Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I'm sometimes in wonder as to why I have never heard the song, or even the tune, itself, of "Jump Jim Crow" or "Jim Crow" played among minstrel banjoists.....especially since most sources seem to point to it as the genesis for the minstrel genre  I don't find the tune in any of the four early tune books (Briiggs, Rice, Buckley, or Converse) unless it is under a different title.  Same goes for "Back Side of Albany".  Both are contained in "Howe's1,000 Jigs and Reels", along with a lot of other minstrel tunes, in the section, "Ethiopian Melodies".

"Jump Jim Crow" can be found in the Lester Levy Collection with 44 verses.  Though the melody is memorable, it does not seem to roll off the banjo easily.  It is not particularly difficult, but has a certain oddity about it, (at least they way I have worked it out) the first part being in 'G' and 'C' and the second part being in 'C' and 'F'.  

Perhaps my perception is all wrong and I simply have not "been around" long enough. 

Might others offer their insights? 

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It's too bad this book (Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy) is not more readily available. Anybody have it out there? I was lucky to get one (paid about $25.00) and had it re-bound in hard cover. I don't even think it is a Google book....The way it covers early minstrelsy is really insightful. Lots of music in it, too.  


I have the Hans Nathan book.  Bought it a couple of weeks ago through Amazon for $25, hard bound.  Amazon currently shows 12 available priced from about $28 to $328 -- that's no typo.

Something must have been in error tonight...showed zero on Amazon...so that's good. Highly recommend it. What do you think of it so far Dan?  

I have a paperback copy that is falling apart.  I agree with you Tim, it is a fabulous resource.

I think it was that book that I took out of the library over 30 years ago.  I was searching for tunes at the time and must confess that back then, this tune genre didn't quite hit me.....and they often didn't easily fit the 32 bar-type that we were using for dances, etc.,   For some reason, however, I copied 9 pages of printed music before returning the book.  I still have the photocopies and will have to look at them again, (after 30+ years), especially "Division Street Jig" as that is where I now reside!



The Nathan book is great, if a little overwhelming at first.  So much good info, music and other material that I was tempted to try taking it all in RIGHT NOW.  It's best if digested in small bites.  The book is almost fifty years and contains some statements concerning the banjo itself -- for example, the addition of the "thumb string," as he calls it, in Chapter 9 -- that are now considered inaccurate.  That's minor complaint.  By all means, I second your endorsement of the book.

Tim Twiss said:

Something must have been in error tonight...showed zero on Amazon...so that's good. Highly recommend it. What do you think of it so far Dan?  

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