October of 2016 Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches flew out to Lexington, Kentucky, traveling as a trio, to perform on the live taping of WoodSongs.

WoodSongs is a worldwide multi-media celebration of grassroots, Americana music. Get ready to explore the beautiful world of folk, bluegrass, songwriting, new artists, literature, worldwide radio, television and concerts, hosted each Monday at 6:45 pm at the historic Lyric Theatre!

Hear Kai Kater, a lovely brother sister team, and then Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches as a trio with Nick Russo on banjo, Betina Hershey on vocals and guitar, and David Pleasant adding his Gullah-Geechee percussion.

Listen to the broadcast here.


WFUV On Your Radar

Check out our live version of Freight Train on WFUV.

Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches is a most unusual NYC band.” – John Platt

We love WFUV! I’m a NYC girl, born in Manhattan, raised in Queens, and I’ve always listened to WFUV and John Platt. I got to play on WFUV for John Platt once before. I sang harmony on some Jack Hardy tunes and played some of my own before the 20th Anniversary of Fast Folk concert at the Bottom Line.

This time I was the with my husband Nick Russo as a part of our project Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches.

We played on Sunday April 9th on Supper Sunday, and John Platt was such a delight. He really loves music, is full of knowledge and questions, and has such a warmth.

Then the following Tuesday April 11th John Platt had us as part of his On The Radar series at Rockwood Music Hall.

What a treat!

And here’s what John wrote about us…


Betina Hershey

Banjo Nickaru and “Sunday Supper” host John Platt (photo by Jeremy Rainer)


Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches is a most unusual NYC band. Led by banjo/guitar player Nick Russo and singer-songwriter Betina Hersey, they have an appetite for all kinds of music: folk, blues, country, 1920s and ’30s pop and jazz, and roots music in general, expressed in both originals and cover songs.

Their real wild card is a Gullah-Geechee accent brought by percussionist David Pleasant. Pleasant wasn’t with them for this visit to Studio A, but they did bring veteran percussionist Newman Taylor -Baker on washboard and Neal Murgai on sitar.

Listen to what they add to Elizabeth Cotton’s classic “Freight Train.” This is a band that must be heard to be believed! Check them out in this fun session or at Rockwood Music Hall on April 11 for “On Your Radar.”


Live Video of Great Big House

Extended Play Sessions,”An authentic blend of New Orleans jazz, Piedmont blues, Gullah Geechee rhythm and New York sass, Banjo Nickaru and Western Scooches brought down the house at The Extended Play Sessions Fallout Shelter earlier this month. Nick Russo is the brainchild behind this and host of other projects that combine this nimble quartet with authentic American Roots styles. Betina Hersey handles the vocals with some scat backing from Miles Griffith. Featuring percussionist David Pleasant on the Gullah Geechee drum kit.”

Extended Play Sessions invites bands to perform at an invitation-only live setting with the aim of video taping the whole show and then sharing with the world. Thanks so much, Extended Session! You made us so welcome. We loved our time there!

–  Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches (Nick, Betina, Miles, David)

‘Great Big House in New Orleans’ – Banjo Nickaru and Western Scooches – From The Extended Play Sessions from The Extended Play Sessions on Vimeo.




David Amram talks about Banjo Nickaru

“Just a few words about Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches, an amazing group which a lot of us dreamed would happen some day where the different genres of music all get together and they all fit together because everybody is great at their genre and also has the ability to be with the other genres in harmony. That’s what they call making music.

Great gourmet cooking and great music is made when things are combined in a beautiful, nutritious, soulful way. It’s not cross over because there is no place to cross over in music you’re already there if you’re a real musician. People listening, being creative, and always wanting to combine what you’ve been gifted with with others, and this group does that. Without any retoric, what Stravinsky said, “Music expresses itself,” and when you hear them, you’ll be blown away.

It’s an answer to a lot of people from an older generation, which is myself since I’m turning 86, dreaming that some day all of these musics would be together. That’s what Charlie Parker told me he would hope to hear, someday, when I was doing my symphony music and trying to play jazz horn, that all music would come together. Bud Freeman, a great saxophone player from the 20’s, before he passed away told me that he hoped all musicians would find a common ground. Any group that does that deserves appreciation and attention and respect.

And I think this group will open up the doors for people who love bluegrass, Gullah-Geechee, African, African American, scat singing, improvising, traditional fold music of the past, all combining to make some great, classical, sincere, built-to-last music from the heart for today.

They played up a storm! They are terrific. And anybody could come. This is the kind of thing that you could bring your 5 year old child and your Great Grandmother and everyone will dig it. Just a joy to hear you, play with you. I recommend everyone come to hear this group wherever they are, and get their CD.”
– David Amram

We met David Amram at NERFA 2016. David, 86, with a twinkle in his eye, a friend of Charlie Parker and more, and a deep love of music of all traditions, joined us in the lobby and at two of our showcases, talked about us in his discussion about folk music and history, and recorded this testimonial which I transcribed about the deep value of our group. Thanks David! We love the light you shine, your open mind, and your deep love and curiosity for music!