Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

A few strong players and singers around in some earlier days - where did they go?

Tom Lather -  I remember hm from the first AEBG. Played strong, and did a great version of Nelly Gray in that cold barn. Played so strong in stoke style.

Dan Partner......the disc he did was great in its interpretation of early Minstrel material such as Mary Blane, Old Jaw Bone etc. Wrote a book of Foster tunes.

I just heard a disc today by Tom Lather I did not know existed. Wildly good ...released in 1999.

Of course Carl Anderton. Sure hope he returns. One can do other things of course....we all do. Wish we were not so alienated from his insight into this music as well as his playing.

There was a site before this called the Tom Briggs site. Although it lacked the ability to share audo and video, the dialogue and exchange was great. With 1000 + members, I am surprised we are not more active.

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A fine question Tim. I think this little genre still suffers greatly from isolation. The Internet has helped immensely, but most folks still don't have others near enough to facilitate a more active interest. I remember when I first heard Minstrel Banjo Style in 1995 when that great Rounder Cd came out. I had been playing banjo for about a year or so, but I really fell in love with the sounds on that disc. I bought a minstrel banjo from Bob Flesher (another who has disappeared from our circles), a tab book, and learned a handful of tunes. But there was no one around where I was living that was interested in it and the Internet wasn't really there yet. I never lost interest in it, but I gravitated into old-time banjo because I liked it as well, and there were others to play with, plenty of festivals each summer to encourage interest and increase skill. I think we still have this problem to some degree. There are really only a few weekends each year when people can gather, and when they do they can usually only attend one because they are traveling long distances to get there. I helped create the Sweeny Convergence at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia simply to have another regional venue for gathering. Perhaps others can create regional gatherings of their own?

Another problem we have had is forum geniality. Disagreements are fine and of course unavoidable in any human interest group, but a few members here seem only interested in posting when there is an opportunity to be deliberately critical and sarcastic with other people's forum posts. This discourages interest in posting further. I know many, including myself, that this has happened to. At some point you say to yourself - I don't have time for this foolishness - I'm going off to do something constructive, like actually practicing banjo. My two cents.

For me the distance thing is a big problem in particular.  Wish there were some more possibilities nearer to me.  I think I was planning to go to something a couple yrs ago in Mass but there was a snowstorm or something...? But...I'm looking forward to playing a little with Paul this weekend!

Is there any way to sort a members search geographically, at least by state? That might help partially solve the distance problems by giving us some sense that we are not alone in our own backyards. I live in Dallas, TX.  Texas is a big state, but Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas are not that far away. (Actually, They're closer to me than Houston and San Antonio.)

Ironically, I know more early banjo players in North Carolina than I do here.

To join in with Mr Gibson, Vince Abadie (also a member of this list) and I hail from Louisiana. He's in Baton Rouge, and I'm in Denham Springs, which is about 10 miles east of baton Rouge. We have a friend in Lockport, Louisiana, which is in LaFourche Parish (true Cajun country); and his name is Alvin C. "Cookie" Reaux (pronounced Ree-O). 

All three of us have Bell & Son Boucher banjos. Mine came finished, and there's were in kit form - turned out "factory finished", thanks to their efforts. I have two gourd banjos that I made; and have made the necks for another Boucher, as well as for a Stichter and a Sweeney; and, as many projects I have ahead of those, will have them done in about a year...lol. Vince has a Sweeney reproduction. Cook has another Boucher, made by a fellow in California around 16-17 years ago; I don't recall the name, and he went out of business maybe a year after Cookie got his banjo from the gentleman.

What period banjos do you, or does anyone else here, have?

We love the Bell & Son Boucher banjos, by the way.  Those are some FINE instruments. If I had any complaint at all about them, it's that they're not signed by William Boucher, and lack his Baltimore company label...lol. I found his label online and have digitally cleaned it up a pretty fair bit; and I plan to print it out and place in my banjo, to show it off to those interested in my banjo. We try the best we can to have everything appear as period-authentic and correct as we're able.

Dan Gibson said:

Is there any way to sort a members search geographically, at least by state? That might help partially solve the distance problems by giving us some sense that we are not alone in our own backyards. I live in Dallas, TX.  Texas is a big state, but Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas are not that far away. (Actually, They're closer to me than Houston and San Antonio.)

Ironically, I know more early banjo players in North Carolina than I do here.

It's nice to know I'm not the only minstrel banjoist from Louisiana!  If you guys ever want to meet up and jam, I'd be up for that (I'm from New Orleans).  I'm currently in college and am about to move to Baltimore for graduate school, but I make it back to New Orleans a few times a year.

