Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Testing to see if I can start a new discussion, it didn't work a few days ago.

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A lot of topical songs of the era (in the form of song sheets) used minstrel melodies to fashion their words to.  Some of them are not so nice either but that is one way to get around minstrel lyrics if you still enjoy the melodies....and I think it is interesting put those melodies in context of things that were happening at the time.  I have a few collections of them if anyone is interested.

I'll add that even the Hutchinson Family Singers, who felt the minstrel show and songs vulgar and racially distasteful, used minstrel melodies to which they added abolitionist words.

Al, thanks for that!  I had not thought about later musicians applying new non-rascist lyrics to the older melodies. That makes sense. Like Brian, I usually played only the melodies anyway without singing. 

Lately I have been into some of my other longterm pastime interests, such as drawing/painting, knitting, gardening, fountain pen writing, reading, and contra dancing. I just attended a 3 hour dance last night- I always enjoy the live music and the exercise. I'm pretty sore this morning, but happy. 😅

It didn't take long.  As soon as a song gained some popularity, song sheets came out using that melody about news events of the day.  The song sheets must've had a very short window of sales opportunities as, when the next news came out, the old news would be pushed to the back of people's minds.

“Nulla dies sine nota.” Stop by for a visit if you feel like it.... https://youtube.com/@pauldraperbanjo

I believe Facebook groups has diverted much attention away from these old style message boards.  Sadly, Facebook groups are impossible to search for old discussions and info and they glitch out often.  The whole experience is designed to keep you on as long as possible. 

I'm not sure why I don't post here anymore.  While I am mostly classic focused, I still play stroke style often.  At each ABF rally we usually find time to have a nice stroke style session. 

I suppose I mostly have a problem with the title "Minstrel Banjo" which is meaningless and should be changed to "Early Rimmed Banjo".  There is no such thing as one single "minstrel banjo" as minstrelsy covered all "styles" and variations of banjos.

Much more info has become available to me since I was active on this forum, including some original manuscript music written by Frank Converse and Albert Baur.  A banjo that was owned by Frank Converse has also been located (with pretty good supporting documents). 

But, again, most of my attention has turned to the classic era and I tend to have more enjoyment exploring that music.

One theory I have is that a driving force behind this site was the "Early Banjo Gathering" and since that is no more, this group kinda tapered off.  When there was a big central event to attend I had a goal and was more focused.

I will add that I still see a number of young people discovering this music even if they are playing it on "modern" old time banjos.  So there is interest in the repertoire, if not the mundane historical details.  

I still check this site now and then. Been playing mostly 3-finger style and claw-hammer banjo lately but still pick up my early banjo once in a while to keep my hand in. I have run into a couple of young folks (late teens to early 20's) at Civil War reenactments I go to that play the early stroke style on "period" banjos. Some are better musicians than I am. So I think there is still an interest in the old stroke style playing. We "older folks" just need to fan the flame a little to keep it going.

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