Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Just wanted to let you all know that I have finally become a member of this group and to call your attention to the website that recently created (and will be expanding). You can find WinansBanjo at
http://sites.google.com/a/wildblue.net/winansbanjo/
It is a repository of articles and other materials by me about banjo-related topics, including minstrel banjo. At the moment, one of the articles that might be of most interest to this group, "Early Minstrel Show Music, 1843-1852," is not yet available; I am waiting for permission from the publisher to post it, and that may take as much as another month. But I hope you find what is already up on the site useful. Banjovially, Bob Winans

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Bob,

That is outstanding! Thanks for putting all of that out there.
Thanks for the link to your site. (and welcome back again) I was looking at "A Brief Historical Survey of Visual Images of African American Banjo Players" and saw "The Banjo Man" (oil by James Warrel slide 19). It is dated 1815 and it looks like a hoop banjo. Is there a known date for the appearance of hoop banjos instead of gourds? Is this close to the date?
We had a pretty wide-ranging thread on the Tom Briggs list a couple of years ago, that included some discussion of this painting. On that thread, Greg Adams posted a link to his discussion of it in the Banjo Sightings data base, complete with a closeup of the instrument in the painting. That's found in messages 28 through 30 (it took him a while to get the link right, so use the one in post #30). Anyway, here's the thread:

http://groups.google.com/group/Tom-Briggs/browse_thread/thread/7390...

Dick Hulan
Thanks. I missed that entire discussion.
So, that is an accurate date on the painting, correct?

razyn said:
We had a pretty wide-ranging thread on the Tom Briggs list a couple of years ago, that included some discussion of this painting. On that thread, Greg Adams posted a link to his discussion of it in the Banjo Sightings data base, complete with a closeup of the instrument in the painting. That's found in messages 28 through 30 (it took him a while to get the link right, so use the one in post #30). Anyway, here's the thread:

http://groups.google.com/group/Tom-Briggs/browse_thread/thread/7390...

Dick Hulan
Well some sources date "The Banjo Man" 1815; Bob Carlin's recent book (p. 129) and several others date it 1813. I think the best source (besides pestering the Valentine Museum staff for accession notes from the early 19th century -- when this picture was in the Richmond Museum, a private enterprise owned by the artist who painted it) would be a book by Eileen Southern and Josephine Wright, titled Images: Iconography of Music in African-American Culture, 1770s-1920s. In that book, which you may examine via Google Books (but I can't, because that program crashes my Safari browser), I believe the caption for this portrait identifies the banjo player as "Cy Gilliatt," a perfectly well documented black resident of Richmond who was much better known as a fiddler or violinist. He (or perhaps his father) played for the parties of the white gentry, including I believe Thomas Jefferson, and even for the British Gov. Botetourt (d. 1770) back in colonial days. Violin, not banjo, is mentioned in the earlier accounts of Sy Gilliat (variously spelled, in case you Google him).

I've said it before, but I continue to find it ironic that many banjo people would rather change the date of this painting by about 30 years than change their minds about the chronology, sequence, and cultural hearth area of the banjo's development in America.

And I think in some sense we're hijacking Dr. Bob's thread -- it's supposed to be about his new website, not The Banjo Man.

Dr. Dick
And I think in some sense we're hijacking Dr. Bob's thread -- it's supposed to be about his new website, not The Banjo Man.

Dr. Dick


I actually saw this painting because of the resources on his website, so it's not that much of a stretch to mention it. I had not seen it before. It is surprising to me to see a hoop banjo from that early of a time.

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