Charles Edward Lee said:

To join in with Mr Gibson, Vince Abadie (also a member of this list) and I hail from Louisiana. He's in Baton Rouge, and I'm in Denham Springs, which is about 10 miles east of baton Rouge. We have a friend in Lockport, Louisiana, which is in LaFourche Parish (true Cajun country); and his name is Alvin C. "Cookie" Reaux (pronounced Ree-O). 

All three of us have Bell & Son Boucher banjos. Mine came finished, and there's were in kit form - turned out "factory finished", thanks to their efforts. I have two gourd banjos that I made; and have made the necks for another Boucher, as well as for a Stichter and a Sweeney; and, as many projects I have ahead of those, will have them done in about a year...lol. Vince has a Sweeney reproduction. Cook has another Boucher, made by a fellow in California around 16-17 years ago; I don't recall the name, and he went out of business maybe a year after Cookie got his banjo from the gentleman.

What period banjos do you, or does anyone else here, have?

We love the Bell & Son Boucher banjos, by the way.  Those are some FINE instruments. If I had any complaint at all about them, it's that they're not signed by William Boucher, and lack his Baltimore company label...lol. I found his label online and have digitally cleaned it up a pretty fair bit; and I plan to print it out and place in my banjo, to show it off to those interested in my banjo. We try the best we can to have everything appear as period-authentic and correct as we're able.

Dan Gibson said:

Is there any way to sort a members search geographically, at least by state? That might help partially solve the distance problems by giving us some sense that we are not alone in our own backyards. I live in Dallas, TX.  Texas is a big state, but Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas are not that far away. (Actually, They're closer to me than Houston and San Antonio.)

Ironically, I know more early banjo players in North Carolina than I do here.

Very cool! We performed at the Historic New Orleans Collection in November and December of 2013, and January and February of 2014. And we get down to the French Quarter to busk every once in a while, though the busking opportunities are more impromptu trips, than planned. I'll try to shoot off an email to you, and we'll see if we can't find some time when we can get together.

John Cohen said:

It's nice to know I'm not the only minstrel banjoist from Louisiana!  If you guys ever want to meet up and jam, I'd be up for that (I'm from New Orleans).  I'm currently in college and am about to move to Baltimore for graduate school, but I make it back to New Orleans a few times a year.

Charles Edward Lee said:

To join in with Mr Gibson, Vince Abadie (also a member of this list) and I hail from Louisiana. He's in Baton Rouge, and I'm in Denham Springs, which is about 10 miles east of baton Rouge. We have a friend in Lockport, Louisiana, which is in LaFourche Parish (true Cajun country); and his name is Alvin C. "Cookie" Reaux (pronounced Ree-O). 

All three of us have Bell & Son Boucher banjos. Mine came finished, and there's were in kit form - turned out "factory finished", thanks to their efforts. I have two gourd banjos that I made; and have made the necks for another Boucher, as well as for a Stichter and a Sweeney; and, as many projects I have ahead of those, will have them done in about a year...lol. Vince has a Sweeney reproduction. Cook has another Boucher, made by a fellow in California around 16-17 years ago; I don't recall the name, and he went out of business maybe a year after Cookie got his banjo from the gentleman.

What period banjos do you, or does anyone else here, have?

We love the Bell & Son Boucher banjos, by the way.  Those are some FINE instruments. If I had any complaint at all about them, it's that they're not signed by William Boucher, and lack his Baltimore company label...lol. I found his label online and have digitally cleaned it up a pretty fair bit; and I plan to print it out and place in my banjo, to show it off to those interested in my banjo. We try the best we can to have everything appear as period-authentic and correct as we're able.

Dan Gibson said:

Is there any way to sort a members search geographically, at least by state? That might help partially solve the distance problems by giving us some sense that we are not alone in our own backyards. I live in Dallas, TX.  Texas is a big state, but Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas are not that far away. (Actually, They're closer to me than Houston and San Antonio.)

Ironically, I know more early banjo players in North Carolina than I do here.

Hey guys, it's easy to trim  the quoted material when you hit 'reply' you know !  Or, often not needed to use Reply to re-quote previous posts at all....just cut to the chase and start typing in the text box.    Just sayin'...   ;)

Very cool!  I've been meaning to go down to the Quarter to busk with my minstrel banjo.

Charles Edward Lee said:

Very cool! We performed at the Historic New Orleans Collection in November and December of 2013, and January and February of 2014. And we get down to the French Quarter to busk every once in a while, though the busking opportunities are more impromptu trips, than planned. I'll try to shoot off an email to you, and we'll see if we can't find some time when we can get together.


When busking, there are a number of rules that apply. I'm going to post a little about our experience busking apart from this conversation, so as to not divert the thread.

John Cohen said:

Very cool!  I've been meaning to go down to the Quarter to busk with my minstrel banjo.

 

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