Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

John "Picayune" Butler (died 1864) was a black French singer and banjo player who lived in New Orleans, Louisiana. He came to New Orleans from the French West Indies in the 1820s. Butler had begun touring the Mississippi Valley performing music and clown acts. His fame grew so that by the 1850s he was known as far north as Cincinnati. In 1857, Butler participated in the first banjo tournament in the United States held at New York City's Chinese Hall but due to inebriation he only became second. Butler is one of the first documented black entertainers to have had an impact on American popular music. The blackface song "Picayune Butler's Come to Town", published in 1858, was named for him.

Views: 246

Comment by Bell Banjos on December 21, 2011 at 11:53pm

Neat. I like that chord on the "Ay oh" 

Comment by Tim Twiss on December 21, 2011 at 11:55pm
That's the one that changes from the Rice version.
Comment by Silas Tackitt on December 22, 2011 at 12:12am

You weren't having enough fun when recording that one.  Better try again with a little more enthusiasum. 

I had wondered what to do with the A-Ho's.  Makes perfect sense now.

Comment by flatfoot johnny on December 22, 2011 at 3:31am


Comment by Carl Anderton on December 22, 2011 at 6:25am

I'm not sure the famous black banjo player Picayune Butler is the same man as the John "Picayune" Butler who Converse reminisced about, and played in that famous 1857 banjo tournament, and died in 1864.  For one thing, the tournament accounts never describes him as "colored," as was standard practice at the time.  Converse never does, either.  And his age!  If he was performing in the 1820's, he must have been near 50 by 1857.  He would have been an "elder statesman," for sure, but this was not remarked on at the time.  I think the John Butler that played in the tournament was a white man who appropriated the "Picayune" moniker from the earlier black player, as a stage name.

Anyway, interesting rendition, Tim.  You play a C natural instead of a C sharp on the first string, unlike the Ayers version.  Can you elaborate on that?

Comment by Tim Twiss on December 22, 2011 at 8:25am

I lifted that from Wikipedia.

Carl...see forum topic "Picayune Butler Misprint".

Comment by Tim Twiss on December 22, 2011 at 1:32pm

The Wikipedia sources seemed sound to me..I have some of those sources. It doesn't actually say he was performing in the 1920's, but rather that he came here then. He could have been a kid.

Anyway, that stuff was an add on to the main point...the musical content, interpretation, and contrast of printed sources.

Comment by Samurai banjo on May 3, 2012 at 5:10am

I found music sheet in the next site.

piccayune butler.

Part of Special Collections at the

Milton S. Eisenhower Library

of The Johns Hopkins University

The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music (1780-1960)

Comment by Samurai banjo on May 3, 2012 at 5:11am
Comment by Tim Twiss on May 3, 2012 at 10:05am

Thanks for the info. It is a bad link...

I got mine the Ethiopian Glee Book.


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