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Long live Okie Adams when he died

Hot rod and banjos, and California pride

Who has an answer when it’s a parable crime

It won’t be water but rather fire this time


The flame’s own boarding school light on doom

He inlayed a figure on a sawdust moon

Like my grandpa always asked, “what was that that won’t forget”

Every memory as silver as an overhead jet


A sun lit the way the dark smoke denied

Long live Okie Adams when he died

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Okie Adams of dropped down axle fame

When you’ve done everything and you stake your claim

We’ll still talk about you beyond a lasting breath

Bandages are often hidden letters to death


Flame-cut ends on a Deuce axle in the corner

Are those red shoes on the foot of the mourner

The books that I write in, muddle in rows

Angels trading out harp shapes for banjos


A congregation of exits aside

Long live Okie Adams when he died


Unsplit wishbones and a stock spring support the axle

Banjo shop caught on fire all so factual

Last words murmured secret on the lips

Of a five string claw hammer Cole’s Eclipse


The heart is an oracle often left untried

Long live Okie Adams when he died

Written by: Patrick Brayer



Okie Adams, born Carl Frederick Adams, was an expert banjo maker, having provided unique, hand-crafted banjos to the likes of Doc Watson and Tom Sauber, among many others.


Okie’s banjos were entirely hand-made using his custom ‘block pot’ technique, which consisted of turning out a glued together ring of wood, usually walnut or maple, or a combination thereof. They are heavier than most, with a slightly wider neck (Okie claims this was favored by the guitar players he was trying to convert to banjo) and often the peghead is inlaid with a variety of shapes and symbols that are Okie signatures – a tall cowboy hat, claw hammer or double claw hammer, and a crescent moon with star.

Allen Hart uses an Okie Adams banjo on his “Old Time Banjo” album, playing in the claw-hammer style Okie favored and encouraged.

Okie was a consistent presence on the West Coast folk festival circuit, and his son Jim ‘Okie Jr.’ Adams plays and competes often, wielding his father’s prized banjos. Always a teacher, Okie’s generosity touched and inspired many musicians and banjo makers, among them Greg Deering, founder of Deering Banjo company who recently stated that he’d produced and sent out over 60,000 banjos from his workshop and “there was a part of Okie Adams in every single one.” [1]

He was also an accomplished race-car component maker, known for the Okie Adams “drop axle” he developed whilst working as a welder in Blairs Automotive of Pasadena during the 1960s.


Adams died at the age of 84 of smoke inhalation when his home in Eagle Rock, California, burned down on November 16, 2007. The exact cause of the fire has yet to be determined conclusively.