Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

In a recent thread I was talking about referencing hornpipe tempos through the requirements of the dances they commonly accompanied. This got me thinking about the "straight jigs" that are such a big part of the early banjo repertoire. I contacted a step-dancer friend who knows a couple of people who can do a version of this type of dance (learned from a dancing family in New England who kept a lot of the archaic styles going) I actually haven't seen any of this yet, but did find out about a book called (predictably) "Clog and Jig Dancing Without a Master" which seems to have been put together by one of the Buckleys in 1864. Has anyone ever run across this book in any form?

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I'd love to see that.

I don't have a copy but I have one called "Clog Dancing Made Easy" by Henry Tucker -- no date but sometime in the 19th c.
only 14 pages...
What is a "straight jig"? I hope this may pop up....it would be valuable to know how these tunes related to dance.
Here's one from Library of Congress:

Jig, clog, and breakdown dancing made easy, with sketches of noted jig dancers.

CREATED/PUBLISHED
New York, Ed. James, c1873.

SUMMARY
This book begins with a brief history of jig dancing and provides a chronology of jig and clog dancers from famed African-American dance Master Juba to Johnny Diamond and Dick Pelham. The manual also describes twenty steps including "heel and toe step," "shuffle,""clog break," and "plantation breakdown."
Here's a jig dancing manual from 1873.

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/dihtml/musdibibSubjects01.html

Scroll down to "Jig dance--Handbooks, manuals, etc."
This is a neat publication, and I believe Carl has supplied a link to the book which Jim has cited. I find the short history in the front interesting. Its seemingly bereft of racist undertones and has fairly straightforward writing to talk about minstrelsy's history as possibly some of the more "informed" knew it then. Good stuff.
Thanks for all the leads and links gents.

Tim, my understanding of a straight jig - and this is strictly through observation - is that it's a tune that is in 4/4 time but because of the dotted timing of the melody ends up with some of the characteristics of a Celtic "single jig" in 6/8 time. Dahh-di-Dahh-di-Dahh-di.

I first encountered them in the playing of older fiddle and accordion players like Jean Carignan and John Kimmel. They sounded different from the other tunes because they weren't Celtic based. (they sounded "hokey" to me when i was younger) The actual dance seems to have lasted into the vaudeville era in the early 20th century. My gut feeling is that at its root the straight jig is originally a banjo thing - a fifth string thing. Folk dance guru Tony Barrand has done a lot of work with the dancing of the Marley family who had a lot of old stage dance routines in their repertoire including the straight jig. My friend learned some of these steps from him.
Thanks Ian

Ian Bell said:
Thanks for all the leads and links gents.

Tim, my understanding of a straight jig - and this is strictly through observation - is that it's a tune that is in 4/4 time but because of the dotted timing of the melody ends up with some of the characteristics of a Celtic "single jig" in 6/8 time. Dahh-di-Dahh-di-Dahh-di.

I first encountered them in the playing of older fiddle and accordion players like Jean Carignan and John Kimmel. They sounded different from the other tunes because they weren't Celtic based. (they sounded "hokey" to me when i was younger) The actual dance seems to have lasted into the vaudeville era in the early 20th century. My gut feeling is that at its root the straight jig is originally a banjo thing - a fifth string thing. Folk dance guru Tony Barrand has done a lot of work with the dancing of the Marley family who had a lot of old stage dance routines in their repertoire including the straight jig. My friend learned some of these steps from him.
Tim, I can just picture you playing this - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qufYUbe2GXA
This is Jean Carignan and a very young Denis Pepin playing a straight jig that was originally recorded in the teens or twenties by accodionist John J. Kimmel.


Tim Twiss said:
Thanks Ian

Ian Bell said:
Thanks for all the leads and links gents.

Tim, my understanding of a straight jig - and this is strictly through observation - is that it's a tune that is in 4/4 time but because of the dotted timing of the melody ends up with some of the characteristics of a Celtic "single jig" in 6/8 time. Dahh-di-Dahh-di-Dahh-di.

I first encountered them in the playing of older fiddle and accordion players like Jean Carignan and John Kimmel. They sounded different from the other tunes because they weren't Celtic based. (they sounded "hokey" to me when i was younger) The actual dance seems to have lasted into the vaudeville era in the early 20th century. My gut feeling is that at its root the straight jig is originally a banjo thing - a fifth string thing. Folk dance guru Tony Barrand has done a lot of work with the dancing of the Marley family who had a lot of old stage dance routines in their repertoire including the straight jig. My friend learned some of these steps from him.

Carl Anderton said:

Here's a jig dancing manual from 1873.

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/dihtml/musdibibSubjects01.html

Scroll down to "Jig dance--Handbooks, manuals, etc."
I just had a look at this link- some great resources and leads in there to explore!  I've been learning a bit of pipe & tabor lately and have found some of the 1600-1700s French country 'branle'/dance tunes to be just the ticket since they use a range of notes that tend to be somewhat limited, and the tabor pipe has a basic 1 or 1  1/2 octave range, having only 3 fingering holes and played one-handed.  
It's so cool to look at some very old tune sheet music online, getting a small idea of what that melody sounds like, and then checking youtube for the title...sometimes i find delightful videos of modern French people dancing these old folk dances to the traditional tunes still... much like you can find Americans gathering here and there to do English county dance to the tunes of that era.  The tunes and dances were written down and survived over time...it's wonderful that they were accurately preserved for us to continue enjoying today.

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