spent with Mr. Yates will leave a smile on your face regardless, because telling jokes comes as quickly to him as banjo making.

If you would like to learn more about Yates Banjos, you can watch our short interview with him on our Facebook page or visit his website at Yates Banjos.


Earl Scruggs Center

We had the pleasure this past Saturday to spend the evening in Shelby, NC at the Earl Scruggs Center. If you know my dad, Joe Hardin, then I am sure you have heard him talk about watching Scruggs in his youth.0713191818

So, like a kid in a candy shop, we enjoyed an after hours tour of the museum. I have to say, I was thoroughly surprised by the amount of technology utilized in the exhibits. Each guest receives a set of ear phones which they can plug into any number of areas to really explore.

Everything from radio samples over the decades, differences in banjos, local voices and most impressively, an interactive table. My 8 year old son went with us and was particularly amazed at how he could manipulate the screen on this table to view pictures, videos, listen to songs and clips, or even have anyone around the table opt in to a jam session. He was partial to playing the banjo which I felt fitting considering where we were!

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The museum itself would have justified our short drive over the state line, but our night wasn’t finished. There was a jam session hosted by the center under the direction of Mary Beth Martin. People from any skill level were welcome and encouraged to join (something we are familiar with for sure!). Of course, Dad couldn’t help himself as beginners found their way to him for some on the spot advice.


There were multiple groups set up on the property so listeners could meander between and everyone had a chance to shine. Jam sessions have a magical ability to have strangers come together and with no set list, manage entire songs with solos assigned on the fly with little more than a nod.



All in all, we had a great trip. I encourage anyone who loves the history of bluegrass music to spend some time at the Earl Scruggs Center. I also appreciate everyone who is following along on our adventures as we try to make connections with some of my father’s greatest influences.

For more information, visit the  Earl Scruggs Center Website


Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there and especially to my own: Joe Hardin.

Thank you for all the years of hard work and sacrifice.

Thank you for all the long talks.

Thank you for always challenging my way of thinking.

Thank you for being an inspiration by following your dreams.

Thank you for being a safety net so us kids could jump without fear of falling.

Thank you for teaching me a mind is capable of amazing things and a giving heart is capable of even more.

He gives just as much to his students and I love hearing the ways they have grown from knowing him!

So very thankful to call him Dad!


Zachary Lemhouse

For those of you who have followed along our story for the past few years, it is no surprise to you that Joe Hardin has been wonderfully inspired and impacted by the Briarhoppers Band. We have written at length of his excitement as he was able to perform on stage along side the talented musicians he has admired.



So you can imagine with what excitement he called me to let me know one of these very people will  be teaching the fiddle at Downtown Music!

Zachary Lemhouse has an extensive musical resume boasting more than 20 years experience. He is an exciting addition to our music family and if you have interest in the violin, we hope you will come see him!

If you would like more information on the WBT Briarhoppers Band, you can visit their blog at http://wbtbriarhoppers.blogspot.com/

Quilts of Valor

I hope you will indulge me this evening to write about something that has nothing to do with music. Today Dennis Hardin was honored with a Quilt of Valor at the Broad River Baptist Church in Smyrna. He is an important man in our family. He has remained a constant beam of support and spring of encouragement throughout my whole life. He is my uncle, but to my father (Joe Hardin) he is more than a brother in so many ways as I am reminded often.


If it weren’t for him, Downtown Music would not exist as it does today, nor would my father be the man he is. We owe him so much gratitude personally and in a grand scale for the sacrifices he made as a US Marine. Knowing that great men like him have defended and are defending our country allows me to sleep easy at night. I hope you will each take a moment to pray for him and join us in honoring a hero that walks among us.


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Year Wrap Up

Another year is coming to an end and what a year it has been!

We sure managed to pack a lot of excitement into the last 365 days. We have met amazing people and played tons of music.

We spent a large part of the year adjusting to our new home and slowly fixing it up and arranging things to provide the best service we can. I am sure it will change 1000 more times as we continue stocking new things and starting new adventures. We are so appreciative to everyone who has helped make the move a success and we hope our students and teachers are enjoying the larger rooms and easy parking.

Anyone who has spoken with Joe knows how exciting this year was for him. He had the opportunity to meet not one, but two of his musical idols. Mark O’Connor and the Briarhoppers.

Mr. O’Connor has been incredibly gracious with his time. Joe first met him at the amazing performance of the Mark O’Connor band at the McCelvey Center where the multi Grammy and CMA winner received several standing ovations. To our surprise, he and his incredibly talented wife, Maggie, agreed to come to the music store for Summerfest and do demonstrations for the crowd. And, if that wasn’t amazing enough, Mark and Maggie came back to do a two day teaching course! If you feel like you missed out on the opportunity to learn from one of the masters of violin, you have another opportunity as he will return in 2019 for another course. He will also be playing a show at the Sylvia theater in January.

The Briarhoppers were another special treat as they were an important inspiration to Joe’s music career. The moment was highlighted when Joe was allowed to play a song with the band and fulfill a childhood dream. We encourage everyone to take an opportunity to see the long standing string band perform.

We were also able to host Penny and Sparrow in a VIP performance before their show at the Sylvia. It was a wonderful treat and once again, Joe was able to join in!

They say those who can’t do, teach, but Joe is proving them wrong as he holds his own on the stage. Lucky for us, his passion is in giving the gift of music to others rather than performing (though sometimes he can’t help but join in the fun!)

We participated in several events to support our community as well. We had our Music Crawls which have started drawing quite a crowd! We participated in the Libraries Rock initiative to encourage literacy. We did career day at a local school. We provided entertainment before the outdoor movies this summer. We also participated in the holiday festivities including small business Saturday, the tree lighting ceremony and the Tour of Homes. I would also like to thank especially Ann Bailes, one of our piano teachers, for all her hard work decorating for the holidays (on top of everything else she does for us!) We enjoy getting to be an active part of our town and if you know of any event that would like our students to show off what they have learned please let us know!

We have been so lucky to keep doing something we are so passionate about and it is only thanks to all your support.

We have lots of plans for the coming year and hope you will stay with us as we challenge ourselves to be more than just a business, but a family.

Follow us to keep up to date with the projects we will be starting.

From our ever growing music family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Small Business Saturday Sales Are Here!

It’s that time again. Let us help ease your music lover’s Christmas list this year with our  prices on select items.

November 24th, 2018 Remember to Shop Small and Save Big!

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** Only while supplies last!

Can’t bring that guitar home just yet? We offer layaway! See store for details.