Welcome to Bad River

Thanks for visiting

If you’re anything like me, you appreciate the beauty and satisfaction that comes from owning and playing a well-made banjo. I’ve been building banjos for nearly ten years, and have a long list of satisfied customers with whom I’ve built lasting relationships. Take some time to learn more about me and my approach to crafting banjos of character and distinction.

Paul Corrigan of Bad River Banjo

Paul Corrigan

Artist, Designer, Storyteller, Banjoneer

My passion for banjos began the moment I plucked my first string. I had the privilege of learning to play authentic old time music by ear from a fiddle player who specialized in regional styles from the Carolinas and Kentucky. At the beginning of each lesson, he would play a tune on his fiddle and ask me to create a complementary arrangement on the banjo. It was challenging at first. But it taught me to think and play like he did — and like so many before him.

I apply this respect for tradition and historic nuance to every banjo I make. No two banjos are alike. They each have their own character and story. But they all share a common affinity for craftsmanship, playability and attention to detail.

My goal in life it to create things that endure. That goes for the music I play, the banjos I make and the relationships I build.

The shop

I work in a cozy little wood shop in the basement of our family home, just outside of Kansas City, MO. I built all of the work surfaces and shelving myself — including the solid maple workbench at the center. It’s a modest space, but it has everything I need. If you’d like to see regular updates from my shop, along with step-by-step details about how I build my banjos, feel free to follow my account on Instagram.

Bad River Banjo workshop
Bad River Banjo unfinished walnut banjo rims
Bad River Banjo unfinished banjo neck

Coal scrip

If you’ve looked at the banjos I’ve made, you’ve probably noticed the coins that are embedded into many of them. They are all remnants of a very old form of currency called coal scrip.

The use of coal scrip dates to the late 1800s, when many coal companies looked for ways to keep miners in a never ending cycle of work, repayment and debt. Rather than receiving compensation in US currency, many miners received payment entirely in scrip, which could be used only at the company store. This eliminated any hope for workers and their families to break free or to acquire any form of wealth.

These coal mines took root in the same regions where folk music thrived. Places like North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia. And the people who worked in those mines were the same people who would have picked up and played simple folk instruments like fiddle and banjo. I believe these coins help keep their memory alive.

Kind words

I’ve had the pleasure to build banjos for some excellent human beings. Here are some of the things they’ve said about the experience.

Bad River Banjo customer portraits
Aside from being crafted masterfully, this banjo sings the exact way I imagined. Paul was an absolute joy to work with, and knocked this custom build out of the park.
Gerald Trotman
Buying an instrument from abroad can be something of a gamble. One can only hope the end result will match expectations. Paul made sure to give plenty of updates while making the banjo, sending pictures and explanation, sometimes to great detail. He sent his knowledge and understanding on banjo making and this surely was very appreciated. The instrument sounds great, it is beautifully crafted. I like to look at it as much as I like to play!
Martin Deutsch
From beginning to end, Paul made the process of bringing old time craftsmanship (to old Cripple Well) a professional, personal and pleasurable journey.
Paul Mumby
I've got a thumpick on, and although you can't hear it, I'm picking' and singing Buffalo Gals. The banjo is light and very easy to play, and a lot louder than it looks.
Kevin Cadloff
First of all, it's drop dead gorgeous. The feel of the neck is wonderful. The tone is clear with plenty of volume. It's perfect for the tunes I like to play.
Larry Revis
Last night, I set the book aside and tried a few things on my own — allowing my fingers to get to know the strings in a way I had not yet considered. The time spent was more meditation than anything else.
Josh Okun
Took delivery today on my exquisitely well made Bad River banjo, and the first thing I always play on a new banjo is Coon Hunt Walkaround, because it's the first piece I ever learned.
Michael Ledington
I look at my life in two ways. Pre-banjo and post-banjo. Without hesitation, I can tell you I much prefer the latter.
Greg Szmurlo
Paul was great to work with during the design phase, and answered my questions once the bajo arrived. I love the sound, playability, and aesthetics of the banjo. This thing is flat out beautiful. Simple, classic design in oiled cherry (rim & neck). Beautiful workmanship. Paul doesn't seem to do a lot of inlay, but his aesthetics are impeccable. The neck is fairly V-shaped, which I really like. This thing is super light, I can hold & play it for hours.
David Swanson