Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I am new here. I am new here I see somebody(somehow through the magic of Technology) added a pic of the minstrel banjo I made. Though I cheated and added frets so I could play in tune. I am currently finishing my first gourd banjo , also with frets.
My first question here is does any one have tabs or video of hymns or Gospel songs in the Minstrel
style. I am sure many slaves and former slaves repetoir was filled with them and I thought I would like to learn a few. Any help would be greatly appreciated

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I did a quick recording of some favorites. Dan'l introduced me to the Good Old Way earlier this year.
Thanks John...way cool. Do you include these in your chapel services sometimes?

John Masciale said:
I did a quick recording of some favorites. Dan'l introduced me to the Good Old Way earlier this year.
I sometimes will play in a contemporary church setting, either at our regular Sunday worship, or at Saturday services for the homeless. I also play around the camp fire etc., along with other Minstrel fair.

Unfortunately, the banjo might be appropriate for an 1840-1880 camp meeting, but not for a church service, so I generally tend to avoid playing. Besides, when I am running a service things get pretty busy, and I am focused on a lot of other things.
I agree, the established banjo was a popular instrument, and as such would probably not have been allowed in a church.

Even into the 1890s or later, the banjo song books I have access to are filled with plantation melodies, comic songs, sentimental ballads, etc., but no gospel.

It seems that religion and popular culture would have no part of each other.

I also seem to remember, in my short lifetime, when churches began to include imitations of popular culture in order to draw in more patrons.

I'd be willing to bet that this is a fairly recent business move.

It would be an interesting study, but I am not that interested to do it myself.

Any thoughts?
Well this is really straying from the nature of this forum, but since you raised the question...

I've engaged in a fair amount of study on this topic. Churches have always faced the danger of caving in to popular culture. The Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches were on the verge of banning slavery for their members in the late 1700s, when the cotton gin came along and made slavery what it became. By 1844 all 3 of these churches had split. Both the Baptist and Methodist church splits were over slavery.

It is my contention that these churches out of a evangelical zeal looked past this issue, rather than confronting it. It worked its way into the main stream of the churches which led to the split. You would think that there would be a lesson in this for today's church.

If the churches could not agree over this issue, what chance did this nation have? Well, perhaps I've strayed enough here, but there is an amazing history of the church and its influence in this country that is often overlooked.
I think most instruments were not played in churches at the time. We remember the story of "Silent Night" being composed & played on guitar because of a problem with the organ - yet I cannot recall guitars being played in churches until the 1960s /1970s when folk hymns show up. I would guess piano/organ or acapella are what we would see in period churches on a normal basis.

The fiddle also doesn't show up in earlier churches. Nita Kinney has talked about her family forbidding her from playing "that devil's instrument" - and that was on a secular basis.

The banjo seems to have been associated with dancing (as the fiddle), which was against the rules of many denominations at the time (think of the lyrics of "Cindy" - My Cindy got religion, she had it once before, but when I took my banjo down she jumped down on the floor")
I wasn't really thinking of music inside the Church building but rather, I was imagining some slave, former slave or Civil War soldier sitting by the fire and playing some old hymn or gospel song for his own enjoyment on a lonely night.
Had too much fun today in Church...

Played my Minstrel banjo on "I'll Fly Away", and bones on "Victory Chant".
thats cuz slurs on a harp jus don't sound as neat

Dan'l said:
It's ok, John, I know for a fact that God plays a banjo...

Dan Wykes

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