Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

NPR article on origin of racist ice cream truck song...

I stumbled upon this today by NPR:


Be advised- racist content included, in the context of discussing the jarring racist history and minstrel roots of tunes that seem so harmless and quaint to us today.  It's a well written piece with some fascinating references included.

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This is an excellent piece. For those coming to the early banjo gathering, Hank Sapoznik will be doing a presentation on one of the people referenced in this article Harry C. Browne.

I've never noticed a similarity between "Zip Coon/Turkey in the Straw" and "Rose Tree".

Now that I think of it, .......I still have difficulty noticing the similarity.

I thought that too Al, maybe the pick ups and the first couple of notes are similar , but hardly the whole tune. I do recall T.I.S. related to an earlier hornpipe but I don't recall the title. The Ice Cream truck  comes down my street everyday this time of year, but mostly it plays Jingle Bells, Here comes Santa Claus, and Oh Dem Golden Slippers. I think public domain and familiarity are the driving forces these days.

Are we talking about Old Zip Coon as it appears in Briggs? I pegged it as Turkey in the Straw the first time I read through it. For what its worth, here is the Wikipedia article, claiming them as the same tune:


I don't know. Can a pure melody without lyric ever become non-toxic?

I recall Rhiannon Giddens quote when asked about minstrel music. AsS I recall it was, "the music itself is blameless". A worthy thought, that.
I was refering to the Rose Tree.
I see, that clarifies it, thanks.

Wes Merchant said:
I was refering to the Rose Tree.

Wes, maybe the "Rose Tree" that you and I are undoubtedly referring to is not the same tune as the "Irish ballad "The Old Rose Tree." cited in Wikipedia and the article.  Do you know if they are the same?

I guess there could be another tune of that name, but the one linked to in the article is the one I know. Here is an 1830's version, it also shows up in the first volume of Riley's.

Yes, Wes, that's the one (as well as the one in Riley's) that I figured you and I were referring to.

Sorry, I didn't realize it was directly linked to the article.   I thought it was merely mentioned as a song title.

I do see the similarites between the rose tree and turkey in the straw..though I hadn't thought about it til now.  But maybe i'm a little loopy. 

Maybe if someone recorded both, kept the parts in synch, and overlapped the tracks...?

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