Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

The great Dave Kirchner singing and playing a banjo he made. I accompanied him on bones, ankle rattle, and chorus.
This fun old song from the 1800s "Carve That Possum".
This was at the public concert at Appomattox Courthouse National Park during the Joel Sweeney History of the Banjo weekend in Sept 2017. A bunch of us early banjo enthusiasts attended from various states. A fun gathering for sure!

Views: 110

Comment by Brian Kimerer on September 23, 2017 at 10:01pm

I really liked this. Great job.

I had not heard of Carve Dat Possum before, so I looked into it to see if I could learn it. I found the original sheet music and tried to work it up, but what I am trying to play does not look anything like what I see going on in the video. It looks like it was originally written in A minor, but it doesn't look or sound right.

What tuning and key are you using? Do you have a pointer to a banjo arrangement for the tune?



Comment by Brian Kimerer on September 24, 2017 at 10:49am

OK. I think I might have figured this out. The original music is typeset in the key of C, and the melody is therefore in its relative minor, A-minor. I transposed the piece up to the key of E-flat, so the tune is now in the relative minor key of C-minor. The banjo is tuned to drop C, so it is fairly easy to play the C-minor chords on it Cm, Fm, and Gm.

That is what it looks like you are playing in the video.

Wish I could make it to these events, but the travel gets more difficult each year.


Comment by Strumelia on September 24, 2017 at 3:35pm

Hi Brian, here's some more info on the song, written by African American composer/performer Sam Lucas:



Comment by Strumelia on September 24, 2017 at 3:38pm

The sheet music John Masciale posted/cited above in 2009 matches with what Dave Kirchner did here.

Comment by Brian Kimerer on September 24, 2017 at 4:52pm


Thanks. That is the same music that I found and had trouble with. Looking at my old tutors, it looks like, if you tune the banjo to the E/A (high bass/low bass) tuning, then ignore the key signature in the sheet music (which is C with accidentals, not A), then the notes come out the same way I ended up with. It is confusing why they would write it that way instead of in the key of A.

The multiple ways that the music was written back then is still continuing to confuse me. But I think I am homing in on it.

You guys did a great job on the tune.

Comment by Strumelia on September 24, 2017 at 5:51pm

Brian, be sure to watch Dave's fingers in the vid as he plays, if you have not already.  Why not just try to play the notes he is using, and adjust your tuning if you need to?

Comment by Strumelia on September 24, 2017 at 6:13pm

I don't know if Brad Leftwich's version helps, but here's that tab, in standard G tuning (high bass):


Maybe it can give you a head start.

Comment by Brian Kimerer on September 24, 2017 at 8:38pm


I did watch the video many times, and that is how I knew that I was doing it wrong. But it goes very fast, and it is difficult to tell which fingers are fretting notes and which are just over the finger board. I will see if I can slow it down somehow. What I am playing now seems to be pretty close to it.

I had found the Leftwich tab too, but I wasn't sure what the notes in parentheses were for (hold the chord but don't hit the strings?). It is a different notation from what he shows in his book.

I have typset the tune in C-minor and had Lilypond typset the tab for it. If I can figure out how to add an attachment, I will upload what I have.

Comment by Strumelia on September 25, 2017 at 8:11am

Brian, if you watch it on Youtube, and click on the little gear setting for the vid- you can slow it way down.

Comment by Brian Kimerer on September 25, 2017 at 12:32pm

Wow. I didn't know that was there. That helped a lot. 


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