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Musical life honoured in USA

Jenny Blackadder at the Clareville Country Music Festival, which inspired her to move to Wairarapa. PHOTO/FILE

By Gerald Ford

Wairarapa’s own Queen of the Banjo is heading to the American Midwest this month to receive a lifetime achievement award.

Musician Jenny Blackadder, QSM, of Carterton, has been invited to perform at the National Old Time Music Festival in Plymouth, Iowa, which runs from August 28 to September 3.

While there, she will receive the lifetime achievement award from the National Traditional Country Music Association, the NTCMA.

Its president Bob Everhart phoned up Blackadder himself to make the invitation, Blackadder said.

“Bobby called me up and he said, “We want to honour you with the highest honour we can bestow.”

Blackadder moved to Carterton in 2015, falling in love with the region after playing at the Clareville Country Music Festival.

She was inducted into the New Zealand Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002 and was first invited to the Iowa music festival in 2007.

She was crowned Queen of the Banjo the following year, for her work keeping banjo music alive around the world.

Blackadder got her start in the 1970s in Christchurch after teaching herself to play the banjo, starting a Dixieland jazz band which appeared on telethons and other TV shows.

After that she taught herself the pedal steel guitar and learned country music and converted some of it to banjo.

Blackadder won top South Island Country Music Artist and Top South Island Instrumentalist in 1979, and her big break came at the NZ New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards in Gore, where she took out “Top Instrumentalist” and the 1980 “Overall Gold Guitar Award.”

“I went down there green as a cabbage,” she said.

At that festival two important contacts in the US music industry approached Blackadder.

“They both said to me, “you could play anywhere in the world”.

“I seem to have had some guide me to where I need to be at the right times,” she said.

“Mind you, I’ve worked hard. I still practice 1-2 hours a day even now.”

Mr Everhart in writing of Blackadder’s career asks: “How did a New Zealand woman, at the age of 22, take up playing a 4-string tenor banjo?”

“And then after mastering the instrument, go on to play Dixieland Jazz?”

“And what would possess her to make the long journey to the United States to participate in that country’s long-time interest in keeping its own musical heritage alive and well, especially in the farm country of the upper midwest?”

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