08:48
TED2013

Sleepy Man Banjo Boys: Bluegrass virtuosity from ... New Jersey?

Filmed:

All under the age of 16, brothers Jonny, Robbie and Tommy Mizzone are from New Jersey, a US state that's better known for the rock of Bruce Springsteen than the bluegrass of Earl Scruggs. Nonetheless, the siblings began performing bluegrass covers, as well as their own compositions, at a young age. Here, they play three dazzling songs in three different keys, passing the lead back and forth from fiddle to banjo to guitar.

- Bluegrass musicians
The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys is made up of 11-year-old banjo sensation Jonny Mizzone and his brothers Robbie, 14, on fiddle, and Tommy, 15, on guitar. Full bio

(Music)
00:14
(Applause)
01:57
(Music)
02:01
(Applause)
02:21
Robbie Mizzone: Thank you.
02:31
Tommy Mizzone: Thank you very much.
02:33
We're so excited to be here.
It's such an honor for us.
02:34
Like he said, we're
three brothers from New Jersey --
02:36
you know, the bluegrass
capital of the world.
02:39
(Laughter)
02:43
We discovered bluegrass a few years ago,
02:45
and we fell in love with it.
We hope you guys will too.
02:47
This next song is an original
we wrote called "Timelapse,"
02:50
and it will probably live up to its name.
02:54
(Tuning)
02:57
(Music)
03:05
(Applause)
04:49
TM: Thank you very much.
05:01
RM: I'm just going to take
a second to introduce the band.
05:04
On guitar is my 15-year-old brother Tommy.
05:07
(Applause)
05:09
On banjo is 10-year-old Jonny.
05:14
(Applause) He's also our brother.
05:17
And I'm Robbie, and I'm 14,
and I play the fiddle.
05:23
(Applause)
05:26
As you can see, we decided
to make it hard on ourselves,
05:30
and we chose to play three songs
05:33
in three different keys.
05:35
Yeah. I'm also going to explain,
a lot of people want to know
05:39
where we got the name
Sleepy Man Banjo Boys from.
05:42
So it started when Jonny was little,
05:44
and he first started the banjo,
he would play on his back
05:47
with his eyes closed,
05:50
and we'd say it looked
like he was sleeping.
05:51
So you can probably piece
the rest together.
05:53
TM: We can't really figure
out the reason for this.
05:55
It might have been that it
weighs about a million pounds.
05:58
(Music)
06:02
(Applause)
07:39
(Music)
07:43
(Applause)
08:25
TM: Thank you very much.
08:30
RM: Thank you.
08:32

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About the Speaker:

Sleepy Man Banjo Boys - Bluegrass musicians
The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys is made up of 11-year-old banjo sensation Jonny Mizzone and his brothers Robbie, 14, on fiddle, and Tommy, 15, on guitar.

Why you should listen

These days your kid can get famous on YouTube for having water sprayed at him, for being duped about his Halloween candy, and for being high off laughing gas. But what if your 8-year-old gets famous on the Internet for being an absolute genius on the banjo? So goes the story of Jonny Mizzone, who first became a YouTube sensation in early 2011 for videos of him and his brothers tearing it up playing Earl Scruggs's Flint Hill Special. It wasn't long before the press started calling.

Now Jonny, Robbie (fiddle) and Tommy (guitar), known as the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, are 11, 14 and 15 respectively. In 2011 alone they got calls from The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and in the summer of 2011 they appeared as musical guests on The Late Show with David Letterman and NBC’s Today Show.

While the trio grew up in New Jersey -- which is known more for rock music than for bluegrass -- they fell in love with the unique sounds of J.D. Crowe, Ralph Stanley, Clarence White and Earl Scruggs after some creative YouTube searching. Now, having become sensations on the platform themselves, the trio has accumulated more than 17 million video views. Their first album, America’s Music, was released in September 2011 and charted top eight on the Billboard Bluegrass Album Chart. In October 2012 they released their second album, The Farthest Horizon, which cracked the top three. The group is already at work on their next album.

More profile about the speaker
Sleepy Man Banjo Boys | Speaker | TED.com