Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hey John, want to do this again? So many to pick from...especially with the Glee Book available. It does not have to be a vocal tune. I know Clarke has done "Clare De Kitchen" a lot...this is a good candidate, and another one of those very early ones. The lyrics are classic. It would also make a really good Stroke instrumental. 

Views: 88

Comment by John Masciale on December 11, 2011 at 7:07pm


I'm up for another one.  Clare de Kitchen is a good choice.  It is part of my repertoire, but I tend to do it more as a vocal piece, my banjo playing is kind of minimal, and I rely on Elaine playing whistle to add some color.  It would be good to add something a little more substantial to my playing.

Comment by Bell Banjos on December 11, 2011 at 7:23pm

Well bring in Elaine. Danny plays whistles as well as the concertina. He wants to hear you both.

Comment by Tim Twiss on December 11, 2011 at 7:32pm

It might be fun to research and add historical comments throughout the week from people...even if you don't play. I like the idea of experimentqation AND enrichment. I know this tune has some history (kitchen).

Comment by Elaine Masciale on December 11, 2011 at 9:35pm

Ok, I'll jump in with some history of "Clare de Kitchen."  The United States Songster of 1836 has an alternate set of lyrics which are as follows.

A little old man cum riding by,

Says I, old man, your hoss will die;

Well, if he dies I'll tan his skin,

But if he libs I'll ride him agin;

          Clar de kitchen, old folks, young foks,

          Old Virginy never tire!

An old bay hoss lay in the road,

And on his hip-bone sat a little toad,

He raised his voice to the woods around

"Hark! from the tombs a doeful sound"

             Of clar de kitchen, &c.

Now this old hoss lay on de ice,

And on his hip-bone sat a little mice!

He raised his voice to the steamboats round,

"Hark! for the Licking is a cumin down."

           So clar de kitchen, big boats, little boats

           Clar de kitchen, flat boats, keel boats,

            For de Licking neber tire!

The ice came down with a rushing din,

And stove the Jarsey's cabin in;

It raked the Fulton aft and fore,

And left her kitchen on the shore!

       Clar de steamboats, thick ice, thin ice

       Old Kentucky neber tire.

I hab a sweet-heart in dis town,

She wears a cloak and a new silk gown;

And as she walks de streets around,

De hollow of her fut makes a hole in de ground

        So clar de kitchen, &c.

As I went to market t'other day,

I got so swipesy I lost my way;

My master says, where have you been,

The way I lights on you's a sin,

         So clar de kitchen, &c

A jay-bird sat on a swinging limb,

He winked at me and I winked at him,

I cocked my gun and broke he shin,

And de way de feathers flew was a sin

       So  clar de kitchen, &c

I went on a visit to Tennessee,

To see Davy Crockett grin a 'possum of a tree;

He grin six time: - 'possum never stir a jot,

Pshaw!  massy Davy, you grinnin at a knot,

         So clar de kitchen, &c.

Now Jackson is goin to fight de French,

And he wants de sojers dat neber will flinch;

And I'se a going to get some glory,

and when I gets back I'll tell you de story.

            So clar de kitchen, &c

I went to de carvan to see de fun,

And dere was a nigger, beatin on de drum;

And what you tink dat I see then,

Why de lion went into de keeper's den!

           So clar de kitchen, &c

De elephant denlay on the ground,

And a man walked over him safe and sound;

And de lion put his head in de man's dinner hole,

And de monkeys stirr'd de people up with a long pole

           So clar de kitchen, &c

Comment by John Masciale on December 11, 2011 at 9:41pm

Clare de Kitchen was a minstrel era classic.  It was first performed in the early 1830s, and was still being performed in minstrel shows in the 1870s and 1880s.  It is interesting that a song which was popular for over 50 years is barely known today.  I often play it at reenactments, and many of the reenactors had never heard the song.

Comment by Bell Banjos on December 11, 2011 at 10:20pm

I love Clare de Kitchen. A great rip 'n tear tune! These are great lyrics. It's cool with concertina, very dynamic. Strange, like you said John, hardly every heard today.

Comment by Tim Twiss on December 11, 2011 at 10:43pm

1832....that is quite early. The melody is said to be a lift from Negro fireman on the Mississippi. Floating phrases...many we see in other tunes.

Comment by Tim Twiss on December 11, 2011 at 10:45pm

Vocally, a rather wide range.

Comment by Elaine Masciale on December 11, 2011 at 11:24pm

A bit of cultural background on one of the alternate verses above.

"Hark from the tombs a doleful sound"  ("minstrelized" to doeful)  is a hymn by Issac Watts.  It is inscribed as "a funeral thought" and seems to have been used as a momento mori, being written as an inscription on tombstones.  I find it in other literature and appears to be a well known phrase.

The hymn runs, 

Hark! from the tombs a doleful sound

Mine ears attend the cry -

Ye living men, come view the ground,

Where you must shortly lie.

Princes,this clay must be your bed,

In spite of all your towers;

The tall, the wise, the rev'rend head,

Must lie as low as ours.

Great God! is this our certain doom?

And are we still secure!

Still walking downwards to our tomb,

And yet prepare no more!

Grant us the powers of quick'ning grace

To fit our souls to fly;

Then when we drop this dying flesh,

We'll rise above the sky.

Comment by Tim Twiss on December 11, 2011 at 11:46pm

Thanks Elaine. I enjoy  points of illumination such as that within this music...


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