Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

On Picayune Butler, T. A. Brown, George Nichols, T. D, Rice and “Jim Crow”

About 7 years ago, prodded by a contract from Oxford University Press and Harvard's  African American biography database,  I set out to write up what i thought was the simple easy to get information about Picayune Butler, who I assumed was a historic Black Banjoist who played some role in minstrelsy, and had something to do with the song "Jim Crow".   The research I did led me to understand that most things written to that point were simply and completely wrong, as well as how the world of 1830s through 1850s was fascinating and interesting and richer than what I had read about it.  Fortunately, newspaper databases that go back through that era are now available easily, and important records can be obtained from databases like Ancestry.com.,  Mid 19th century Americans were deeply interested in the most minor figures in show business including people who organized and promoted shows and and circuses so much that a series of memoirs were written by 19th century show people that can give one an almost weekly picture of where figures like TD Rice were on a week to week basis.  After I finished my article for OUP and Harvard and did a presentation on these issues at the then Banjo Collectors Gathering and at the Early Banjo Gathering in Baltimore, I have kept sharpening up the materials I developed.   I have attached "On Picayune Butler, T. A. Brown, George Nichols, T. D, Rice and 'Jim Crow'"  which is summary of what I came up with, written rather pointedly originally intended for my direct colleagues in banjo history,  It is attached.

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Thanks. So, do any of Rice's stories of the acquisition of Jim Crow make sense? I love the St.Louis stablehand tale...but now, you say evidence states he was working on it nearly a year before he arrived in the Gateway to the West. Any references to AfrAm folkloric versions?  I know Buzzard Lope, but....

Thanks for posting this.  Very interesting.   

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