The San Francisco Banjo Band

Bill Portman

The San Francisco Banjo Band has been entertaining throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for the past thirty seven (37) years.. The band has been regarded as "The Best Kept Secret in the Bay Area." Having a rich and "provacative" past, The San Francisco Banjo Band continues to delight audiences with their performances and renditions of songs composed by Stephen Foster to current Broadway musicals.

Through the years, the names and faces of the band members have changed but the commitment to provide "good time" entertainment has remained. The band was founded by two outstanding banjo enthusiasts, Ray Bell and Phil Smith. Starting with an add in the newspaper, locating banjo players proved to be productive. Rehearsals initially took place in Phil's garage, which apparently thrilled and "concerned" the neighborhood. From the "concerned;" letters were sent to Phil asking him to seriously consider the words of Mark Twain that, "a gentlemen is a person who can play the banjo but decides not to." Undaunted, the rehearsals continued, which eventually turned into parties with lawn chairs filling the front of Phil's home and the surroundings. Eventually Phil received formal notification that without a license this entertaining of the neighborhood would have to cease. It then became a priority to locate a licensed establishment where they could "carry on."

Armed with enough talent and energy, they found a home at Molloy's Tavern in Colma where audiences left humming and smiling every Friday night from 9:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. for eighteen straight years. After a brief interlude where the band played at various venues throughtout the Bay Area, the band is pleased to be back at Molloys.

The San Francisco Banjo Band has played at more functions that can be remembered; for senior centers, San Francisco Giants, events for the San Francisco director or Protocol, charities, political functions, parties and social functions of all types. The band has recently put on a number of stage shows.

The current band consists of 18 members and play instruments that include the gut bucket, musical saw, accordions, washboard, kazoos, slide whistle, and not to be forgotten banjos! The most recent addition to has been a Hawiian set with hula dancing! The band offers free banjo instruction; the kazoo you will have to learn yourself!

The band continues to play throughout the Bay area, however should you want to see and hear The San Francisco Banjo Band, your best bet would be at Molloys Tavern, 1655 Mission Road, the first Saturday of each month from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.

So I suppose, with this information, some of "the secret" is out.
We wish you all well and remember, "When Your Smiling the Whole World (OK, maybe not the whole world but certainly others) Will Smile With You."

Bill Portman (Pres.of S.F.Banjo Band)
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