Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hey Guys!

I'm trying to find the lyrics to Old Dan Tucker and all I can seem to find on the internet are the most modern versions. Does anybody have them or know a site that does?

Thank you!

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There's a neat version of Old Dan Tucker where the lyrics were rewritten to reflect the goings-on of the Mexican-American War of the 1840s. They can be found in The Diary of Jacob Engelbrecht, edited by Jack Terry, Paul P. Gordon
Published by Historical Society of Frederick County, Incorporated, 2001
ISBN 0971437610, 9780971437616. You can probably contact the Historical Society and ask about it. If I can find my specific reference to it, I'll post it here.
Here is another one...it is from the Hans Nathan Book about Dan Emmett.
This page at the University of Virginia (which is part of a larger site explaining the cultural context of Uncle Tom's Cabin) has a great number of minstrelsy resources, including song lyrics, music files, and playbills:


Old Dan Tucker is here:

I also like Clarke Buehling's version, which can be listened to here:
In response to claims that there are no African influences in minstrel music, I think that William Mahar in Behind the Burnt Cork Mask (1999) makes a very persuasive argument:

"The banjo, which contributed the unique melodic sound to the minstrel show, was an instrument that had been played principally by African, both bound and free, in the South and probably in the North as well. The development of an idiomatic instrumental practice takes time, and the transmission of styles across homogeneous and heterogeneous groups (in this case, other black players and early white imitators of blacks, respectively) involves contact situations of some duration. It is simply impossible for there to have been no body of banjo technique and no repetory of material in the late 1830s and then for both to have appeared suddenly when the first white players hit the stage in the early 1840s. This is especially telling given that the drop-thumb downstroke style of frailing has no counterpart in any known style of playing European fretted or unfretted instruments. This hypothesis would also explain why minstrel material found its way back into African Maerican culture easily; the tunes were already constructed to fit the primarily melodic styles of the antebellum banjo and fiddle, and since these playing styles were dependent on a preexisting African American tradition, their development could easily have been taken up by the black players who were already playing in some of those styles."

It makes me think of a minstrel song like "My Long Tail Blue" which was published as early as 1827 and which black New Orleans Street musician/vendor Old Corn Meal was singing in the 1830s and which appears on the Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia CD played by John Snipes in the 1990s.

BTW--anybody have a a tab version of My Long Tail Blue that they would be willing to share?

"Long Tail Blue" was probably a bad choice, but I had been thinking about it lately and it stands out because of it being included on the Black Banjo Songsters CD. And Mahar is refering more to the banjo tunes themselves than the lyrics (and which I am also more comfortable talking about too). I am going to get Dennison's book from the library at lunch. Thanks for the recommendation.

Since this thread has already been hijacked, I'll mention that I just added a small drawing of Old Corn Meal and his cart from 1838 from the New Orleans Picayune. In addition to his vending song "Fresh Corn Meal," he was also known to sing "My Long Tail Blue," "Sich a Gettin Upstairs" and "Old Rosin the Bow."


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