About Banjo Ben
Banjo Ben was raised on a large, working farm outside Kilgore, Texas, which had been passed down for generations. He was blessed to experience a traditional upbringing, a seeming rarity nowadays, learning the definition of hard work and conservative family values. Blessed with incredible parents who displayed unconditional love paired with an ever-threatening “belt on the behind”, Ben was in church when the doors were open, at the barn with a bucket when the family of 6 needed milk, and at the piano for literally thousands of combined hours absorbing the masterpieces of J.S. Bach and the like. Though admittedly never having an inkling to pursue music as a kid, a late high school introduction to bluegrass sounds and his classical education were secretly forming a foundation he'd later build his professional life upon.
After graduating from the Trinity School of Texas in Longview, Ben set his sights on a childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian. He enrolled in Texas A&M University in the fall of ’97, majoring in Biomedical Science while also enlisting in the university’s famed Corps of Cadets (Squadron 13). After a very poor, yet memorable, academic showing his first semester at A&M, paired with a newly found interest in forensic insect studies, Ben changed directions, said goodbye to ROTC, and switched his major to Entomology. Graduating in December of 2000 and unsure exactly where his path was leading, Ben went back home to East Texas for a semester and drove a Mack truck for his dad’s excavation business. This allowed ample time for rethinking his professional career, while rediscovering what real work was all about. In the summer of 2001, Ben enrolled in graduate school at Texas A&M pursuing his master’s degree in Civil and Urban Forensic Entomology. A year and a half into his graduate studies and teaching fellowship found Ben burnt out in his formal educational journey. After a late night filled with procrastination of writing an insect physiology term paper, Ben stumbled upon the website of South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, where you could actually major in commercial music performance! Following his God-sent curiosity in the program, Ben decided to resign from his graduate studies at Texas A&M, enroll in the junior college located in the flatland of west Texas, while nearly giving his parents and graduate mentors heart attacks. His time at SPC is what Ben calls, “The world’s best education for the buck!” During his two-year stint at South Plains College, Ben studied and progressed on the banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and piano while receiving scholarships granted by the Texas Panhandle Bluegrass Association and his hero-turned-friend, Tom T. Hall. At South Plains College, Ben received the professional tools needed to get a start in the daunting country music business. Ben made the move to “Music City” in the fall of 2004 after a summertime position of bandleader in a country band at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.
Very soon after arriving in Nashville, Ben landed a job with a new artist on a nation-wide radio tour. This allowed him to cut his teeth in the music business, while seeing the country and making many important contacts along the way. Ben then briefly toured with platinum-selling artist Lila McCann, which then led to playing piano, banjo, and mandolin for former American Idol standout and Marine, Josh Gracin. Shortly after marrying his college sweetheart, Hannah, in January of 2006, Ben accepted a position with Sony recording artist Craig Morgan, playing mainly piano along with banjo/mandolin. After an enjoyable 8 months with Craig, a new-on-the-scene, curly-headed blonde approached Ben about changing jobs. Sensing the talented singer/songwriter had a promising future, Ben once again made the switch and began playing banjo, mandolin, dobro, guitar, and piano for Taylor Swift in December of 2006. With Taylor, Ben toured the world, made dozens of national TV appearances (including Good Morning America, Leno, Letterman, and SNL), and was even featured in major motion picture. In April of '09, Ben's friend and hunting buddy Gary LeVox (lead singer for country group Rascal Flatts) offered him, along with his sisters Penny and Katy, a publishing deal venture with Sony ATV. Feeling like he was once again being called in a different direction, Ben put in his resignation notice with Swift, joined forces with his sisters, and signed to Sony Publishing in November of '09. After a year of writing, The Purple Hulls (Ben's band) hit the road, showcasing their unique harmonies only a family can achieve while ripping the strings off any instrument they can get their hands on. In January of 2011, Ben decided to take his love of teaching music to the next level, and unleashed the first version of BanjoBenClark.com! In his spare time Ben enjoys taking road trips with his wife Hannah, hunting, fishing, flying a Cessna 172, eating Mexican food, and teaching a young adult Sunday School class at his local church.