Mac Traynham has been an independent builder of custom cabinets, banjos and more since the 1970’s in Southwest Virginia. Through his love for the native old-time music of the region Mac has become a nationally known musician with much to his credit as a player and a teacher of traditional mountain music.
On the local level he has built a solid reputation for producing high quality cabinetry in his own shop which he built on his farm in Floyd County. His ‘word of mouth’ business over the years has been about helping discerning customers get high quality, hand made products that are both beautiful and functional.
Mac’s interest in Southwest Virginia’s old-time banjo playing traditions and in rare tone woods has led him to become a master maker of beautiful open-back banjos in the tradition of renown master instrument builders both near and far.
Mac Traynham is a deep rooted Virginian whose ancestors in Virginia date back to the early 1700’s. Born in eastern Virginia in 1954, Mac grew up in Oxford, NC. during the 1960’s, however, he finished high school in Nottoway County Virginia in 1972. He attended Hampden-Sydney College and later Virginia Tech where he obtained a BS in Forestry and later a BA in Technology Education.
A love for natural wood products and useful designs fueled Mac’s desire to make simple wooden gifts for family and friends. In 1981 he began a 2 year stint in a cabinet shop in Galax, Virginia where he learned much about modern residential cabinetry while experimenting with advanced table saw techniques during his lunch hour. In addition to acoustic instruments, Mac was drawn to larger furniture and cabinet designs of the most practical nature. One of his first furniture projects was a blanket chest using black walnut with raised panels of exotic Deodar cedar obtained locally for his first anniversary gift to his wife, Jenny. He went on to build cabinets professionally during the late 1980’s in his first shop which today is a restored historic Oddfellows Hall /museum located in downtown Blacksburg, Virginia. He began his first business called Mac’s Custom Woodshop in 1987 with a large order for custom bookcases more than 20 offices in the then new Pamplin Hall annex on the Virginia Tech campus. In 1991 he moved his shop to a larger space in Christiansburg, Virginia where he began changing his way of building kitchen and bath cabinets to a more contemporary European frameless style for which he is known today. His versatility is such that today he produces several styles of construction depending on customer preferences and the type of project.
On Labor Day weekend of 2000, Mac’s career reached a milestone when he moved into his self–built shop on his own premises near Willis in Floyd County. In celebration of such a major change he renamed his business Mac’s Custom Cabinetry & Furniture. He has never regretted the move and continues to serve anyone who finds him by word-of-mouth referrals. His average backlog is 6 months.
Mac Traynham of Floyd County became interested in handmade instruments in 1975 when he commissioned a friend build him a Gibson RB-100 copy on which to play a three finger style of Bluegrass and other experimental music. He became even more interested after commissioning Wayne Henderson to build him a Martin D-28 style guitar in 1976. Being attracted to beautiful woods and a serious player of Southwest Virginia style clawhammer banjo music, Mac built his first banjo in 1978 using recycled birdseye maple flooring that had been previously made into a door. During the late 70s and early 80s, he continued to make banjos and was part of an instrument makers seminar at the 1981 National Folk Festival. Being interested in all aspects of instrument making and playing, he visited the shops of and got tips from many of the area’s renown instrument makers including Olen Gardner, Kyle Creed, Arthur Conner, Albert Hash, and Wayne Henderson. Over the years, he has experimented with classic tone designs and today is known for making beautiful banjos that have a superior tone. He was recognized as a master banjo maker in the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities 2009 Apprenticeship Program.
Mac Traynham is a deep rooted native of Virginia. Born in the Tidewater area in 1954, he was musically inclined at a young age, growing up with musical parents in the 1960’s in Oxford, North Carolina.
Mac first mastered playing the harmonica as a child in the 1960’s. Occasionally, he heard his father play harmonica in a traditional tongue blocking style learned in the 1920’s from a black playmate in the family community of Cluster Springs in rural Southside Virginia. Next, came an interest in playing guitar both acoustic and electric in which he soon chose acoustic route. This led Mac on a path towards experimenting with songwriting and learning covers of current vocal numbers in the folk genre with acoustic back-up.
With a desire to seek out his country roots, Mac was drawn to the sound of the banjo and in 1972 began experimenting with a basic 3 -finger style associated with the bluegrass music. In late 1975, he moved to the Blacksburg, Virginia to attend Virginia Tech following his first visit to the world famous Galax Fiddler’s Convention. A newcomer to the Blacksburg Va. area acoustic music scene, he performed traditional songs with his banjo, guitar and harmonica both solo and with a small vocal trio. Upon meeting Wayne Henderson and obtaining a new Dreadnought style custom guitar built by the master, he became a budding flatpicker of traditional fiddle tunes. With a tip from a friend of a clawhammer banjo player in 1977, Mac discovered the secret of the traditional right hand rhythm and had an epiphany that dramatically changed his approach to playing traditional music. Through contact with other mountain music afficianados of his generation, he met and visited with many of the still-active, elderly mountain musicians of the region who were willing to share their music with interested young people.
Moving to Grayson County in 1980, Mac felt compelled to learn to play the tunes of the region in a recognizable ‘local’ style. He began winning prizes for his banjo playing at the local fiddler’s conventions. Subsequently, he took up old-time fidding as well and began playing for local dances and benefits. Simultaneously, Mac and his musical partner/wife Jenny were inspired by the Original Carter Family and by the many brother duets who recorded commercially in the 1930’s, to master a regional style of old-time country duet singing. Over the years they’ve remained active locally performing for benefits, revivals, music camps and festivals Read more about Mac and Jenny’s duet singing here.
Since the 1980’s Mac, individually, has been active with his music in both a professional and a non-professional way. He has been on the staff of several renown Old-time music camps over the years including Augusta Heritage Workshops in Elkins W.VA, Mars Hill Blue Ridge OT week in Mars Hill, NC and The Swannannoa Gathering near Asheville, NC . He has conducted workshops in guitar, banjo, fiddle and duet singing (w/ Jenny) at several weekend festivals including the Alaska Folk Festival, the Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-time Asssociation festival, the Hopping John Festival in NC , The Suwannee Old-time music weekend in Florida, The Palestine OT festival in Texas, and the Festival of American Fiddle tunes in Washington State.
In 2008, Mac and Jenny Traynham performed 15 songs as a tribute to these original artists and more: Tenneva Ramlers – The Skillet Lickers – Ernest Stoneman – Kid Smith – The Delmore Brothers – Fields Ward – Albert Brumley – The Kimble Family – The Carter Family Buy Now
Recorded in 2007, The Sweetest Way Home features Old Time gospels and duets. Ably performed, as they are here, these songs of antique yet eternal human sentiment draw you inside them. Buy Now
This 2007 recording consists of energetic Old-time Country/Pre-Bluegrass vocal duets of rare songs from the Golden Era with lead and back-up guitar and harmonica breaks. Buy Now
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