Darrel Carender started playing bass guitar in rock bands back in high school. But after hearing Earl Scruggs play Foggy Mountain Breakdown in 1978 when he was 15, he started learning the banjo. One year later, in 1979, he joined his first Bluegrass band, Ten Mile Flats, with current Mule member Joe Peach, Tony Boyer and George Meyers. After that, he joined Blue Sage with some super pickers for a couple of years, playing regional festivals and events.
After his daughter was born, the banjo was set aside for fatherhood and golf (because children don't cry when you play golf).
Unwilling to completely abandon music, he bought an Imperial banjo from Ty Piper, and started learning the skills of a luthier. At the time, Imperial and Stelling were the two best banjos. Darrel hung around Ty's shop, and learned what he could. At that time, Joe Peach had a music store in Norman, and Darrel started building Saga banjos from kits for Joe's store.
Then local music legend Bob French (Bob, are you reading this?) asked Darrel to build him a banjo, then a mandolin, a guitar, a Dobro, etc. All this while running his own company.
In 2000, Darrel was able to sell his company and retire. After playing a lot more golf, he decided to focus more on building instruments and playing bluegrass. In 2005 he joined up with several other string pickin' scalawags to form Southbound Mule.
In 2004, Darrel and his wife Melanie bought a derelict building in Pawnee, the hometown of his inlaws. The building had been vacant for at least 20 years. Built in 1902, the building still had original fixtures and wiring that was not exactly up to modern codes. Together, they spent the first year gutting the building, then spent each weekend building it out.
Now, the building has three floors that demonstrate his impeccable abilities at woodworking. With the music shop on the first floor, lesson rooms and a small recording studio on the second, and living quarters on the top floor, the Carenders are able to view the passing parade of Pawnee life from their downtown loft window.