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


Started this discussion. Last reply by Wes Merchant Mar 14. 3 Replies

Some time ago, I think it was Wes who said that there might be interest at the Pry House/Barn about rejuvenating the EABG.  Are there any updates about that?Continue

Site format

Started this discussion. Last reply by Al Smitley Feb 20. 2 Replies

For the past half-week, I get a list of forums but cannot find a way to list the latest activity unless I go within each separate forum.  How can I get back to receiving the site the way I used to…Continue

Parallel between pitch & color

Started this discussion. Last reply by Timothy Twiss Feb 18. 1 Reply

I heard an interesting discussion on NPR the other day.  There was a study that found that we tend to associate lower-pitch notes with darker colors and higher-pitch notes with lighter colors.  They…Continue

Minstrel Show, 1963

Started this discussion. Last reply by Chris Prieto Nov 30, 2016. 7 Replies

This was printed in the Waterloo…Continue


Al Smitley's Page

Latest Activity

Al Smitley replied to Strumelia's discussion Stephen Foster's demise
"Oh, sorry.....I meant to address my response toward Tim."
2 hours ago
Al Smitley replied to Strumelia's discussion Stephen Foster's demise
"Well, rather than await Hollywood, maybe we should put together a program, "Life and times of Stephen Foster". PowerPoint, etc, his songs reflecting what was going on In his life and America, etc. I mentioned the possibility once but i…"
6 hours ago
Al Smitley commented on Timothy Twiss's video

Virginny Jigs

"July 25, 1865..... Dan Emmett at the Newport Minstrel Festival! Didn't know it was actually caught on film!!"
Apr 20
Al Smitley posted a photo

Steamship, Washington rescuing passengers of the Winchester

I wasn't familiar with the event but I found this song in "Christy's & White's Ethiopian Melodies", (1854) to the tune of "Camptown Races"......…
Apr 17
Al Smitley commented on Paul Draper's video

Funeral March

"I like several funeral marches.  Yes, they're dark but some are quite striking and I enjoy them."
Apr 10
Tom Taggart liked Al Smitley's video
Apr 4
Chris Prieto liked Al Smitley's video
Apr 3
Chris Prieto commented on Al Smitley's video

Injured List

"Oi, these vids always make me cringe haha hats off to ya'll I would be genuinely terrified of that ball the entire season."
Apr 3
Al Smitley commented on Al Smitley's video

Injured List

"Not sure the original would be politically-correct, today, and probably rightly so."
Apr 3
Paul Draper commented on Al Smitley's video

Injured List

"Your parody is better than the original"
Apr 3
Paul Draper liked Al Smitley's video
Apr 3
Al Smitley commented on Al Smitley's video

Injured List

"Mostly it's people who have become fed up with the team-to-team friction of softball. We play to win but we cheer good plays by the opposing fielders, etc.  A more congenial game."
Apr 3
Al Smitley posted a video


To hear the original "Invalid Corps",.....and a much better production, click on this YouTube site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8TQugNhUhY
Apr 3
Al Smitley commented on anthony Derycke's video

RING DE BANJO "Stephen Foster" (1851)

"With two, you have most of us beat."
Apr 1
Al Smitley commented on anthony Derycke's video

RING DE BANJO "Stephen Foster" (1851)

"That's nice, too.  You must be a huge hit in France!!   ;)"
Apr 1
Al Smitley commented on anthony Derycke's video

DIXIE "Daniel Decatur Emmett" (1859)

"Nice!  I always view all your other banjos as though they are your audience."
Mar 31

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 (19 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 4:21pm on September 19, 2012, Dennis Bidwell said…


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