The Wooks is losing its banjo player. But the band is celebrating him, and its music.

By Matt Wickstrom, LexGO

The Wooks. Photo by Melissa Stilwell.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The issues began in the summer of 2017 when the band began to pick up momentum touring in support of its debut release “Little Circles.”

At the time, The Wooks were playing more frequent than it ever had. Arthur Hancock recalls changing up his banjo playing technique, which damaged the flexor tendon in his right hand, making it painful and near impossible to play.

The reality of the discomfort hit Hancock that June when he kept losing picks because he wasn’t able to grip them during a main stage set at a bluegrass and roots festival ROMP in Owensboro.

“I haven’t played the banjo in two years and can barely hold a guitar pick,” said Hancock. “I can’t play music the way I want to.

“I like to have some energy when I perform,” he said. “Not being able to express myself musically through the banjo has been sad for me.”

In his time sidelined from banjo, Hancock picked up rhythm guitar for the band with Will Parsons and George Guthrie filling in on banjo. Other members of The Wooks include CJ Cain on guitar, Roddy Puckett on vocals and Harry Clark on mandolin.

However, even the guitar has become difficult for Hancock in recent months, relegating him to vocals only.

“I’ve always had two opportunities in life with my family’s business,” said Hancock, who is leaving the band after this weekend’s performances. “I enjoy it, and if I can’t do something as well as I’d like to I want to do something else the best I can.”

Hancock’s next journey will take him back to family-owned Stone Farm, where he returned in January, raising horses and prepping them for the racetrack and Keeneland’s sales. Founded in 1970, Stone Farm has produced three Kentucky Derby winners, the most recent being Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

Losing Hancock won’t be the first transition for The Wooks. At the end of 2017, the band lost founding members Galen Green (mandolin) to business school and Jesse Wells (fiddle), who went on the road to play guitar, fiddle and just about anything else with strings for Tyler Childers.

The band has rolled, even thrived, despite the changes with their modern take on the state’s signature musical styling.

With sad endings come happy beginnings, and the next chapter for The Wooks may just be their brightest yet.

“It’s tough, but you want people to be happy and not under any stress or physical pain,” said Cain. “It’s not good for all of us if someone is unhappy. It’s not easy (to see Arthur go), but in a way it is.”

IF YOU GO

The Wooks’ final shows with Arthur Hancock

When: 6 p.m. March 2; 8 p.m. March 2 with Melanie Brulee

Where: The Burl, 375 Thompson Rd.

Tickets: Both shows sold out


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