Jack Hatfield has been picking banjo for over forty-five years. Jack has developed an original approach to banjo by identifying quasi-chord formations not common in modern banjo, and combining symmetrical right-hand sequences. This exciting new approach facilitates seamlessly combining the three major approaches – Scruggs, Melodic and Single string styles.
As an upcoming banjoist he placed in several local and state banjo contests and in 1987 was a finalist in the National Banjo Championship in Winfield, Kansas. He taught banjo, guitar, mandolin and fiddle for seventeen years full-time before moving to Pigeon Forge to perform at venues such as Dollywood theme park, the Dixie Stampede and the East Tennessee convention circuit. As an upcoming musician, Jack worked with internationally renowned mandolinist Red Rector and performed regularly with Lawrence Welk alumni, Ava Gardner and Dick Dale, at their show in Pigeon Forge.
Jack has written several highly acclaimed banjo instruction books, published by his own company Hatfield Music and for Mel Bay Publications, the largest publisher of stringed instrument instruction books in the world.
He started writing as a columnist for Banjo Newsletter magazine in 1976. He wrote the Scruggs Corner column for five years, analyzing the style of the father of bluegrass banjo. The sixty tablatures and analytical comments he wrote while authoring this column still today constitute the largest and most accurate collection of transcriptions of Earl’s recordings available anywhere.
Jack then wrote the Beginner’s Corner column for seven years, and for twelve years authored a column called Concepts and Systems which attempted to de-mystify music theory, present alternative banjo techniques, discuss difficult and seldom-taught topics such as arranging and composition, and present other “big-picture” concepts relating to music applied to the five-string banjo.
Camps and Workshops
Jack was on the faculty of very first banjo camp, the Tennessee Banjo Institute in 1988. Since then he has been Bluegrass Director of all three of Banjo Newsletter’s Maryland Banjo Academys and the Nashville Academy of Traditional Music.
He has been director of the banjo workshop at the SPBGMA (Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America) Bluegrass Convention in Nashville for thirty-one years.
In 2006, Jack established his own Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy near Gatlinburg, TN, which was held in conjunction with Five-String Fest in 2014. In 2015, Jack embarked on a big renovation project, and moved his camps into the Hatfield Music Barn adjacent to his shop overlooking Pigeon Forge.
A New Beginning
In 2016, the devastating Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge wildfires in Sevier County claimed Jack’s home, two rental houses, Hatfield Music and the Hatfield Music Barn, and he moved back to his home town of Knoxville.
He reduced the Hatfield Music inventory to his self-published and self-authored books and a couple of banjo accessories he invented, offering online sales only. His favorite sister, Jane, took over day-to-day operations of Hatfield Music, freeing Jack to focus on his music.
Since he re-located to Knoxville he has approached banjo as a full-time job, practicing eight hours a day seven days a week.