Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

While I was learning this tune, I got curious about the title and started poking around online.   "Blue Eagle Jail" was apparently a nickname for the Monroe County jail in Rochester, New York:

It gained notoriety in a ballad by one Dan Rice, who was a 19th century clown of great renown. From "The Life of Dan Rice" by Maria Ward Brown (available for free at Google Books:)

I went looking for music for "The Landlord's Pet" and found a lyric sheet on the LOC web site:

That in turn refers to an air called "There was a Jolly Miller", which can be heard at 4:05 in this clip:


Very interesting next to Converse's version:


As for the name "Blue Eagle Jail", according to David Carlyon in Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You've Never Heard Of,

The jail, rechristened by Rice as "The Blue Eagle Jail" for the match factory sign outside his cell window, became the subject of more songs.  Rice capitalized on the furor.

Views: 482

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Thanks for the good tune-sleuthing, Andy.  I've just been learning Blue eagle Jail and I thought it sounded like "The Jolly Miller" too.  It's one of those archetype tunes that's related to a whole lot of others, including (Irish chestnuts) Star of The County Down and Coleraine. My Granny used to sing me The Jolly Miller when I was little.

I seem to recall it has very cynical lyrics to be sing to a four years old!

You just made my morning, Andy.  That was all utterly fascinating.  And now I know "the rest of the story"............. behind the Blue Eagle Jail.  Great playing on your vid, too.

So glad to find this research -- Thanks Andy!

We're using this tune in the STORM scene for our live soundtrack of "When Lincoln Paid".

I was raised here in Rochester and my family has lived here for many generations, and I first became interested in early banjo after hearing Tim Twiss play this tune on Youtube, though I had no idea about the history of the tune. I'm learning the style now slowly...well I have Juba down...but I want to learn this tune to connect with local history. 

Reply to Discussion



John Masciale created this Ning Network.

© 2024   Created by John Masciale.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service