Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I have been recruited to present a "History of the Banjo" presentation for a local historical society.  What credible sources might be suggested for me to put it together.  I would want to begin with the 1) Akonting (maybe showing it being played on YouTube and then 2) use illustrations/paintings and text to describe what the enslaved were playing 3) Joel Sweeney and his learning from the enslaved players, 4) Popularity of the minstrel show 5) The tutorials of the 1850s/'60s, 6) changes in construction, tuning, and right hand techniques  7) how the music changed as it progressed into the later 19th C  8) Probably should touch on how banjo music changed in the 20th C...bluegrass, etc.   Any suggestions on credible sources and or anything I might have missed, above, would be appreciated.

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Gee, Al, that's pretty ambitious!! I got a lot out of The Birth of the Banjo - Joel Walker Sweeney & Early Minstrelsy (Bob Carlin) and African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia (Cecelia Conway)...hope that helps...

Thanks, Rob.  I have Carlin's book and will look into your other suggestion.

Carlin's book is useful for what it contains, Cece's work from nearly 30 years ago on banjo orings is completely supercede by the materials in Laurent Dubois's The Banjo: America's African Instrument and more directly by Banjo Roots and Branches, especially the articles by Shlomo Pestcoe,  Greg Adams, and others on banjo origins.  Cantwell's Bluegrass Breakdown is still the best thing about the links between historical forms of banjo and bluegrass banjo playing,  Lynn's  That Half Barbaric Twang provides aspects not fully touched on in the other books.

Don't forget Bollman and Guara's America's instrument which provides the history of the banjo in regard to the construction of banjos over the 19th and early 20th century.

Again, as someone who does this regularly on all levels from local libraries to graduate seminars at universities in this country and Europe, there is too much information to make good clear points.  Take on a few that are interesting,  AND DONT FORGET THE BANJO ISNT JUST HISTORY ANY MORE more people are playing banjos today and as good if not better banjos of all kinds are being made today than at any time in history



Tony Thomas said:

Carlin's book is useful for what it contains, Cece's work from nearly 30 years ago on banjo orings is completely supercede by the materials in Laurent Dubois's The Banjo: America's African Instrument and more directly by Banjo Roots and Branches, especially the articles by Shlomo Pestcoe,  Greg Adams, and others on banjo origins.  Cantwell's Bluegrass Breakdown is still the best thing about the links between historical forms of banjo and bluegrass banjo playing,  Lynn's  That Half Barbaric Twang provides aspects not fully touched on in the other books.

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