Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I just decided.

Because October is the month of Halloween and pumpkins and squash and old hollow/hallow things, even the O in October is round like a gourd...so...

I declare October to be Gourd Banjer Month !

Let's use this thread to share our enthusiasm for our gourd banjos...

Post your gourdelicious videos, pictures, your love/hate gourd relationship stories, and random factoids about your gourd banjo here!

Anything goes...bring it on!    :D

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So....I must have read your mind??

Maybe so Tim.  And I was also asking you about your gourd banjo recently.   :D

"Hear Hear!" I'm going to the Hallmark store to demand greeting cards!

Here's my small gourd banjo, after Brian and I drilled a sound hole into it

It's definitely not a 'period' banjer, since it has a full grey formica overlay on the fretboard and peghead.

I bought it from the wife of our late friend Ray Alden, after he passed away.  He had gotten it directly from Jeff Menzies, who made it a few years before.

The gourd is only 8" across at its widest, and the freely-vibrating part of the head is 5" wide.  Because it's such a small gourd, it's not very loud. That improved noticeably after we drilled a soundhole (it had none).  I sought advice from Jeff before we attempted doing this (it's a bit scary!), and received his encouragement.  It still lacks the deep resonance of my larger gourd banjo, however.  Hmm, duh...you just can't make a small gourd sound like a large gourd.  I think of it as a good travel gourd, and to play when not wanting to disturb others.  I guess I mostly like that Ray owned it.   :)

Here is it's official Menzies gallery page, from 2005, which makes it 9 yrs old now:


Amazing how he still produced something of aesthetic appeal even with the formica. I wonder what Jeff was thinking not putting a sound hole of some sort in it?

Mark, I had asked him that, and he said he didn't always put sound holes in his earliest banjos, but began to add them as standard later on.  This banjo was #67 from 2005.

Wes did you make that?  Can you actually play it?

My old buddy Slim made that. I'm not sure where he got the design, he sometimes makes a version of these with school kids. You can actually play on it a bit, but mostly just little strummy things.

Here's my contribution to gourd appreciation month: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=254867087970262

I tried to make a new video today with my gourd banjer, but after screwing up the 12th take in a row, I gave up for the day.

Of course as soon as I put the camera away i could play the tune just fine again.   lolol...

Greg, I can't seem to see the video- maybe because I'm not a member of FB..?  It just shows black for me.  :(

Here's a great page on various gourds, their photos and uses, and their seeds you can buy:


I think if I were to pursue a gourd banjo again, I'd chose a four-string like Mark often plays.  After all, isn't that closer to what they were like prior to the introduction of the rim banjos?  That's not a statement, that's a question.  Was there an era when 5-string gourd banjos were made and used or is that a current inclination of ours to mix two traditions together the result of which never really existed?  Can someone offer their insights?

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