I've been playing clawhammer banjo since 1992, and I started making banjos in 1999, while I was living in New Mexico. I learned under the tutorship of Stephen Owsley Smith, and I also met many local artisans who helped me learn the fine arts of wood and metal working — key components of my banjos. I am highly influenced by the banjo makers of the 1880's and you can see this influence throughout all of my banjo models.
The first 29 Brooks Banjos were made in a small off-the-grid cabin, and in a 1959 Chevy Spartan school bus parked on my land. I lived at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, about 8,000 feet above sea level in the Latir El Rito area about 40 miles north of Taos, 7 miles north of Questa on Highway 522.
After six years of making banjos in a shop without electricity, steaming rims over wood heat or propane, and the general battling of the elements, I packed up and moved to Portland, Oregon in 2005.
Living in Portland has greatly improved many aspects of my banjo-making. I have a fully-equipped shop, powered for both the wood and metal working aspects of my banjo making. It beats working out of a school bus. Not quite as good a view however.
One of the best things about living in Portland is being surrounded by a great old time music community. I have made a lot of banjos for people in the area at this point and it is very beneficial for me to get to see first hand how my banjos hold up after being played a bunch and traveled around with. I can say with confidence that my banjos are work horses and hold up through many years of heavy playing and travel!
Other places you can find me
Flat Rock Stringband