Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I thought this was good reading, but it's just an excerpt from Mike Seeger's liner notes...I don't have the cd, but it sounds awesome (early southern guitar styles):


One sentence from the excerpt jumped out at me in particular: "Evidence of working-class playing of these guitars is sparse during this period."  That's true even today, newspapers are chock full of announcements for concerts and performances, but mentions of either street buskers or of average people getting together after work in their backyard to share some tunes are (naturally) seldom encountered.

Mike Seeger was a highly respected musician and music researcher/historian.  I first saw him playing live at Lena's Cafe - on a Thornburg gourd banjo.  The banjo almost seemed larger than Mike, but what incredible music issued forth.  The head had sunk and Mike whipped out a taller bridge from his pocket and put it on, and played/sang a very haunting song about African slaves.  Mike's epic cd/dvd and liner notes on early Southern banjo sounds/styles is a must-hear/must-read/must see for anyone interested in early banjo, by the way.

Oh, I just found a video of Mike playing that same large Thornburg gourd...playing Roustabout in old-time style, you can watch him tuning it in the beginning: http://youtu.be/udSxPjk9EVw    Mike was awesome.

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Here is a link to a very interesting paper that describes the link between the post war availability of cheap mass produced guitars along with their accompanying tutor books, and the" Birth of the Blues".  


Thanks for the reference, Jim.  As a former delta blues player-- at some point in my late 20's I started to feel somewhat self-conscious playing this music, though I still love bottle neck blues, and I thought "Half Blind, Half Deaf Boy Morrison" wouldn't work for a stage name-- this article fills in a lot of blanks for me.  It explains the tunings which make slide guitar possible, and the superimposition of call and response onto the basic chord structure brings the whole thing together.

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