Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I am a Civil War reenactor that has been playing clawhammer banjo for about six months.  I got an offer to play a fretless banjo at a Civil War event last weekend and I think I would like to purchase a period banjo.  It looked like most banjos cost between $1,200 - $1,700 depending on what you wanted.  Then I discovered a Don Gardner banjo for only $375?  Is this guy for real?  It looks like the Gardners travel to reenactments and sell their prodocts.  Does anyone have any experience with Don Gardner from Gardner Dulcimers?  My first fretless banjo doesn't have to be pretty, but it must function properly.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks ...Clyde...

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Well, Silas, I guss I will just have to tell everyone at Port Gamble how you inspired me to buy a Gardner Banjo.  I am very impressed with what you have accomplished on the banjo and I will confess a ture case of "hero worship" to all that ask me about it.  Yes sir, I did it all because of Silas boyes!!!!!   Or perhaps some fine old whiskey might soften your view just a bit?  You know, turn the other cheek a little to help get some poor misguided but well meaning soul started on the banjo?  ...Clyde...

Silas Tackitt said:

Clyde,

I'm going to tell everyone I encounter at Port Gamble what a farb you are.  A Gardner with eagle shoes might be okay for someone in any other company of the 20th Maine, but Co. F?  You gotta be kidding me.  I haven't seen anything about anyone in Co. F carrying a Gardner with eagle shoes.  Chamberlain himself hangs his head in shame and shakes it subtly in disbelief.

I'm not any good, Clyde.  Too many other things on my plate to be considered a serious banjo player.  Carl's my hero, but Tim Twiss whom I have never met, is my tutor.  So much good print, audio, video and discussion he has fostered with his pages. 
Well, I think you are selling yourself short there Silas.  But I agree that Mr. Twiss has done a great deal to futher the cause of Minstrel banjo playing.  I have visited his banjo clubhouse and I am extremely impressed with his accomplishmets and commitment to the Minstrel banjo.  Take care ...Clyde...

Silas Tackitt said:
I'm not any good, Clyde.  Too many other things on my plate to be considered a serious banjo player.  Carl's my hero, but Tim Twiss whom I have never met, is my tutor.  So much good print, audio, video and discussion he has fostered with his pages. 

Hi I'm new to this, I have been playing different instruments over the past ten years and, hear lately been focusing on the fiddle for the past 3 years. Then about 6 months ago I picked up  "The Crow" from Deering Banjo and off I went. I have been steadily drawn to Clawhammer style of playing, then naturally got into the history and now here I am totally engrossed with the minstrel style. I started looking around and watching the youtube videos of these performances and the style of banjos. Just beginning in all areas of the banjo, but wanted to work on this style as well, so I wanted something I cold get started on and get my chops down ..then invest in something of higher craftsmanship if I feel the need. I am currently waiting on a Boucher style Tackhead from Eric Prust. I stumbeled on to his banjo's by watching a youtube of Tim Twiss playing one of Eric's tackheads. Sounded awesome. There are a lot of good performers and I really had no idea this world existed. I live in Santa Barbara CA. I am clueless as where to go to find other people that are into this style of playing. Are there any groups that anyone knows of that is in my neck of the woods?

 

 

 

David Swarens and Chris Ownby live in San Diego, and Ed Sims amd Dan Partner live up in Northern CA, I believe.  You might send try and send them messages here to locate like-minded Californos in your area.
I occasionally get out to San Jose.  That's not really your neck of the woods, but if you are willing to travel, we could get together some time that I am out there.

I will try to contact the San Diego gentelmen. I am down there frequently. They may also know of some other people as well. Hey Carl, I gotta say I have really enjoyed your youtube clips, you and the other gentelman playing the bones. It really fired up my enthusiasm for this style of music, you guys and Tim Twiss. Thanks for the input.



Carl Anderton said:

David Swarens and Chris Ownby live in San Diego, and Ed Sims amd Dan Partner live up in Northern CA, I believe.  You might send try and send them messages here to locate like-minded Californos in your area.
Well give me a heads up, you never know. There is one area that is near here that does civil war renacting, and that's at Fort Tejon, next time they have an event I thought i would check it out and see if there is a scene out here.

John Masciale said:
I occasionally get out to San Jose.  That's not really your neck of the woods, but if you are willing to travel, we could get together some time that I am out there.

Clyde, if you have yet to purchase any of the mentioned books you might want to wait until after Port Gamble. I'll bring the ones I have. If you find them useful I'll let you borrow them. They are in new condition. I opened them up but everytime I tried to play what was inside I think Nutmeg and Old Paint both got jealous and would purposely go out of tune. I truely think they wanted me to pay more attention to them and less to the books. So, I closed the books and concentrated on strumming the strings. That seemed to tame them down a bit. Careful when you get that new one of yours, those minstrel banjos not only have a mind of their own they can worm a way into a man's soul.

I had to laugh over the eagle and stars on the banjo. I purchased a wooden bucket at a yard sale a few weeks ago. Didn't want the bucket itself, but I was interested in the metal stars and the eagle embedded in the wood. Now I am like a mule half way between two haystacks. I'll probably die trying to decide which of the two banjos to grace with those mighty Union emblems.

Don:

 

Thank you Don for your very kind offer.  I am truly blessed to have such good firends.  Also thanks again for letting me plunk around on your banjo at camp during the Spokane event.  I ended up purchasing the cherrywood Gardner banjo with the eagle shoes.  It is a nice looking banjo and I like the eagle shoes, I think it is very "Union Army" looking.  Right now I am learning the Minstrel G tuning and Minstrel double C tuning.  I will look forward to meeting you at Port Gamble.  Also I tried to email you but never got an answer.  Please send me your email address again, I must have gotten the first address wrong. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCfA1gicADA

 

Hello All,

Here is what I believe may be an early Buckbee.The plain, rolled metal pot is different though.It appears to be nickel plated.What do you think?

 

Thank's

Dave

I know this thread is from 2011, but I've been playing a Don Gardner Minstrel banjo for about a year now and I have no complaints. Are there any better instruments out there? Most likely, but its allowed me to explore some older minstrel tunes for less than $500.

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