Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Tony Thomas
  • North Miami Beach, FL
  • United States
  • since 1998
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Tony Thomas's Discussions

The Clipper now online in searchable downloadable

Started May 27, 2015 0 Replies

I thought researchers of the banjo and popular entertainment in NYC in particular will happy to know that the University of Illinois' Digitial Newspaper collection has placed all issues of The…Continue

Picayune Butler gourd banjos and Phil Rice

Started Aug 19, 2014 0 Replies

I am raising here in this community several direct research related issues on the pursuit of the various individuals using the title Picayune Butler.  I am not interested in unsupported conjecture,…Continue

The hard truths about Picayune Butler

Started this discussion. Last reply by Bob Sayers Jul 8, 2015. 78 Replies

I have been doing a heck of a lot of work on the Picayune Butler issue for the presentation I will give in November at the Banjo Gathering,  once known as the banjo collectors gathering,  in…Continue

John Picayune Butler

Started this discussion. Last reply by Tony Thomas Aug 31, 2013. 62 Replies

I have received a contract to write an entry on Picayune Butler for Oxford University Press's encylopedia of African American biography.   I am interested in anyone who can point me to sources about…Continue

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Profile Information

How did you find out about Ning Minstrel Banjo?
countless web visits
How long have you played banjo?
since 1998
What kind of banjo(s) do you own?
a tubaphone clone, a 1894 Electric, a goldtone whyte lady, a kevin enoch tradesman, a no name fretless, a goodtime rb

Comment Wall (1 comment)

At 9:32pm on July 3, 2013, Bob Sayers said…

I'm going to add my last two cents here, since it seems like Tony is getting advice from lots of well-meaning people, both offline and on.  And I don't want to add to the confusion.  

In looking for the "original" Picayune Butler, I personally would begin by searching digital newspaper sites, concentrating on the period of the 1820s and 1830s.  My favorite newspaper sites are NewspaperArchive.com; GenealogyBank.com; and the British Library digital newspaper site.  My agency and the Library of Congress have co-developed their own beta website for historical newspapers; but I find it hard to use at this point compared with the others.  

After sifting through the early newspapers, I would move on to diaries and memoirs from New Orleans that were either written during the 1820s and 1830s or, like the Robert Buchanan account, refer back to this place and time.  

By the 1840s, everything gets a lot more complicated and a lot murkier.  There are lots of newspaper references to "PIcayune Butler" during this period, but they invariably refer to a popular minstrel song, not to a real person.  However, as you point out, an entertainer in the New York area in the late 1850s was calling himself "Picayune Butler."  I looked at some of the ads for this guy and I'm pretty certain he was a white guy in blackface.    

So I would concentrate on the earlier period,  before the song became popular.  Robert Buchanan (I would find out who he is) in the 1869 Cincinnati newspaper talks about the growing popularity of the word "picayune" in New Orleans early in the century.  He also associates his early banjo player Picayune Butler with flatboatmen.  So these are also leads that I would pursue.    

So that's about it.  If I didn't have my own big newspaper research project (on Japanese entertainers in America in the 1860s and 1870s), I might be tempted to look a little more deeply into Picayune Butler myself.

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