Judging by the books that contain both solos and song arrangements My guess is that the banjo solos of song melodies in Briggs and other tutors were intended to be played as instrumentals. The actual song accompaniments I've played through seem to be generally pretty guitar-like with "boom-chick-chick" chords and arpeggios. That said, I'd be surprised if solos weren't adapted to service as accompaniments in the past just the way we instinctively do with them now.
Don't forget the performance venue that Briggs, Rice, Buckley made their living, the minstrel show, and specifically the banjo solo part...singing, laughing, joking, "stroking," astounding with trick playing,... the banjo was an integral part of that. They didn't just stand up there and pick. We're so far away from that. I love just standing there and picking ;^}
Further to Carl's comments - Check out Willie Hall and his fiddle -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuJrre_sITc&feature=player_embed...!
That was great. I'd love to see one of us step up and try this stuff.....we're all too serious.
I still think the Briggs' arrangements were a result of years of singing those tunes.
That was fun! I agree with Tim...we're all too serious.
Willie Hall... OMG! lol