Bernard Sheaff was best known for his outstanding playing of the zither-banjo. He was born in Wimbledon and had his first lessons on a smooth-arm banjo which was played by his father. At the age of 15 he commenced serious study of the banjo and some years later, as the result of a chance meeting with A. D. Cammeyer (who was, at that time living a mile or so from the Sheaffs’ house) joined him towards the end of 1918 and commenced teaching at the latter’s Swallow St. Studios in Piccadilly. He and Cammeyer devoted a lot of time to playing zither-banjo duets together and were soon fulfilling many private engagements.

In 1922 Cammeyer and Sheaff gave four recitals (two in the spring and two in the autumn) at the Steinway Hall, London, and in 1925 they recorded for the Vocation and Aco labels. They first broadcast from the old 2LO Savoy Hill studios on Christmas Eve 1928.

Bernard Sheaff broadcast (on banjo) with the Kentucky Banjo Team and was often heard in shows in which the banjo appeared. It is, perhaps, interesting to know that the actual banjo he used was played by James Bohee, the famous coloured minstrel of the ‘80’s. During the 40’s and early 50s Mr. Sheaff’s main occupation was composing and arranging for professional fretted instrument bands; in particular, Troise and His Mandoliers (and Banjoliers), the Troise Novelty Orchestra, the Serenaders, etc. Much of his time was also devoted to teaching but he still enjoyed playing the banjo and zither-banjo whenever there was an opportunity.

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