Creed Five-String Fretless Banjo, used by Fred Cockerham

Creed Five-String Fretless Banjo, used by Fred Cockerham

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This banjo was made by Kyle Creed in Galax, Virginia around 1960-1962. It has 16 brackets and a fingerboard covered with formica veneer. An innovative use of modern synthetic materials (Formica (TM) and Mylar (TM)) is seen in this otherwise traditional fretless banjo made for outstanding old time musician Fred Cockerham, by his friend Kyle Creed.

The Formica surface of the fingerboard provides a wear resistant, smooth surface that helps the finger slides of the old time clawhammer style. The Mylar head gives a bright clear tone even during damp weather, which slackens and dulls the tone of the humidity sensitive skin heads used on earlier banjos.

Fred Cockerham was extensively recorded by Smithsonian Curator Scott Odell in the 1960s. Those field tapes are now included along with photographs and oral histories in the National Museum of American History's Archives Center.

Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Cockerham, Fred
Creed, Kyle
place made
United States: Virginia, Galax
Physical Description
formica (overall material)
mylar (overall material)
wood (part material)
metal (part material)
overall: 36 3/4 in x 12 in x 2 1/2 in; 93.345 cm x 30.48 cm x 6.35 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of The Fred Cockerham Family
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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Fred Cockerham was my great great uncle. Hilariously, the family would make comments about him being “shiftless” and how he wasn’t “worth a count” because of his being a musician as opposed to something more practical like being a farmer. It’s awesome to see that he is a treasured part of American history in some small way. :)

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