Mike Snider: A-Pickin'-and-a-Grinnin' -- The Banjo Playing Comedian
Mike Snider is a banjo player. And Mike Snider is a funny guy. When you combine these two traits you end up with one very entertaining performer. He gained national attention in the 1980s by appearing at the Grand Ole Opry and on The Nashville Network's Nashville Now television show hosted by Ralph Emery. His championship-winning banjo playing was mixed with jokes and stories that endeared Mike to thousands of country music and bluegrass fans.
Mike's musical career started at age six when Mike's parents bought him a trumpet after he showed promise on an old horn the family dog dug up. Mike's father gave him a banjo for his 16th birthday after they had heard a Flatt & Scruggs album and decided Mike should switch from trumpet to banjo over his mother's objections. She felt he should stick with the trumpet but Mike was certain he would do well with the banjo.
And indeed he did very well, winning the Tennessee State Championship two years in a row before being told he would not be allowed to compete for a third title. So at the suggestion of a student he was teaching banjo to, Mike tried out for the national competition and won that as well.You might think that with these accomplishments Mike would have been thinking about giving a music career a try, but instead, Mike was pretty certain he was going to make his living as a farmer. It did not occur to Mike that he might be able to turn his pickin' into a livin'.
But fate seemed to have other plans as Mike soon found himself playing for Gordon Stoker of The Jordanaires who was impressed with Mike's playing and offered to help, asking if there was anything he might be able to do for Mike. Mike said he would like to play at the Grand Ole Opry and was probably a bit surprised when Stoker was able to arrange it.
The Opry sent Mike 1500 tickets to give away to folks from his hometown of Gleason, TN, and another 500 or so locals bought tickets and made the trip to see Mike play on the legendary stage. Mike was then invited to appear on Nashville Now by Ralph Emery and was soon a regular guest. This led to a seven year run on the syndicated country music show Hee Haw as well guest appearances on Music City Tonight and Prime Time Country. Before he knew it, Mike was a genuine career musician/comedian.
Mike would go on to release several albums of music and comedy, a blend that continued to win him more fans over the years. His three-finger style of picking and songs and stories about life and love were enjoyed by young and old alike.In June 1990, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and has appeared there well over a thousand times. He also spent seven years entertaining with his band at Nashville's Opryland theme park.
In recent years Mike has switched from the three-finger style of banjo picking to the clawhammer style, also known as the frailing style, which he was introduced to by Hee Haw's legendary Grandpa Jones. Using this new style of playing, Mike has put together The Mike Snider String Band. The band plays old American fiddle tunes and mountain music with mike playing harmonica and mandolin in addition to the banjo.
Despite his success, Mike has always remained a down-to-earth hometown boy in his heart and still lives in the small town of Gleason where he grew up. He married a local girl who he calls "Sweetie" and now raises their kids, a son and a daughter, there. He lives within walking distance of his parents and visits them every day if he is not out of town entertaining somewhere. I have to wonder what his mother thinks about his switch to banjo now!
I can say from personal experience that Mike Snider is a man who cares about his fans. The only fan club my mother ever joined was Mike's. She enjoyed his appearances on The Nashville Network and Hee Haw and bought several of his albums. When she passed away I sent the fan club a note to let them know my mom had passed away and they could remove her from their mailing list and how much she had enjoyed Mike's music and wit. I didn't really expect a response but received a card from Mike expressing his and Sweetie's condolences. I could practically feel my mom leaning over my shoulder, reading the card and saying "That's why I love that boy. He's good people."
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