HARRY RESER (1896 - 1965)
Harry Reser, one of the greatest banjoists of all time, possessed extraordinary technique, often creating the impression of playing on two banjos at the same time. The Pickers’ Digest described him as “Not just a master banjoist, but the banjo master.” He got his start playing in dance bands in his hometown of Piqua, Ohio but moved to New York City in 1921, where he quickly became a sought-after recording session musician. Reser’s numerous 1920s recordings proved that the banjo, thought of as strictly a rhythm instrument, was in fact a solo instrument. In the autumn of 1923, after being featured in a highly successful, long-running show with Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra at the London Hippodrome, Reser returned to the United States with his greatest commercial triumph yet ahead of him. In 1925, he was invited to become the director for the Clicquot Club Eskimo Orchestra on the NBC radio network. This weekly half-hour show, sponsored by Clicquot Club ginger ale, made Reser quite well known and was on the air until 1935. During the 1920s and 1930s, he also led many bands using an amazing number of pseudonyms (The Bostonians, The Californians, The Clevelanders, Cliquot Club Eskimos, Denza Dance Band, Jazz Pilots, Six Jumping Jacks, Tennessee Happy Boys, The Vagabonds, etc.). Reser continued to be quite active in music for the rest of his life, touring, leading television studio orchestras, playing in Broadway orchestras, recording and writing several popular banjo, guitar and ukulele instruction books. His 1927 Harry Reser’s New Instructional Course for Tenor Banjo mail-order course provided one lesson per week. When the students mailed the tests back, they received personalized advice in Reser’s own handwriting. As a composer, bandleader and performer, Harry Reser set the standard by which all aspiring banjoists would be judged. He was inducted into the National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame in 1999.