Tony Ellis was born in North Carolina but has resided in Ohio in recent years, first in Chillicothe and later in Circleville. He plays both banjo and fiddle, and worked for Bill Monroe and also for Mac Wiseman in the early 1960s. After tiring of working in road bands, he settled in Chillicothe and began playing on weekends with his neighbor, Lonnie Seymour, who was a renowned Ohio old-time fiddler and who had once performed in a group on radio called the Ross County Farmers in the late 1940s. The Ross County Farmers were revived in 1983 by Tony, Lonnie, and Jeff Goehring to play at the National Folk Festival, held in Akron that year. Their music is preserved in a cassette titled Farmer’s Frolic, issued by Marimac Recordings in 1987. Tony also had an LP on Flying Fish Records and a series of CDs. He has represented Ohio folk music on international tours and has served as a master artist in several traditional arts apprenticeships. In 2003, he was honored as an Ohio Heritage Fellow at the Cityfolk Festival in Dayton. He was the subject of a PBS documentary in 2011. Movie star and musician Steve Martin credits Tony with inspiring him to get involved with the banjo again; Steve’s composition, “The Crow,” was influenced by Tony’s tune, “The Wild Fox.”

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