Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

So, do we know of any early female players/performers? Who were the earliest female performers (on the banjo) we know of?

 

Method in my madness: Dan Knowles is producing a new series of banjos (in cahoots with Bill Rickard) and he likes to give each banjo a name. He asked me if I knew of any female Minstrel banjo players...so I'm asking y'all!

 

===Marc

Views: 615

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I believe there are a number of photos of women banjo players on Greg & George's banjo sightings database. From what I recall, some looked like performers and some didn't. I don't know if any of them have names attached.

Marc--

The first person to come to mind for me is Ola Belle Reed of Lansing, NC.  Ola Belle was a country singer, songwiter, and banjo player.  She wrote many songs including "High on a Mountain."  Ola Belle was born 8/8/16 and died 8/16/02.  She was a famous performer on radio and the stage during the 40's and 50's.  There is an annual festival in Lansing, NC honoring her music and her memory

Marc--

My bad.  After reading your posting more carefully I see you are looking for female minstrel banjo players.  One possibility, however,  is Mrs. Minnie Dobson who holds a banjo patent from the 1880's.  While I can't say for sure she played the banjo, I thinks it's a pretty good bet.

I just now got a copy of "The Banjo Entertainers". There are several in there.

The earliest "female" banjo players of which I'm aware are members of the "Female American Serenaders," a minstrel group that appeared around Birmingham, England in 1847.   I put "female" in quotes because there's the possibility that these could be men in women's clothing.  However, the few sources that reference the group seem to believe that they were women.  In any event, their names were Cora, Jumba, Woski, Miami, Yarico, Womba, and Rosa.   So how about naming your banjo "Jumba"?  Or "Yarico"?  I'm attaching a pretty poor image of the group on what looks to be an early advertising card in my collection.

 

Bob

 

 

Attachments:

Lotta Crabtree. 1847-1924.  Born in New York and moved west with her parents. Toured California gold mining camps with professional minstrels.

You've got some great stuff Bob. You should come to the early banjo gathering at least for the show and tell!

Bob Sayers said:

The earliest "female" banjo players of which I'm aware are members of the "Female American Serenaders," a minstrel group that appeared around Birmingham, England in 1847.   I put "female" in quotes because there's the possibility that these could be men in women's clothing.  However, the few sources that reference the group seem to believe that they were women.  In any event, their names were Cora, Jumba, Woski, Miami, Yarico, Womba, and Rosa.   So how about naming your banjo "Jumba"?  Or "Yarico"?  I'm attaching a pretty poor image of the group on what looks to be an early advertising card in my collection.

 

Bob

 

 

Really macht nichts. I've turned in a list of names and Dan will either choose among them or come up with something on his own. The need was simple and what we got was sufficient. I personally submitted names from Septimus Winner songs. The banjos will be Dobson-based, so naming them after early players is a tad anachronisitc anyway.

However, if you wish to continue this conversation on an academic level...go for it! ;-)

Dan'l said:

I suggest that to determine anything in this conversation we have to define what we mean by "Minstrel players" first.

 

One definition, in the sense most often considered for this forum, is (a) a true Minstrel player is one who played professionally on a stage with a troupe of Minstrel performers in the classical Minstrel era, which ended long before 1900.

 

A less rigid definition would be (b) one known to have played in the Minstrel style regardless of when they played or who they played with, on stage or not. (In which case any female banjo player known to have played some Minstrel tunes professionally or privately qualifies as a female Minstrel player). 

 

Or we can work with the least useful definition (c) any banjo player that may have played minstrel tunes or not, on stage or not, at any time up to and including the present.

 

Dan'l

A bit late but...  I'd like to suggest some alternate ideas for Dobson inspired banjos.

 

The "Challenge" (thanks Carl) 

 

The "Patent"

 

The "Lawsuit"

 

The "Method"

 

"Open & Shut"

 

The "Plagiarist"

 

And last but not least...

 

The "Rubber Check"

 

Each banjo can come with its very own copy of the "Anvil Chorus."

 

 

We could take this a little further and have famous player-inspired banjos.  Such as...

 

The Frank Converse model--  "The Codifier."

 

Harriet Maxwell Converse model-- "The Sugar Mama."

 

Lew Brimmer model--  "The Demijohn."

 

Swayne Buckley model-  "The Little Sweeney."

 

Edwin Christy model--"The Free-Fall."  (okay that's just mean).

 

I've been trying to think of other early women banjoists  besides the (alleged) Female American Serenaders.  I'll think of others, but it's a little known fact that the great American prima donna Clara Louise Kellogg played the banjo.  I know this because she came to the defense of several musicians who were performing with a Japanese acrobatic troupe in New York in 1867.   Most of the audience hated the strange Japanese music, but Clara pulled out her banjo backstage and picked out the Japanese melodies, which she found quite charming.  So she's one of my musical heroes.    Bob

 

 

I did a little searching today and found that there weren't many women in early minstrelsy, apart from Madame Rentz's Female Minstrels who performed as a kind of chorus line (no banjos) around 1870.   However, I did find one person who might fit the bill.  Daisy Belmont was a child performer (banjo player and jig dancer) with the Cooper, Bailey & Co, Great International Circus in 1876.  In 1882, she appeared with McIntyre, Heath & Belmont's Mammoth Southern Minstrels.  She was billed as "Little Daisy Belmont, the child wonder, in her songs, dances, and banjo picking."  If you do a Google search, you can find a photograph of Little Daisy with her banjo.   I'm sure she'd be pleased to learn (if she were still around) that someone named a banjo after her. 

 

Bob

Reply to Discussion

RSS

About

John Masciale created this Ning Network.

© 2021   Created by John Masciale.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service