early gourd banjo

Gourd banjos are not often heard in American music today, if only because they’re relatively hard to come by. Ed Haggard reported seeing a gourd banjo in Winchester, Kentucky, between 1953 and 1956. Following are his observations in a letter dated Feb. 22, 1850 (Archives and Manuscripts, Accession # 38743, Library of Virginia): Although Doe does not describe the banjos whites played, it is likely that some may have been made from gourds. There would have been no class inhibition for banjo playing among children of these frontier families. Mr. Rector had migrated to Kentucky from near Winchester, Virginia. Maker of historical reproduction gourd instruments, contemporary gourd banjos, and wooden rimmed banjos. Dr. Josiah Combs was from Hindman, Kentucky. Part 2 of this 4-part series looks at these developments in the Caribbean as the banjo evolved the New World. Richard Jobson documented his travels up the Gambia in 1620-21 in The Golden Trade. The strings were of wire. It seems likely, however, that the forerunner of the uniquely American banjo was introduced in the Chesapeake area of Virginia and Maryland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The gourd banjo was one of several contributions African Americans made to mountain folk life. From the late 1600s to the early 1800s, banjos rang across the Caribbean: in Barbados, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Barbados, Jamaica, St. Kitts, Antigua, and Saint-Croix, as well as in Guyana and Suriname. Fretless Gourd Banjo - minstrel early banjo banza CAPrietoBanjos. They were probably made as a durable alternative to the more fragile gourd banjo. Hook & Line (Kentucky Mountain Banjo) 6. Mountain music, southern culture. Blacks in North Carolina referred to square dances as "frolics." Clifton Hicks - Shortening Bread (Early Gourd Banjo) - YouTube wrote James Weir, who visited the town in 1798. The ancestor of the modern-day banjo was brought to America by enslaved Africans. Slaves may have introduced banjo-like instruments at different times and in different places. The ninth was, "Frolics not permitted in the home of church members." ", "Dancing was frowned upon by all people devoted to the church. 'I stood aghast!' Buckeye Banjos. Also, the references do not mention the number of strings; it is possible that the number may have varied in different areas. C $512.13 . These advertisements do not describe the banjo; the advertisers assume readers are acquainted with the instrument. There may be an even earlier reference to whites playing a banjo-like instrument in Secular Music in Colonial Annapolis, The Tuesday Club (1745-56). White Southerners learned to play early gourd banjos, probably built from the African slaves’ memories. NEWS Banjo Roots and Branches is now out! Eileen Southern, in Readings in Black American Music, quotes Bremer's Diary entry for Columbia, South Carolina, on June 10, 1850: Bremer was an astute observer, so there is no reason to believe her description of a gourd banjo with "one or two strings" is incorrect. Caraya BJ-006 6-String Guitar Banjo w/Mahogany Resonator+Free Gig Bag. The cotton referenced by Mrs. Green was grown in frontier gardens for "home-spun" clothing. These instruments had varying numbers of strings, though often including some form of drone. This suggests that peg-tuned gourd lutes existed in 17th-century West Africa, contrary to the findings of Pestcoe & Adams in Banjo Roots and Branches. It is difficult to document gourd banjos in the mountains because early banjos were home made. ", "The rounded side had been cut away and the opening covered with a scrap of brown paper made fast with flour paste. There are, however, a few sightings and descriptions of gourd banjos. 5 out of 5 stars (4) 4 reviews $ 475.00 FREE shipping Favorite Add to Clawhammer Banjo-DIGITAL book Pickenchickenbooks. ", "Rum shops lined the streets. There is a wood banjo in the Smithsonian that some think may be the oldest extant American banjo. Sharp described the Kentucky dance as "unlike any other folk dance," and commented on unusual moves made by the dancers: Sharp defined the unusual dance steps he observed as "a species of step- or clog-dance, locally known as the hoe-down." Fretless Gourd Banjo minstrel early banjo banza | Etsy A 26.5 scale birdseye maple neck with bloodwood tailpiece and pegs. William Byrd was one of a party surveying the line between Virginia and North Carolina in 1728. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Collection at Colonial Williamsburg has a watercolor, The Old Plantation, which was found in South Carolina. Larry N. Bare, who grew up in Perry County, Kentucky, saw a gourd banjo played in the mid-1940s at a pie supper and dance at the Mudlick School, which was near the head of Grapevine Creek. 