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 Strumelia Mar 1. 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. 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

Email Notices

Started this discussion. Last reply by Chris Prieto Oct 27, 2017. 4 Replies

Can anyone tell me how to stop gmail notifications that tell me that someone replied to a posting I may have once responded to?Continue

Finale tags

Started this discussion. Last reply by Al Smitley Aug 18, 2017. 1 Reply

I think I've asked once previously about the somewhat comical end tag, "Shave and a haircut, two bits".  I don't recall getting an answer.  I presume it originated with an itinerant street vendor. …Continue


Al Smitley's Page

Latest Activity

Al Smitley liked Brice Alms's video
Al Smitley commented on Paul Draper's video

Elephant Jig

"Started to play along.  Got most of it then thought maybe I should look at the music. Not in the big four but I've heard it many times so I know it's not in an obscure source.  Where is it?"
May 10
Al Smitley replied to Timothy Twiss's discussion Elegant Plunk
"Off hand, I found that my favorite was Merchant's Frederick Frolic."
May 5
Al Smitley commented on Timothy Twiss's video

Smitley's Michigan Aire

"Tim is the Turlough O'Carolan of minstrel banjory."
Apr 29
Al Smitley commented on Samurai banjo's video

Ladies won't you marry?

"Dito, Chris.  I wish we could see/hear more postings from Samurai banjo!"
Apr 25
Al Smitley replied to Timothy Twiss's discussion Elegant Plunk
"Is it available at Milford Music?"
Apr 23
Al Smitley liked Brice Alms's video
Apr 7
Scott Danneker liked Al Smitley's video
Apr 5
Tom Berghan liked Al Smitley's video
Mar 30
CURTIS PAYNE liked Al Smitley's video
Mar 29
Chris Prieto liked Al Smitley's video
Mar 29
Chris Prieto commented on Al Smitley's video

Catch It On The Fly

"Nice! I was hoping for a lil baseball sumthing from you today :) I work in gaslamp very close to stadium and it is always a hot mess of drunk folks with jerseys so I worked from home haha"
Mar 29
Tom Taggart liked Al Smitley's video
Mar 29
Al Smitley commented on Al Smitley's video

Catch It On The Fly

"See if you can get a grant for the research.  I'm fine with brown rice."
Mar 29
Strumelia commented on Al Smitley's video

Catch It On The Fly

"Would be interested in a video comparison of the percussive tones of aspirin bottles filled with: rice, lentils, dry pinto beans, unpopped popcorn kernels, Sen-Sen, TicTacs, large pearl tapioca...and of course aspirin! edit: forget the Sen-Sen,…"
Mar 29
Paul Draper commented on Al Smitley's video

Catch It On The Fly

"Let me know if you need a skilled aspirin bottle-ist for your next one. I'm looking for work!"
Mar 29

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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