which prisoner played the banjo in the alcatraz inmate band?

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isolated, musician, instrument @ Pixabay

In this article, I’m going to go through different theories of who played the banjo in the Alcatrez inmate band.

Most people know that Al Capone was the founder of Civilian Public Enemy No. 1 during his tenure at Alcatraz but does your knowledge go any further? What about Sacco and Vanzetti or John Dillinger? The subject is one that has led to many speculations as it’s hard to get a clear answer from historians as no one really knows for sure who played the instrument in question.

Although the Alcatraz inmate band was only active for a short period during its tenure, it was viewed by many as a musical treat. Most of the songs were quite well known and some of them even had lyrics added which really brought them to life. The prison authorities felt that it was a great way to relax the inmates and keep order in the prison with the hope that they would behave themselves while they were playing although this wasn’t always the case and incidents did occur.

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musical instruments, string instruments, music @ Pixabay

But what about the banjo? Who played in the group? This is one question that has brought about much speculation, but here are some different theories on who could have been responsible for playing it.

There have been many guesses as to who was the banjo player but most of these guessers have either based their answers on personal knowledge of the person in question, their own experiences because they were themselves familiar with the styles and instruments played in those days or they’ve just made up some strange story based on something they heard from an older generation (hence not always making a sound fact).

Of course such things are never really conclusive and often with any subject it’s difficult to pin down what took place exactly, but here are some different theories.

Maybe one person should be known for more than one thing? Maybe it’s time to look at a wider range of people than just Al Capone for starters.

Let’s examine some of the theories and reasons why it’s believed that some people, other than Al Capone, might have played on the banjo.

The first theory is that it was Al Capone playing his banjo in the band. While this seems very plausible, there has always been a lot of questions about this theory and it’s difficult to find any conclusive proof to either argue against or back up this fact.

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peach, apple, music @ Pixabay

One of the theories is that he couldn’t have been there because he didn’t have a banjo with him when he arrived at Alcatraz, but as this is one of the theories which has a lot of fact behind it (in that there is no conclusive proof to argue against it) and none to prove it then we need to consider the possibility that Al Capone might not have been the banjo player.

This means that we need to look for another solution for the banjo player, let’s examine a few other options.

The next theory and most likely choice is an old friend of Al Capone’s, Tony Manero. He was a bit like Al Capone and had a similar style of dress. He became famous for his banjo skills and mastered several other instruments in the process.

This theory is very much backed up by the facts, but there is no real proof to support it so we need to look elsewhere for proof.

Another theory is that it could have been Joe Bananas who played the banjo, but this one probably isn’t true either because although he did play the banjo, it wasn’t him in question as he wasn’t at Alcatraz for playing something wrong – he was there on business. This means that it’s unlikely that Joe Bananas could have been the one playing the banjo.