Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I thought it would be interesting to hear what each other is working on right now, minstrel/earlybanjo-wise. 

Building or buying something?  Learning a new tune or working on new technique?  Playing with others, or preparing for a minstrel era band gig?  Reading a good book or listening to some good audio?  Going on an earlybanjo-related adventure? 

What are YOU up to this week?- we're nosy and we wanna know!    =8-)

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In the civilian town at the upcoming Chickamauga reenactment we are planning on doing a play party, which will require a number of waltzes and polkas.  We have a number of musicians who are interested in playing along.  I've put together a list of 48 pieces of music, and scored it out in D and G for the various people to learn.  Now I'm trying to learn it all well enough to record a few samples.

Of course, I'm jumping right one this..ha ha. ( sorry...just enthused ).

I'll be attending Terry's event in Sept ( the gourd festival ) and plan to use one of Terry's fine gourd banjos to record a small cd of tasty, selective, unpublished gourd banjo arrangements to distribute that day.

Besides some OT gigs and giving a few lessons, just learning new tunes. Next up Jake Bacchus' Reel.

Getting some tunes and thoughts ready for a Folk Festival next weekend, then the Gourd Festival in mid September. That's what I'm thinking about, but what I'm doing is bending rims, cutting necks, shaving pegs, stretching skins, and spinning beehives 7 days a week.


That makes a lot of sense, Dan'l


Dan'l said:

Working on CW reenacting phase II.  I want to move from the military camp to a civilian impression more befitting my age, and allowing more time to play early banjo at events yet still mix with the units (a newspaper agent with cart).  I think I can go back to natural head and strings because I can better choose the conditions.

Dan'l.... I'd be interested in any "Bloody Kansas" songs you might discover.  I have a couple that mention it in a line or two but not much else, other than:

Call to Kansas

Ho For the Kansas Plains

Nebrascality

Right of Nebraska

Song of the Kansas Emigrant

.....................all of which generally hint at the issue.

Regarding Jenny Lind Polka, I would also like to hear what banjo players have done on this.

I used to play it in four parts on banjo (to some degree) but I am rusty.

I found it worked best in 'D', with the 2nd and 4th part are in 'G'.

It's probably the most popular of the mid-19th C polkas that remains in the fiddler's repertoire, today (at least in Michigan) though they have unfortunately dropped the 3rd and 4th parts.

Dan'l, I could try to TAB or write out the notation of my version if you don't get any others.

It's been kind of busy lately, but I'm trying to work my way through the Rice book,  having gone through Brigg's and the yellow Converse. (plus various odds and ends pieces from the other books)

I'm also trying to deconstruct (or analyze) Joe Ayers version of the Circus Jig from the video that Mark Weems posted a while back.

And I have a Bell Banjo Kit that I am trying to get finished. (one of these days)

I've been working on playing five minstrel tunes on banjo, with my husband on fiddle.  If I'm in 'low bass' tuning, if I tune up a little and he tunes down a little, we meet in the middle, in the key of Bflat.  Having fun!

Last night we made some videos with a few old-time tunes, played down in F-modal instead of the usual A-modal.  I played my new Hartel minstrel banjo, with the bridge slid up an inch more towards the neck from center.  For both my Bell Stichter and my Hartel, it works.  (When i'm playing on my own, I play in the usual Briggs minstrel tuning, with the bridge back behind center.)     :)

I've been working on this list of American fiddlers born before the Civil War that were recorded.

I haven't found any banjoist quite that old but if anyone knows of some I'd love to hear about it.

List of fiddlers born before 1860 who later recorded:

         

•           Edward Cronin b. 1838

•           James McFadden b. 1847

•           Henry Galliland b. 1845

•           Jep Bisbee B. 1843

•           Mellie Dunham b.1853

•           Uncle Jimmy Thompson b.1848

•           Uncle Am Stewart b.1853

•           Blind Joe Mangrum 1853

•           Abel Browning b.1854

Cronin and McFadden both natives of Ireland lived in Chicago and were associates of Francis O’Neill, who compiled the well-known “Music of Ireland” as well as several other works.

Henry Galliland recorded with Texas fiddler Eck Robertson. He was a member of the Cavalry during the war. It is said that he went to the studio in his Confederate veterans uniform.

 

Mellie Dunham, a Maine fiddler was awarded the top prize at a contest organized by Henry Ford, a strong supporter of the old time music and dance.

 

Jep Bisbee was a Michigan fiddler who also was a favorite of Henry Ford.

 

Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Am were both from Tennessee. Uncle Jimmy introduces one of his tunes saying, “I’m going to play you one of my old timey pieces I learned before the Civil War”

 

Abel Browning was from Western Maryland and made some private recordings around 1936.

Vess Ossman was born in 1868, and though his birth postdates the ACW he knew many "early" banjoists.  

Our Frank Converse wrote highly of his playing and recordings.

FBC quoted a letter that Ossman wrote to him--"You may not be aware of it, but to you I owe a great deal.  your banjo arrangements, furnished me at the time I was learning the banjo, were my ideal, and anything with the name Converse attached to it was 'good enough for me.'"


Wes Merchant said:

I've been working on this list of American fiddlers born before the Civil War that were recorded.

I haven't found any banjoist quite that old but if anyone knows of some I'd love to hear about it.

List of fiddlers born before 1860 who later recorded:

         

•           Edward Cronin b. 1838

•           James McFadden b. 1847

•           Henry Galliland b. 1845

•           Jep Bisbee B. 1843

•           Mellie Dunham b.1853

•           Uncle Jimmy Thompson b.1848

•           Uncle Am Stewart b.1853

•           Blind Joe Mangrum 1853

•           Abel Browning b.1854

Cronin and McFadden both natives of Ireland lived in Chicago and were associates of Francis O’Neill, who compiled the well-known “Music of Ireland” as well as several other works.

Henry Galliland recorded with Texas fiddler Eck Robertson. He was a member of the Cavalry during the war. It is said that he went to the studio in his Confederate veterans uniform.

 

Mellie Dunham, a Maine fiddler was awarded the top prize at a contest organized by Henry Ford, a strong supporter of the old time music and dance.

 

Jep Bisbee was a Michigan fiddler who also was a favorite of Henry Ford.

 

Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Am were both from Tennessee. Uncle Jimmy introduces one of his tunes saying, “I’m going to play you one of my old timey pieces I learned before the Civil War”

 

Abel Browning was from Western Maryland and made some private recordings around 1936.

Goodness, I have got to get back to my early banjo studies. Thank you - all - for this reminder and motivation. 

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