The short answer: Al Capone.
Now, for the long answer one. Let’s see the story behind this.
Back then, there were many speculations about what Al Capone did with his prison mates. One of the shockers was the fact that Al Capone played banjo in the inmate band.
Obviously, many people didn’t believe it back then. Only few people did believe that this notorious man was playing banjo.
The gangster and mob boss was amongst the first prisoners who occupied the new Alcatraz federal prison back in August 1934.
Well, it has been confirmed. Al Capone really played banjo. In fact, he performed every Sunday with his inmate band the Rock Islanders during his time at Alcatraz.
Besides banjo, some sources also stated that Capone played Mandoline too.
You know what they said about Alcatraz prisoners. It was hard even for the mob boss like Capone to stay sane at their imprisonment. And expected for Capone who has many enemies from many sides. There were few attempts on his life, beatings, stabbing, and many other stuff which made Capone insane.
The wards excused him to go outside of the cell and joined a four-man prison band. Of course, he was still imprisoned.
Although any other stuff is forbidden, the musical instruments were allowed. Mae, Capone’s beloved wife, gave him a banjo.
He often stayed at his cell and practiced banjo when the other prisoners were outside.
The other prisoners and audiences who watched Capone perform described his talent as “moderate”. although some wards gave him applause for his performances.
But you know how Alcatraz had changed Capone. It was pretty hard to keep things in order. After years of playing with banjo, his mind snapped. He left his banjo at the corner and often refused to go to the mess hall to eat. Other prisoners witnessed him talking by himself.
Unfortunately, some people only enjoyed Capone’s performance a few times because he spent the rest of his time at Alcatraz in the hospital ward.
In his free time, as permitted by the officials, Capone took some time to practice with his small band. it was surprising that Capone took it really seriously. The small band was called “The Rock Islanders’ ‘. playing banjo in this band, he and his band performed every Sunday in the concerts for other inmates. But the good trivial stuff does not end up there. Capone even wrote a love song entitled “Madonna Mia”.
But the public had just enjoyed his work after it was published posthumously in 2009.
Despite the fact that he was one of the most notorious gangsters of all time, Alcatraz might have a big role in enforcing him to be a musician. He even made such work. Although described as an “average” musician, we can at least appreciate what he contributed to the Banjo history. People will remember Capone as a notorious one, but also as a banjo player.