Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I've stumbled into the early banjo woods recently so forgive me if this question is too obvious. I just watched that dandy clip of Clarke Buehling in the video section and when he spun the banjo it made me wonder - "Where does Uncle Dave Macon fit into all this?" I'm about to dig out my old Uncle Dave records and give them another listen to see. Any thoughts?

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Very cool - thank you. I haven't taken the time to really read the music, but the banjo swinging directions sure look like what UDM does in some of those old film clips of him as an old man in the 40s.

deuceswilde said:

An interesting side-note to this piece, which is of course meant to played guitar-style--Clarke Buehling has found a copy of this and "Spanish Fandango," published in 1863, which he thinks is the earliest piece of single-sheet banjo music published.

deuceswilde said:

I think it was originally called Sangalli Dance. So anyway, banjo juggling goes back at least to 1863, and continued via Uncle Dave Macon into the mid-twentieth century.
Similarly, Phil Rice, word-for-word, explains how to bring the right arm across the neck of the banjo as another point of gymnastic variation. I can't remember which page, but it explains how to do it at the 3rd or 5th position[?] and the 10th position.

Have a great weekend!

Greg
Greg Adams said:
Similarly, Phil Rice, word-for-word, explains how to bring the right arm across the neck of the banjo as another point of gymnastic variation. I can't remember which page, but it explains how to do it at the 3rd or 5th position[?] and the 10th position.

Have a great weekend!

Greg

Page 18, "Eighth Lesson" I think. I have not really played with Rice too much. Perhaps I should give the book a run through.
When Uncle Dave was a wagoner (he has a song about that), one of his regular clients was my grandfather. Said GF had a hardware store in Murfreesboro with a branch in Woodbury, and sent merchandise back and forth via Uncle Dave -- who lived in Readyville, more or less halfway between those two larger towns. This was maybe around 1915 or so; I only know about it because my grandmother told me, some years after both of the guys involved had died.

His act with the twirling banjo was called "Uncle Dave handles a banjo like a monkey handles a peanut."

There is a very similar Russian tradition called something like "balalaika samoigrayushchaya," the self-playing balalaika. One pretty well known performer outside Russia who does this act is Bibs Ekkel. The idea is to keep the simple melodic line going with the left hand, mostly doing pull-offs and hammers, while the right hand (and the rest of the player's body) is otherwise occupied -- twirling the instrument, flipping it over his head, behind his back, under his knees, etc. I think a few of the balalaika stunts would be impossible with a banjo, which is heavier and has a much longer neck. I have no way of knowing whether the Russian tricks are as old as 1863, but the primitive balalaika was strongly associated with a sort of itinerant clown (skomorokh), and I wouldn't be a bit surprised. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skomorokh
And further continued thru Cordell Kemp (who learned from Uncle Dave), who taught Leroy Troy...who continues the tradition. Look up Leroy on the web, there are some great videos of him doing his thing. Best bet is to catch him in performance!

Carl Anderton said:
I think it was originally called Sangalli Dance. So anyway, banjo juggling goes back at least to 1863, and continued via Uncle Dave Macon into the mid-twentieth century.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cu_XAm6pH0s

Three minutes into the video and he says he thinks that Uncle Dave invented the tricks.

Our memories and "oral tradition" strike again.

Don't get me wrong, this is a fascinating video, but it illustrates how we can remember things incorrectly, or perhaps believe them to be true.

I met a guy at the Banjo Museum that said he did banjo tricks, and he could talk the talk. I told him I'd love to see some videos. I guess has not got around to it yet.
Thanks for that link. I always wondered how Leroy Troy learned more Uncle Dave gymnastics than were ever captured on any film I'd ever seen. You're right about memory. Over the years I've spent a lot of time hanging out with and playing with what I used to describe as "old guys". (till I started turning into one) We all have our personal folklore - and as years go by it gets harder and harder to remember where it came from in the first place - or care.

deuceswilde said:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cu_XAm6pH0s

Three minutes into the video and he says he thinks that Uncle Dave invented the tricks.

Our memories and "oral tradition" strike again.

Don't get me wrong, this is a fascinating video, but it illustrates how we can remember things incorrectly, or perhaps believe them to be true.

I met a guy at the Banjo Museum that said he did banjo tricks, and he could talk the talk. I told him I'd love to see some videos. I guess has not got around to it yet.

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