Where to begin? There's so much great banjo music out there its hard to remember it all. I definitely have my favorites so I'll be leaning towards those of course. I can't stress the importance of listening to the music you would like to play. Its got to get into your ears FIRST, then it'll be easier to get it through your hands. Here goes...
One of the most imitated and influential musicians in the history of the world. An overstatement? I don't think so. Listen to Earl at his peak (Ground Speed, Dear Ol Dixie, Flint Hill Special for starters) and then listen to everyone else you'll know why. Check these out.
Foggy Mountain Jamboree (Many great songs)
Foggy Mountain Banjo (The classic and recently rereleased, A MUST HAVE!!!)
The Essential Earl Scruggs (The Best all around intro to Earl)
Any Flatt and Scruggs "best of"
Maybe the best "Scruggs" style player beside Scruggs, but still has a distinct style.
The Bluegrass Album Band vol. 1-2 (Classic Bluegrass with lots of great singing and backup banjo)
Bela has completely redefined what a banjo can do musically. His recorded output is a bit overwhelming so I'll list a few of my favorites.
Drive (I think these are his best bluegrass tunes)
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (the first and my favorite flecktones recordings)
Music for Two (Duet CD with Bassist Edgar Meyer. One of my favorite CD's ever.)
Perpetual Motion (Classical Banjo)
There's so many more. Here's a list of other great Bluegrass banjoists to listen to.
John Hartford (Steam Powered AereoPlane)
- Old Time
By far my favorite old time banjo player. Amazing tone and drive.
Hand me down (Amazing music regardless of genre)
If I go ten thousand miles ( more great tunes)
A very important figure in old time music. Known more for his fiddling but was a great banjoist too.
The Legend of Tommy Jarrell (A great recording of his banjo playing)
A great singers and banjo player with great feeling for the music. He's been a sideman on various projects. Check out his website for a complete list.
Long Steel Rail (lots of great banjo playing)
More old time banjoists:
Charlie Beck (local player with the Tallboys)
Molly Tennenbaum (another local)
The Canote Brothers (more local music)