5 Best Female Banjo Players Of All the Time!

Banjo is an instrument that produces a unique sound, which is very different from any other musical instrument. Banjo is mainly used in folk and Country, Bluegrass, and old-time music, but also can be used in rock and traditional Jazz music.

Earlier versions of this instrument were adapted from similar African instruments. Its history takes it back to Africa. Hence, it is considered a core of African-American music and folk culture since the 19th century. But the modern edition is thought to be in use from the 17th century in the Caribbean.

5 Best Female Banjo Players

In the history of music, there have been a plethora of streams that flow in different directions. Banjo is an amazing instrument that has its history and cultural influence. Among many of the great banjo players, it is challenging to pick only 5 best lady artists. Nevertheless, we’ve put our best effort to come off with it.

  • Alison Brown (Grammy winner banjo player)
  • Mean Marry (Marry James)
  • Willow Osborne (American banjo player)
  • Alison Krauss (Fourth most grammy winner)
  • Abigail Washburn (clawhammer player and singer)

Alison Brown (Grammy winner banjo player)

Alison Brown is a Grammy winner banjo player. She is one of the most famous female banjo artists of all time. Besides that, she’s also a composer, guitarist, and producer. She’s received numerous awards for distinguished achievements in her lifetime.

This award-winning lady artist played Clawhammer banjo which is also known as frailing. It’s an exclusive American old-time style of banjo playing. She’s considered a banjo genius and often compared to Béla Fleck, a living banjo prodigy.

best female banjo player Alison brown
Alison Brown

Alison was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on August 7, 1962. The 58-years old artist is married to bass player Gary West. The couple has two kids- Hannah West and Brendan West.

It’s surprising that even after having a degree in history and literature from Harvard University, and an MBA from UCLA, she pursued a carrier in music. Alongside her husband, Alison started Compass Records in 1995. The recordings soon became a premier, independent label of assortment banjo music including bluegrass and Celtic folk.

Mean Mary (Mary James)

Mary James is a banjo player, producer, multi-instrumentalist, novelist, and YouTube personality. Though her birth name is Mary James, she’s famously known by her stage name Mean Mary. The name Mean Mary has an interesting story. When she was six, her first original tune naming “Mean Mary from Alabama” went public. And thus she was given the name by the press.

Mean Mary
Mean Mary

On 2003, February 14, she had a car accident that left her right vocal cord paralyzed. She had a little chance to recover. This incident changed her role from a vocalist to an instrumentalist. In 2004, her therapist had great news for her. There was a slight movement in her vocal cord, hence she had a chance of total recovery.

This American singer-songwriter was born on March 22, 1980, in Geneva, Alabama. Her ability to incorporate a variety of musical styles has given her a wide range of audiences. She has a YouTube channel with the same name having eighty thousand plus subscribers. She has appeared on BBC radio shows several times. She was also on the cover of the Banjo Newsletter in May 2016.

Willow Osborne (American banjo player)

Willow Osborne is an American banjo player, Bluegrass singer, and songwriter. She was born in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on October 4, 2000. She’s been performing for the past seven years at the Country Tonite Theatre in Pigeon Forge. Willow can play gold banjo, Calico, Phoenix 6-string, BlueChip Picks, Sierra, and GHS Strings.

Willow Osborne
Willow Osborne

Willow picked up the banjo at the age of four. She learned banjo from four-time world banjo champion Gray Biscuit Davis. She is endorsed by Deering Banjos and Neat banjos. Previously she worked in the Dollywood Theme Park. It was her first stage experience in a lead role in the musical production “Babes in Toyland”. She has also taken part in the same role in “Sha-Kon-O-Hey”, and “Twas the night before Christmas”. She is currently pursuing her graduate degree from Arizona State University.

Alison Krauss (Fourth most grammy winner)

Alison Maria Krauss is an American bluegrass-country singer, musician, bandleader, and producer. Starting at an early age, her first album was released in 1987 at the age of sixteen. She has regenerated interest in bluegrass music in the United States. Until now she has released 14 albums, and also appeared on numerous tracks.

Alison Krauss
Alison Krauss

As of 2021, Krauss has won 27 Grammy Awards out of 42 nominations and is the second most award-winning singer and female artist in Grammy history after Beyoncé. Till 2019, she is known to be the fourth most Grammy Award winner overall. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts by then-President Donald Trump. In May 2012, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music.

Alison was born in Decatur, Illinois on July 23, 1971. She was married from 1997 to 2001 to musician Pat Bergeson, having a son named Sam who was born in July 1999.

Abigail Washburn (clawhammer player and singer)

Abigail Washburn was born in Evanston, Illinois on November 10, 1977. She is renowned for Chinese and Appalachian banjo influences in her music. She’s married to another legendary banjo player Béla Fleck. ‘Song of the Traveling Daughter’, her first solo album which was produced by Béla Fleck, has a strong influence of Chinese culture. She performed alongside Bela in their band the Sparrow Quartet, but later on, they chose solo careers.

Abigail Washburn
Abigail Washburn

Besides her music career, Abigail was teaching American folk music at Sichuan University for a short time. She has done numerous charity works. Many of which were with the band Sparrow Quartet and their first recorded album was ‘Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet’. And it was also produced by Béla Fleck.


This list of the five best female banjoists is made only to show appreciation for their charming work. If you love banjo or are new to this, please check out their works. You will be amazed for sure!

5/5 - (1 vote)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.