Arguably the greatest and certainly the most popular banjoist of all time, Olly Oakley is a fascinating and controversial figure who even today has the power to arouse devotion and hostility amongst players and followers of the banjo. The son of a Midlands jeweller, Oakley decided on the banjo at the age of twelve after hearing the pioneering Bohee brothers in concert. During a career stretching over thirty-five years he made more than five hundred recordings, toured widely throughout Britain and abroad, formed a highly successful concert party as well as a banjo quartet and a dance band, and was, as far as the circumstantial evidence suggests, a key figure in the development of the zither banjo.

 What was the secret of Oakley’s success with the general public? Why is he, nevertheless,  criticised as often as praised by fellow banjoists? The articles by notable commentators and biographers reproduced here form an irreplaceable bank of information and we are indebted to the enthusiasm and painstaking efforts of these authors. However, they also contain factual inaccuracies and, in some cases, contentious statements which require clarification and critical comment. Therefore, each article we reproduce has a link to a discussion page in which we address these matters to the best of our ability and according to our present state of knowledge.  


Oakley's letters - the Walsh Collection

Oakley Biography by A.P. Sharpe

Oakley Obituary by A. P. Sharpe

Ted Oakley's Scrapbook

The Oakley Family

The Humoresks

Homage to Oakley Part 1 J. McNaghten

Homage to Oakley Part 2 J. McNaghten