Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

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Yes, I think you're right, Strum.  I am familiar with the tails on period 's's.  Perhaps if I had seen the "m" instead of "ai", I might have also seen it as "same".

I meant "m" instead of "an".

Ah yes, the women squalled out a burthen- makes total sense!  

The pitch of a proposed long, yet high-pitched drone could have been remedied simply by a small bridge to stop the string....or could it have been a low drone?  I'm not proposing either, just possibly adding to the confusion. ;)

Has it been shown that there was only ONE form or embodiment of early banjos and only ONE way that people played banjo-type instruments back then?

Not to my mind. In fact, the more I research this issue the more questions I have. All these 4 string, no thumb string instruments seem to suddenly disappear in 1847 -48 and then we start seeing the banjo represented with five strings which includes the thumb string. So far I have only found the English Sweeny sheet music covers from 1843 and possibly one Virginia Minstrel sheet music cover which show the banjo having a thumb string. But check out this link, click on it to blow it up and look at the banjo. This is from 1844, and unlike many of these representations, is extremely clear.  

http://gigi.mwa.org/netpub/server.np?preview=22938&site=public&...

Wow that's a truly amazing image, Mark!

Where are the real ones? Any survive?

Not that I've seen, but that wouldn't be unusual. We also don't have any surviving gourd banjos from North America either, all we have are illustrations. But I do wonder how many surviving banjo's we have that can be dated to the 1840's. Greg Adams would be the one to know that.

Well Mark there was the Haitian banza that Pete Ross studied, right?  That was a rare surviving early gourd banjo, though I believe it had a short drone.

Of course, I should have said the United States!

I wonder if that geographical cut-off makes a lot of sense though, since basically was not the same African musical and instrumental influence brought to both to the plantations of the deep South and the plantations in the Caribbean by victims of the active slave trade throughout?  And weren't early banjo prototypes of the 1700s were documented in both areas?  Is there a purpose in limiting the interest only to 'the United States' and excluding the Caribbean?  Just curious because in context there seems to be a very strong and important connection when it comes to the earliest banjos.

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