Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Here's one that kind of hid from me in the Buckley 1860 Book. It''s stuck by an unpopular vocal song, so I tended to pass it by. Getting harmonics to work depends upon the weather.

Views: 99

Comment by Carl Anderton on July 3, 2009 at 7:35am
What is a "Duff" polka? One that you dance sitting down? Or is so energetic that it knocks you on your keister?
Comment by Rob MacKillop on July 16, 2009 at 1:45am
Nice one, Tim. More cross-over repertoire. I like this area a lot.
Comment by Trapdoor2 on July 16, 2009 at 10:13am
There are a couple of "duff" roads to follow...but I'm guessing it involves music, so a "duff" in the musical world is a common type of North African (Arabic) frame drum...which includes ones with jingles (aka tamborine).

There is also a Duff river in Ireland and a famous Brit naval hero (Trafalgar) named Duff. Hmm...when Capt. George Duff had his head removed by a cannon-ball (early in the battle), the crew supposedly picked up his body and paraded it around the ship (in some kind of honorific display) before putting him back where he fell. I supposed you could call that a "Duff Polka", albeit a horrific one! Duff has a monument next to Nelson's tomb.
Comment by Chris Ownby on July 16, 2009 at 11:08am
Duff was a food served on ships in the 18th and 19th century. The following is from Forty-Niners 'round the Horn by Charles R. Schultz. "Duff, a food to which many passengers looked forward on either a regular or an occasional basis and which some disdained as being to heavy, would likely be considered a dessert today because of the sweet sauce that was poured over it. In some vessels it was served in addition to the meat and other foods, but in other it was the only thing served at some meals." From the Randle, Letters March 29 and April 17, 1849 "Duff was sometimes a very popular commodity and sometimes a very lowly regarded one. It was made of flour, "slush' (the grease skimmed from boiling salt meat), water, seasoning, and raisins (or sometimes plums or apples and occasionally a combination of them) mixed together in a tight canvass bag and boiled in salt water for four hours." Locke, a passenger in the brig Sea Eagle from Boston, provides a more detailed and elaborate recipe for duff in a letter to his wife on April 16, 1849: "1 cup of milk, 1 cup of molasses, half cup melted butter, teaspoon salaratus (baking powder), five cups of flour, a pound of raisins, and nutmeg and cloves." Locke simply notes to boil it for four hours. The ship the Tahmaroo left New York for California in January 1849. The passengers wrote many songs while on that trip. Two of the songs were about duff. One to the tune of "Dearest May" goes .....

O that heavy duff
I never get enough
Some like salt junk
Some dandy funk
But I'd rather have my duff.

The song Walk Along John was also changed to...

O get along John! You hungry son
O get along John! You hungry son
ant you glad when your duff comes

Chris Ownby
Comment by Steven Hedgpeth on July 16, 2009 at 12:18pm
Chris and Trapdoor's explanations seem far more probable, especially given the examples from "Dearest May" and "Walk Along John," but I'd like to offer the unlikely possibility that "duff" in that title could be 19th-century white ebonics for "tough".... That was the first thing I thought when I first saw the title, not knowing any better. I don't know of any examples of "t" being converted to "d" in lyrics, though. The "th" sound, yes, is often rendered as "d" to imitate/evoke/construct a black pronunciation (e.g. "Who is dat knocking at de door?", "Kick Up De Debble on a Holiday," etc.) but I don't know about the straight "t" being corrupted.

It seems to me that very few of the current minstrel performers attempt to preserve the caricatured pronunciation except in a few places--Bob Flesher's "De History of de World" and Joe Ayers' "Peeping Through de Cellar Door" come to mind. But that's a different topic.
Comment by Trapdoor2 on July 16, 2009 at 1:51pm
Aye, "Plum Duff" was a favorite on many ships. If you have read any of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, they are often consuming such stuff. A peek into the Merriam-Webster site shows the etymology as coming from "dough".
Comment by Greg Adams on July 16, 2009 at 3:44pm
I guess I'll just have to duff-er to all the perspectives being shared here! ;-)


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