Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

The "Grapevine Twist" that I posted earlier today is the result of going through my pile of 19th century fiddle tune books to see what was there in the way of banjo-type tunes.

In Volume 2 of "Kerr's Merry Melodies For The Violin" - Glasgow mid-1880s, there is a hefty section of what are called "Negro Sand Jigs and Plantation Dances". These include:
  1. Billy The Kid
  2. Boatman's Dance
  3. Butcher's Boy
  4. Bob Chadduck
  5. Camp Meeting
  6. Double Clog
  7. Get On The Train
  8. Grape Vine Twist
  9. Hole In The Wall
  10. H____On The Wabash
  11. Hoop De Dooden Do
  12. Idlewild
  13. Jeannie With The Light Brown Hair
  14. Knocking Hornpipe
  15. Little Diamond
  16. Mountain Sprite
  17. My Old Kentucky Home
  18. Massa's In the Cold Ground
  19. Nelly Bly
  20. Nellie Gray
  21. Negro Sand Jig
  22. Nancy Till
  23. N_____ In The Pea Patch
  24. N_____In The Woodpile
  25. Old Mans Dance Oakland Gardens
  26. Old Folks At home
  27. Phil Isaac's
  28. Sand Jigs
  29. Sullivan's
  30. Tom Brigg's
  31. Uncle Tom's
  32. Walk Around
  33. Yankee Doodle
Though it's from Scotland, I have the feeling that this part of the Kerr collection and similar bits of Ryan's Mammoth Collection may have some common ancestor - possibly involving Elias Howe. I've got a number of Howe tune books in which the settings are very similar and tunes are sometimes found in similar grouping on pages. I'd like to hear about other American tune books from 1850-80.

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I have that Kerr book somewhere - had it for 20 years or so - but never thought about it when I took up the banjo. Must dig it out. Thanks, Ian.
Ian, if any of those not appearing in Ryan's (by any name) and look specially interesting (syncopated), could you please scan and post? That would be too cool!
There are a few funky tunes in there. I'll throw a selection up in the next day or so. Then I'll get into the Howe's books.


Ian Bell said:
There are a few funky tunes in there. I'll throw a selection up in the next day or so. Then I'll get into the Howe's books.
Thanks Ian, I've been enjoying the section with the Walk Arounds.
So, I followed your link. Looks like there are 4 of the Kerr's. How many do you have? Is it essentially the Ryan's, or is there enough other material to justify a purchase? I've enjoy many of the scans you put up. It continues to reinforce the concept - we'll never run out of banjo material, as long as there is fiddle material.
Tim - In answer to your question. Although they share many tunes with Ryans, I've always thought of The four Kerr's "Merry Melodies" books as a collection unto themselves. That said, I've never sat down to actually compare the 1200 or so total tunes in Kerr's with the 1050 in the American book. They're both from exactly the same era. I think you'll find Kerr's has a lot more strathspeys and Scottish reels. Both collections contain a lot of the same "Billboard 100" Irish standards. (The same ones everybody still plays!) Kerr's has fiddler's adaptations of operatic melodies and flavour of the month waltzes from that era.
I love Kerr's #1 above all. All the old-timers up here knew this book and it's what I learned much of my basic Scots/Irish repertoire from (once I figured out how to read music - in my 20s) I must be on my fourth copy - having given the others away to people who were just finding their way into this kind of music.

Here is a link to a complete list of all the tunes in all the Kerr's book that someone put up on his website (Bless his heart) You could o some "window shopping" here before you order. http://www.nigelgatherer.com/books/kerr/kreel.html
Nigel is a great guy. Runs a mandolin mini orchestra and a beginners traditional music session in a pub. Committed.
I like him already, Rob. Sounds like he's on the side of the angels. Thank him for me if you see him!

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Rob MacKillop said:
Nigel is a great guy. Runs a mandolin mini orchestra and a beginners traditional music session in a pub. Committed.
Tell him yourself: nigelgatherer@mac.com - I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.

Point taken Rob - I shall.
Rob MacKillop said:
Tell him yourself: nigelgatherer@mac.com - I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.
I just finished playing "Essence of Old Virginny" from the music Ian posted. I like these even more the further I get into them. If it is not a correct interpretation, I apologize, but I am finding something that rings in my soul...a groove we don't do very often in this early music. "Slow" is the tempo marking....too slow?? not sure. Try playing them...you'll be hypnotized by the feel.
Where would a guy get a copy of the Kerr's here in the States?

WS

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