Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Al Smitley
  • Male
  • Hartland, MI
  • United States
  • 1968-1976 then minstrel banjo since…
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Al Smitley's Discussions

Back Story

Started Mar 22, 2019 0 Replies

Not sure if some are familiar with Back Story.  Here is what I received today.If you scan down, you should be able to listen to the 35-minute radio program.…Continue

20th C Tim

Started this discussion. Last reply by Chris Prieto Jul 14, 2018. 2 Replies

I'm reluctant to post this as I don't know if Tim will be upset with me but...... for those of you who know 19th C Tim, I thought it might be interesting for some to see 20th C Tim.…Continue


Started this discussion. Last reply by Strumelia Mar 1, 2018. 3 Replies

I'm embarrassed to admit that I found a whole bunch of messages that I never knew I had.Therefore, I apologize to all those whom I never responded to.  Chalk it up to my ignorance!Continue

Early Minstrel Show CD

Started this discussion. Last reply by david caron Jan 28, 2018. 5 Replies

I was just looking on YouTube for some renditions of the Hutchinson Family Singers songs but this came up, nearby.  As great as this CD is, it almost seems to have faded in the background so I…Continue


Al Smitley's Page

Latest Activity

Al Smitley commented on Paul Draper's video

Dan Emmett’s Reel.

"What's the weather there, Paul?   Looks like you have just returned from (or on your way to) shoveling snow."
Al Smitley posted a photo

Fiddle or banjo?

This is from a program on CSPAN3 from the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. The exhibit curator said it was a gourd fiddle. I'm not trying to catch an error but, what do people on this site think? The bridge (though perhaps not original)…
Jan 1
Rob Mohr liked Al Smitley's video
Dec 18, 2019
Al Smitley commented on Al Smitley's video

Catch It On The Fly

"Thanks Curtis.  Now that you've  found the original music, I must confess that I don't recall whether I altered it or not."
Dec 18, 2019
CURTIS PAYNE commented on Al Smitley's video

Catch It On The Fly

"I found the original sheet music.  thanks enjoyed listening to you play it.  "
Dec 18, 2019
Timothy Twiss liked Al Smitley's video
Dec 17, 2019
Al Smitley commented on Al Smitley's video

Catch It On The Fly

"No TAB,.......just a simple song in G, C, and D, and I think an A7 occasionally."
Dec 17, 2019
Michael Cypret liked Al Smitley's video
Dec 17, 2019
CURTIS PAYNE liked Al Smitley's video
Dec 17, 2019
CURTIS PAYNE commented on Al Smitley's video

Catch It On The Fly

"is there any tab for this song?  "
Dec 17, 2019
Al Smitley commented on John Masciale's page AEBG
"I'm pretty sure that the CSPAN3 program about the Battle of Antietam in which the program was filmed in the Pry Barn airs again this Sunday at 10 am.  I say "I'm pretty sure" because I can't recall whether the…"
Dec 6, 2019
Al Smitley commented on John Masciale's page AEBG
"Hello to you, Strum.  If AEBG has a rebirth, hope to see you there."
Dec 1, 2019
Al Smitley commented on John Masciale's page AEBG
"I was just watching a CSPAN3 program that I DVRed last August (2019) about the Battle of Antietam.  The program/lecture was filmed in the Pry Barn and brought back memories."
Dec 1, 2019
Al Smitley commented on Timothy Twiss's photo

Converse book

"Can't recall if I knew you had this.  How did YOU get it...Ebay?"
Nov 18, 2019
Al Smitley replied to Paul Draper's discussion TUNE OF THE WEEK FOR NOV. 11TH
"I've written to the Levy site two or three times, pleading with them to fix their search engine so that their great collection can meet it's potential!"
Nov 15, 2019
Al Smitley replied to Timothy Twiss's discussion Tune of the Week Nov. 4th
"Might be an interesting choice as soon as you arrive home."
Nov 3, 2019

Profile Information

How did you find out about Ning Minstrel Banjo?
Member/contributor, Tim Twiss
How long have you played banjo?
1968-1976 then minstrel banjo since 2007. Stopped when Tim Twiss wanted me to play fiddle and play banjo, now, only to figure out best keys for various songs/tunes.
What kind of banjo(s) do you own?
Vega long-neck and Hartel Sweeney model

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Comment Wall (18 comments)

At 7:09pm on July 11, 2011, Tim Twiss said…
Hi Al. Do you prefer Friday or Saturday...Aug 5 or 6?
At 10:55am on November 26, 2011, John Masciale said…

Al,  That's the kind of thing you can either add as a link in a thread (there's a way to upload files to a given thread, click on the paperclip icon), or something as generally useful as that we can put under resources.  Elaine has been going through period songsters and has a list of over 1800 songs at this point from the time period.  The list is growing.  I would put your spreadsheet under documetation.


I find that the most useful thing about the Weidlich book is his index of Minstrel Songs and which instructor they are in.  It would be great to have some resources like that here on the site.

At 12:27pm on November 26, 2011, Tim Twiss said…

And there it is...thanks John. I lost sight of the fact you could add files of different types in the Documentation spot. Perfect.

At 11:21am on November 28, 2011, John Masciale said…

Al,  Thanks for sending the tutorial index.  I now have it posted on our documentation page.

At 12:06pm on November 28, 2011, Tim Twiss said…

John...what format is that? New Excel? I could open Al's old one, but not this. Perhaps open office?

At 1:44pm on November 28, 2011, Tim Twiss said…

Never mind...answered my own question...open office for those who are behind.

What a great contribution Al...

At 8:09am on February 3, 2012, Ian Bell said…


I'm not a re-enactor (though I do have a suit of funny clothes in the closet) so I usually don't always have to limit myself to completely period-appropriate performances. When I am doing a historic perfromance I use the "period" instruments that I happen to play — wooden flute, Scottish smallpipes, fiddle and sing unaccompanied. I've never earned the trick of self-accompaniment with fiddle. It's all I can do to play in tune when I'm not singing. 

I mostly do 1812 songs from the Canadian point of view. My repertoire  comes from old manuscripts and early published sources and also includes songs of the time that survived to be collected as part of the folk tradition in Ontario. I've been accumulating this stuff since the early 80s. Canada was much less urban than the eastern US at that time so there weren't nearly as many printed broadsides produced up here. Your Library of Congress website has lots of American 1812 songs online. (I'm envious)

In a concert setting, I'll usually perform this stuff in a more "folksingerly" context, as music from the past that has survived into the present. I use non-period instruments like steel-string guitar, mandolin and concertina and arrange songs to suit my own tastes — which to most people's ears are probably pretty arcane.

At 8:10am on February 3, 2012, Ian Bell said…

Clarifying a bit of bad writing in previous comment - I meant Canada was less urban in 1812 - not the 1980s!

At 7:33pm on May 22, 2012, Jeff said…
I live in Midland
At 8:54pm on March 22, 2013, Tim Twiss said…

Hey Al...the first Thursday of every other month is approaching. Want to join me again? Love to add some of those crazy early ones we have discussed.

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