- Robert B. Winans
(b Laurel Bloomery, TN, June 1, 1913; d Reese, NC, Nov 24, 1965). American banjo maker. He learnt to make banjos and Apppalachian dulcimers from his father, William Wiley Proffitt, but worked mainly as a farmer and carpenter to support his wife (daughter of the dulcimer maker Nathan Hicks) and six children; two sons became avocational musicians. Proffitt won posthumous renown for his banjos, which typify those made in the mountains of northwestern North Carolina, where he lived. Known also as a fine traditional singer, he was important in the American folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s. His banjos, made of native hardwoods such as walnut and cherry, are characterized by a long, usually fretless neck, a small body (about 25 cm in diameter) with a wide rim into which is set a small head (typically of opossum or groundhog skin stretched on a section of six-inch [15 cm] stovepipe) and a wooden back with a small soundhole (8–10 cm). Their tone is relatively quiet compared to the sound of larger commercial banjos. Although Proffit’s instruments exemplify an authentic Appalachian folk style, they represent only one of many homemade varieties....