Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

All Blog Posts (282)

Oh what a dream I had.

I had an amazing dream last night.  A musical, banjo dream.  And instead of it slipping into the ether when I woke up, I remembered some of it.  It went like this:


I was at a Civil War event of some kind.  I met George Wunderlich, who had some music he wanted me to listen to.  He took me to a tent, where he had a sort of reel-to-reel machine.  He said the music was of an early stroke-style black banjo player, who had recorded just before he died in the 1890's.  I kept looking…


Added by Carl Anderton on October 5, 2011 at 5:30pm — 8 Comments

Teed-style banjo for sale

In case anyone is interested in purchasing a beautiful period instrument or just wants a little eye candy, there is a really gorgeous Teed-style banjo with wood inlay marquetry and flush wooden fret markers on the Elderly Instrument site.  They want a little less than $2000.00.  That doesn't seem to be an outrageous price.  It is dated as circa 1870.

Added by Rob Morrison on September 30, 2011 at 3:34pm — No Comments

Africa - North America - Africa... A Good Story

I heard a great story on the weekend.

I got talking banjo at a gig with Lewis Melville, an old musical acquaintance of mine from Guelph, Ontario. He had recently sponsored a visit to Canada by a musician from Mali who plays one of the many banjo-like traditional instruments in use in Africa these days. (I forget which)

In any case it's one of the ones with a thumb string (or two) and is basically played in what we'd think of in a stroke style.

He took the guy around to…


Added by Ian Bell on September 26, 2011 at 1:04pm — 1 Comment




Today my fiddling friend Norm Boggs and I did our usual monthly living history summer presentation at The Duke Homestead Historic site in Durham North Carolina.  It was a perfect day, the sun was shining, it wasn't too hot, there was a nice breeze, we were in the shade, there were lots of visitors, all was well with the world.  We were situated in the front yard of the homestead which is on a hill which overlooks acres of woods, pasture, and a tobacco plot. …


Added by Rob Morrison on September 10, 2011 at 11:00pm — 2 Comments

Blue Tail Fly

I was talking to Mr. Bechtel last week about this tune. No tab, but this is the version of the tune we were discussing. It is Emmett's 1st version (c. 1844) of Blue Tail Fly...the minor one.  

Added by Tim Twiss on September 6, 2011 at 9:48am — 1 Comment

Banjo review

I saw Don Gardner, who is  am member on this site, last weeked. Some folks have mentioned his banjos as an under $400.00 alternative. I am posting a video of my "test drive".... 

Added by Tim Twiss on September 3, 2011 at 7:34am — No Comments

Forgive me, for I have sinned.

I have come back to the fold. Check out the tune on the new axe...

Added by Tim Twiss on August 28, 2011 at 7:49pm — 2 Comments

New Book of American Fiddle Tunes

Has anyone got this impressive looking tome yet?

The "Milliner Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes" here's a link to the book at Elderley. http://elderly.com/books/items/158-72.htm

Looks like a lot of good playing could be had out of it. I was a big fan of Walt Koken's when he was in the Highwoods Stringband (one of the great hippie stringbands of the 1970s). I'm dying to see what sort of crossovers there might be…


Added by Ian Bell on August 18, 2011 at 8:38am — 3 Comments

Black Minstrel Sleuths, Inc.


August 3, 2011


Firstly, thank you Bob for welcoming me into this forum. I am not yet a strong banjo player, though I think I have aptitude for this instrument. Time will tell. I've been learning mostly the string band and solo old time styles of banjo common among "Old Time" players. It has been, without a doubt, the most exciting musical experience for me in quite a long time. That I've gone almost 20 years without knowing much about the banjo or it's history is a…


Added by Guy de Chalus on August 4, 2011 at 12:15am — 2 Comments

Vintage Baseball

Okay Al, you take it from here.

Added by Tim Twiss on July 20, 2011 at 3:27pm — No Comments

Tambourines and slides

In August I'm gonna roll up some big minstrel tambourines and make the jingles. If anyone is interested let me know. This isn't an ad. I don't make enough money doing this to feed the cat,  but it keeps the wood supply up.

