Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

The Old Jonny Booker Band monkeying around with Phil Rice's version of The Power of Music (1858).

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Comment by CURTIS PAYNE on May 6, 2014 at 5:37pm

Mark is that a period capo on your banjo?  If so did you make it or purchase it.

Comment by Mark Weems on May 6, 2014 at 7:59pm

Hi Curtis,Thanks for the nice comments. Well, The Old Jonny Booker Band is about to start a recording project but don't expect it anytime soon! As far as a capo, nope not using one at all.

Comment by CURTIS PAYNE on May 8, 2014 at 12:13pm

Ok not a capo, is it a tuning device?

Comment by James Pentecost on May 8, 2014 at 7:38pm


Mark is playing my James Ashborn reproduction banjo and that is a Snark tuner stuck on the head stock. James Ashborn  was an Englishman who started one of the earliest guitar factories in the United States at  Torrington, Connecticut. He was an innovator who built Guitars, Banjos, and in 1850 was the first person to patent a capo. Read more here: http://www.vintageguitar.com/3298/james-ashborn/ and Capo info here: http://www.sternercapo.se/Capomuseum/Yoke/Springy/springy.htm


Comment by CURTIS PAYNE on May 9, 2014 at 3:59pm

thanks James that was the answer I was looking for.  I will take a look at the capo he made and the site you provided.   .

Comment by Tom Berghan on August 25, 2016 at 6:45pm

Really liked it Mark.  To add to the discussion on percussion . . . even just a quick, even superficial study of the period illustrations, posters, song sheet-title-pages, etcetera, indicates that during the antebellum minstrel period banjos always played with percussion.  Most commonly the bones (first an foremost, next would be the tambourine (those two top the list) . . . followed by jawbone, castanets, triangle, various styles of drums, and slap-stick.  The bottom line is that percussion was pretty much mandatory in an early minstrel show! And of course!  It sounds great and is an exciting sound!  Well done boys.

Comment by Mark Weems on August 25, 2016 at 11:14pm

Right. And the percussion really changes everything - there is no need to play the tunes too fast when you have the percussion, and you can ride the groove wave. This is what I was exploring with my Ole Virginy Break Down CD of Sweeny songs and tunes. The Funk always comes from medium tempos. Often, I recorded the percussion first, then overlaid a banjo track and that forced me into some very cool places!

Comment by Strumelia on August 26, 2016 at 10:03am

Mark- you've put into words above some of the connections between tempo, 'groove', percussion, and instrument interplay that I've had trouble pinpointing and expressing for quite a while.

Comment by Mark Weems on August 26, 2016 at 11:58am

Here is the link to the Sweeny Cd, Sweeny Tab book and Joe Ayers CD "Old Dan Tucker" for our newbies.


Comment by Strumelia on August 26, 2016 at 2:51pm

...sadly, none of these new comments are showing up on the main page activity feed.  :(


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