Ask Sonny Anything… what about metal thumbpicks?

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Bobby, my dear brother and partner of 52 years…

I’m so happy for you because I see you are #1 on the Bluegrass Today playlist chart this week. White Line Fever was a good choice. I didn’t hardly agree with the musicians they have playing with you…. Not because they’re not good enough but because they didn’t grow up watching you and helping you “bring it” every night. And, Brother, you did that for the 52 years that I was involved, and I wish I could have helped you do this, but my time has passed.

I am so happy to see your name at the top of that list. I guess because I still associate me or my name with yours. So in actuality, in my mind, I feel a little part of it. Now don’t get the wrong impression here…I’m not trying to take any of the accolades away from you. I don’t deserve any…they’re all going to you where they belong. I’m so proud to have played a little part of watching you be the best ever at what you were doing. But you did it!

So, in closing, I will just congratulate you on a wonderful career and I hope it lasts as long as you want it to.

Your loving Brother,



Hey Rob, thank you for your time. You wanted to know what kind of strings I use. They are GHS PF175 medium light gauge – that seems to work well. The gauges 1-5 would go 11, 12, 13, 22, and 11.


Hello Sonny,

I was curious to ask you about your days working with your brother in Detroit at WJR. Frog Martin worked there with a skinny boy named JD Crowe if my memory serves me right!

I was wondering if you have any stories to share about the days you guys worked there with Casey Clark.

I grew up in Ypsilanti and my friend Dana Cupp told me that y’all worked in Detroit in the ’50s. He has a 1930 Gibson RB-4 which I understand you helped him acquire. Man what a loud banjer!

Thanks Chief!

Craig Pryce – Livonia, MI

Hey Craig, thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.

Dana does have a loud banjo, but Dana is kinda loud himself! The funny thing, Craig – I don’t remember where I got it, I really don’t – I think the guy that wrote half a dozen Frog Martin songs (Wade Birchfield was his name), his twin brother had that banjo.


Hey Sonny, it seems that you have always preferred plastic thumbpicks over all the others including Blue Chip, and the Hoffmeyer Chief metal fingerpicks. What brought you to that conclusion?

Thank you, Lincoln, for jumping right on in there. We, Charlie Sizemore included, metal thumbpicks always kind of turned my stomach. They felt funny and they looked funny, and Don Wesley Reno tried to get me to use one thirty years ago, but he also used a banjo head with a hole in it… I looked at him and said “Donald, both of those innovations will never make it across the creek!” And Don really loved his metal thumbpick, but they always just felt funny on my thumb. And if I’m not badly mistaken, Raymond McClain also uses a thumbpick, and Raymond’s a pretty damn good player, so maybe there’s something to it after all!

If you have something you would like to ask Sonny, be sure to post it in the comments below, or send it to us directly.

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