I finished a Boucher banjo on July 4th. I was diddling around with a melody and had just read in the 'Early Minstrel Banjo' book about 'Elevation'......  which explains the lack of notated slides in the tutors. The writer claims that slides at the time sounded…


Added by Bell Banjos on July 20, 2011 at 9:01am — 8 Comments

Hi John, I'm in ! Thanks for your efforts. I hope to contribute more videos, discussions etc to the site once my duties as Artistic Director for the Champlain Valley Folk Festival are through. Looks …

Hi John, I'm in ! Thanks for your efforts. I hope to contribute more videos, discussions etc to the site once my duties as Artistic Director for the Champlain Valley Folk Festival are through. Looks like you all had a great time at EBG last weekend. Hopefully I can make it next year Continue

Added by rick Ceballos on July 1, 2011 at 7:15am — No Comments

Mail settings in Windows Explorer

I've been having problems with getting my list of friends to appear on the Inbox/Compose section,  using windows explorer.  I now have it figured out.  Under the menu bar Tools for explorer I have selected Compatibility View.  My list of friends now appears.


However, when playing with this, I tried sending Elaine an I love you message, which apparently did not send.  However, if any of you got such a message from me.....   oops.  It was meant for Elaine.

Added by John Masciale on June 27, 2011 at 8:32pm — 1 Comment

Gardner Minstrel Banjo

There has been a lot of discussion about the Gardner Minstrel Banjo.  I am Don Gardner and would like to join the conversation.  My banjos are made for the reenactor who is looking for a minstrel banjo at a reasonable price that he can take out into the field in all kinds of weather and still be playable.  Although my banjos are not of museum quality reproductions, they are a good representation of what would have been around… Continue

Added by Donald Gardner on June 15, 2011 at 5:00pm — 2 Comments

The Converse pre-Gathering

Okay, people, last call for our Thursday the 23rd pre-event in Elmira, Ny.  Joel Hooks, Aurelia Perry, Kyle Pretzl and myself will hook up in Elmira to look for Frank Converse's ghost.  Actually, we have made several fascinating discoveries that will make our stay memorable.  Joel and Aurelia have found the original residences of the Converse and Maxwell families, and the houses still stand, so that will be a treat.  Also, the 1837 Presbyterian Church where father Maxey Manning Converse died…


Added by Carl Anderton on June 13, 2011 at 5:43pm — 1 Comment

Michigan Banjo Players

After being at an event in Dexter Michigan yesterday, it brought to my attention the fact that there are several players right here in lower Michigan...I saw Jeff Kangas and Brian Jankowski there, and there is one talented fellow right down the road from me who doesn't do much internet stuff. We started talking a bit, and it was suggested that perhaps we can organize a small regional gathering for a day in the near future??  Anybody else out there interested?    

Added by Tim Twiss on June 12, 2011 at 5:57am — 10 Comments

Special Place of Honor

Today, at the Duke Homestead Historic Site in Durham, NC, to my surprise and delight, I walked past a beautifully framed photo of myself playing the banjo in nineteenth century costume, hung in a special place of honor...in the men's bathroom.... Rob Morrison

Added by Rob Morrison on June 11, 2011 at 7:02pm — 2 Comments

VA Hospital

This weekend we attended an event up in Milwaukee at the Old Soldier's Home.  There were representatives of American military from every war.  It was a very large event and well run.  Sadly, for a number of reasons it is likely to be the last time this event will occur.


Elaine, Elise and I were playing a little music on Saturday, and someone passing by overheard us, and asked if we would like to play for spinal injury patients on the top floor of the VA hospital there on the…


Added by John Masciale on June 6, 2011 at 8:18am — No Comments

Christy's Minstrels Christmas Annual.



Here's an interesting publication by Christy's Minstrels in England, who were a staple for years at St. James Hall in London under G. W. "Pony" Moore.  Frank Converse played with them in 1866 when he undertook his triumphal…


Added by Carl Anderton on May 30, 2011 at 11:30am — No Comments


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