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People laugh when teen walks up for “Hillbilly Banjo” routine but over 17M have admired his skill

We’ve come a long way since 2013. And while a video of a high school talent show performance uploaded to YouTube has been viewed over 17 million times, plenty of people are ready to focus on the “talent” portion and not the “Hillbilly Banjo Player” stereotypes.

And, of course, many people are still happy to keep making jokes at the expense of poor, rural southerners. “Hillbilly” is not a term of endearment. It’s a slur.

So we’ll stick to the banjo.

The entrance

The costume drew laughs. It was clear what the overalls, bare feet, and straw hat were meant to represent – something unrefined.

And yet Joel entered the talent show with plenty of skill.

With a piece of straw sticking out of his mouth, he sits down and prepares the audience for some banjo madness.

Leaning back like he’s sitting on a porch somewhere simply playing the instrument to pass the time, the audience probably isn’t quite sure yet if this is going to be a comedy routine or a musical performance. But luckily it’s the latter.

It’s clear after just a few strums and picks that Joel has some serious talent. The banjo isn’t an easy instrument to play!

Whoops and hollers can be heard from his friends and classmates in the audience as he launches into two songs.

The performance speeds up

As the show goes on, Joel’s playing gets faster and faster.

His first song is “Cripple Creek,” and when he’s finished up his rousing rendition, the audience is in awe and gives him a huge round of applause, complete with enamored screaming as if he’s a rock star.

But he asks them to hold on for just one second as he readies them for the other half of his performance.

Joel has one more song – the classic, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”

And he knocks that one out of the ballpark too.

Finishing on a high note, he stands up to more adoring cheers and chucks his hat into the audience before exiting the stage.

Not surprisingly, he ended up winning first place in the talent show that year.

It doesn’t stop there

It’s pretty clear that Joel spent a lot of time with his instrument before the show – and this was no one-off performance. Seven years later, he’s still playing the banjo!

In fact, after a 6-year hiatus from uploading videos, he’s back at it under the name “Mile Higher Boys.”

Based in Denver, Colorado, there are no bios that might tell us if Joel is the only “boy” in the band, though that seems to be the case. He also appears to be the producer of a supernatural/crime podcast called Lights Out, but that has nothing to do with his banjo-playing.

Joel’s music is now available just about everywhere, from Amazon to Spotify – and his YouTube channel and Instagram account are full of mini-performances for fans to enjoy.

Oh, and they’re free of any “hillbilly” stereotypes that might offend.

But first, be sure to scroll down and see where it all started – at Bennett High School in 2013.

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