Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Al Smitley
  • Male
  • Hartland, MI
  • United States
  • 1968-1976 then minstrel banjo since…
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Al Smitley's Discussions

Back Story

Started Mar 22 0 Replies

Not sure if some are familiar with Back Story.  Here is what I received today.If you scan down, you should be able to listen to the 35-minute radio program.…Continue

20th C Tim

Started this discussion. Last reply by Chris Prieto Jul 14, 2018. 2 Replies

I'm reluctant to post this as I don't know if Tim will be upset with me but...... for those of you who know 19th C Tim, I thought it might be interesting for some to see 20th C Tim.…Continue


Started this discussion. Last reply by Strumelia Mar 1, 2018. 3 Replies

I'm embarrassed to admit that I found a whole bunch of messages that I never knew I had.Therefore, I apologize to all those whom I never responded to.  Chalk it up to my ignorance!Continue

Early Minstrel Show CD

Started this discussion. Last reply by david caron Jan 28, 2018. 5 Replies

I was just looking on YouTube for some renditions of the Hutchinson Family Singers songs but this came up, nearby.  As great as this CD is, it almost seems to have faded in the background so I…Continue


Al Smitley's Page

Latest Activity

Al Smitley replied to Timothy Twiss's discussion Tune of the Week Nov. 4th
"Might be an interesting choice as soon as you arrive home."
Nov 3
Al Smitley commented on Timothy Twiss's video

Antietem Jig

"Here's a challenge.  Work that into one of your instrumental breaks with Itchycoo Park."
Oct 16
Al Smitley liked david caron's video
Oct 5
Al Smitley commented on Paul Draper's video

Far South Reel Down East

"Ironic.  Shouldn't you compose a "Far North Reel Down East" to go with it?"
Aug 5
Al Smitley commented on Paul Draper's video

Far South Reel Down East

"Where are you, Paul?"
Aug 5
Al Smitley commented on Paul Draper's video

Naraganset Jig

"That's ambitious.  I don't think I've seen/heard it played other than Tim."
Jul 10
Al Smitley liked Paul Draper's video
Jul 10
Al Smitley commented on Mark Weems's blog post G.P. Knauff's Virginia Reels For Old-Time Banjo!
"Thanks, Mark.  I'll compare that to what I have."
Jun 29
Al Smitley commented on Mark Weems's blog post G.P. Knauff's Virginia Reels For Old-Time Banjo!
"The Knauff Collection is confusing to me.  I've copied several in small series' but was never sure if I had the whole thing.  Can you tell me how many tunes are in the complete series?  Are they all included in your…"
Jun 28
Al Smitley commented on Mark Weems's blog post G.P. Knauff's Virginia Reels For Old-Time Banjo!
"Mark, I'm definitely interested.  Is it music notation or TAB?"
Jun 27
Al Smitley liked Paul Draper's video
Jun 15
Al Smitley liked Andy Chase's video
Jun 7
Andy Chase liked Al Smitley's photo
Jun 7
Al Smitley commented on Al Smitley's photo


"Eureka! I found it! It's "Thirty Fiddle Tunes from the Manuscript Collection of William Sidney Mount", compiled and edited by Alan Buechner and Bill Shull for the Missouri State Old Time Fiddlers Association and the Museums at Stony…"
Jun 6
Al Smitley posted a photo


While talking with John Masciale a couple weeks ago, I tried to find a collection of Wm. Sidney Mount tunes that I know I have some place. I couldn't find it and I purchased this thinking it was the same or similar to what I remember having. It's…
Jun 6

Profile Information

How did you find out about Ning Minstrel Banjo?
Member/contributor, Tim Twiss
How long have you played banjo?
1968-1976 then minstrel banjo since 2007. Stopped when Tim Twiss wanted me to play fiddle and play banjo, now, only to figure out best keys for various songs/tunes.
What kind of banjo(s) do you own?
Vega long-neck and Hartel Sweeney model

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Comment Wall (18 comments)

At 7:09pm on July 11, 2011, Tim Twiss said…
Hi Al. Do you prefer Friday or Saturday...Aug 5 or 6?
At 10:55am on November 26, 2011, John Masciale said…

Al,  That's the kind of thing you can either add as a link in a thread (there's a way to upload files to a given thread, click on the paperclip icon), or something as generally useful as that we can put under resources.  Elaine has been going through period songsters and has a list of over 1800 songs at this point from the time period.  The list is growing.  I would put your spreadsheet under documetation.


I find that the most useful thing about the Weidlich book is his index of Minstrel Songs and which instructor they are in.  It would be great to have some resources like that here on the site.

At 12:27pm on November 26, 2011, Tim Twiss said…

And there it is...thanks John. I lost sight of the fact you could add files of different types in the Documentation spot. Perfect.

At 11:21am on November 28, 2011, John Masciale said…

Al,  Thanks for sending the tutorial index.  I now have it posted on our documentation page.

At 12:06pm on November 28, 2011, Tim Twiss said…

John...what format is that? New Excel? I could open Al's old one, but not this. Perhaps open office?

At 1:44pm on November 28, 2011, Tim Twiss said…

Never mind...answered my own question...open office for those who are behind.

What a great contribution Al...

At 8:09am on February 3, 2012, Ian Bell said…


I'm not a re-enactor (though I do have a suit of funny clothes in the closet) so I usually don't always have to limit myself to completely period-appropriate performances. When I am doing a historic perfromance I use the "period" instruments that I happen to play — wooden flute, Scottish smallpipes, fiddle and sing unaccompanied. I've never earned the trick of self-accompaniment with fiddle. It's all I can do to play in tune when I'm not singing. 

I mostly do 1812 songs from the Canadian point of view. My repertoire  comes from old manuscripts and early published sources and also includes songs of the time that survived to be collected as part of the folk tradition in Ontario. I've been accumulating this stuff since the early 80s. Canada was much less urban than the eastern US at that time so there weren't nearly as many printed broadsides produced up here. Your Library of Congress website has lots of American 1812 songs online. (I'm envious)

In a concert setting, I'll usually perform this stuff in a more "folksingerly" context, as music from the past that has survived into the present. I use non-period instruments like steel-string guitar, mandolin and concertina and arrange songs to suit my own tastes — which to most people's ears are probably pretty arcane.

At 8:10am on February 3, 2012, Ian Bell said…

Clarifying a bit of bad writing in previous comment - I meant Canada was less urban in 1812 - not the 1980s!

At 7:33pm on May 22, 2012, Jeff said…
I live in Midland
At 8:54pm on March 22, 2013, Tim Twiss said…

Hey Al...the first Thursday of every other month is approaching. Want to join me again? Love to add some of those crazy early ones we have discussed.

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