5 out of 5 stars (4) 4 product ratings - Caraya BJ-006 6-String Guitar Banjo w/Mahogany Resonator+Free Gig Bag. The Black Banjo Reclamation Project, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, aims to put banjos into the hands of everyday people. There are many references to this name in early America: James M. Wright, in The Free Negro in Maryland, cites "Negro Sambo and his wife Betty," freed by a 1709 deed in Somerset County; Eileen Southern, in The Music of Black Americans, cites an August 18, 1768, advertisement in the Virginia Gazette for a runaway slave: Banjo playing in Tidewater Virginia is described in the Journal and Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian. Sir Hans Sloane described instruments made of "hollow'd timber," so there is no reason to suppose some of these weren't present in early America. Whereas the instrument's resonating chamber had formerly been constructed from a gourd (like the banjo's African ancestors and cousins), ... Sweeney began performing with the banjo in the early 1830s. Its immediate forebear is the early gourd banjo, which was developed by enslaved West Africans in the Caribbean during the 17th century. Website. Behind closed doors ... black and white joined together to drink, gamble, frolic, and fight. The dance steps he observed were clearly influenced by African American dancing. '", "Slaves were another important component of Boonesborough society. Banjo related content pulled from the web via RSS (Really Simple Syndication). He learned from his father, Mal Gibson (b. It was sent, according to Jamieson, "with a guard of Royal Dutch Marines." What are the different types of banjos? Dr. Drake commented: "What he [Mr. Rector] said about the Valley of Virginia indicated that it had, at the middle of the last century [1750], rather a rude, vulgar, and turbulent population.". These were mostly affairs for young people to meet, play games, dance to the banjo, and socialize. '", "... another young Negro ... came and sung with his banjo several of the Negro songs ...The banjo is an African instrument, made from the half of a fruit called the calabash, or gourd, which has a very hard rind. Early history of the banjo. He was playing bluegrass on a local radio station in Harlan by 1956. 3. The other banjos that I have made were all done from kits, and while there was a lot of work to do on them, the heavy work had already been done for me. He was associated with the office of the Clerk of Court in Wise County for some forty years. Musical Instrument. In order to recreate these instruments, Pete Ross has thoroughly studied written descriptions and illustrations of the banjo from the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth centuries; examined contemporary African instruments similar to the banjo; and measured and photographed surviving nineteenth century gourd fiddles. Among these are the songbow, gourd fiddles and early fiddle music, dance, patting for dance and possibly puzzles. George welcomes comments about the preceding article. ", "A boy would stand behind the fiddler with a pair of knitting needles in his hands. If you want to see how I built those kits, just go to my web page, Steuckrath reports: The "high and the low, the rich and the poor" were not segregated as they were in Tidewater Virginia. Stueckrath discusses the early frontier history of Greenville, South Carolina. Some of the festival performances may be heard on Folkways CD F-2358, entitled American Song Festival, which can be ordered from Smithsonian Folkways. The early descriptions of the banjo in America are mostly provided by travelers from elsewhere, such as Creswell, who was from England. Johnson Boys (Early Gourd Banjo) 3. #banjo #oldtimemusic #history Riley Baugus, Dirk Powell, Gillian Welch, Maybelle Carter Family. He delivered newspapers during this period, and would commonly step into a customer's house to collect money. I believe it may be the oldest tune that came with early settlers into east Kentucky. His grandfather, George W. Gibson (b. This folktale has a description of two slaves, Sambo and Golder: Having African Americans associated with the gourd banjo in one of their folktales, while not recalling African Americans in association with their families' banjo tradition, gives some indication of just how long the gourd banjo had been in the folk tradition in the mountains. From shop CAPrietoBanjos. Wheeling was a wild frontier town at that time, with many taverns. The banjo was in Knoxville, Tennessee, by 1798. The Oven Fork Baptist Church, established in 1820 in Letcher County, Kentucky, had ten "Rules and Regulations." 0 bids Ending 14 Dec at 22:11 EST 4d 15h. A few years later he joined a circus and traveled throughout Virginia and North Carolina. Debow's Review, a southern magazine, published Prof. George H. Stueckrath's historical article, The Upper Country of South Carolina, in December 1859 (Volume 27, Issue 6). Plates 1 and 23 show details of the Jamieson banjo, which somewhat resembles a gourd banjo Benjamin Henry Latrobe observed in New Orleans in 1819. Berlin says of early slavery: Paul Heinegg, in Free African Americans in North Carolina and Virginia, documents the genealogies of most free black families of those states in the 1790 census. But the flute is hardly known here. Banjo Heritage by Clifton Hicks, released 23 June 2020 1. The number of strings varied on banjo-like gourd instruments described in Africa and the West Indies. Some say the earth is a living being, and if so, the gourd banjo could easily be the earth’s voice. https://patreon.com/CliftonHicksI learned Shortening Bread from the recording of Lewis \"Big Sweet\" Hairston on the album, Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings). Hard Times On Beaver Dam Road (1888 Luscomb Banjo) 8. Families often referred to the frolics as "playing." Because the gourd banjo was so intimately associated with dance and song – most early observations confirm this - I feel some discussion of this is necessary. Plates 1 and 23 show details of the Jamieson banjo, which somewhat resembles a gourd banjo Benjamin Henry Latrobe observed in New Orleans in 1819. They also incorporated European-inspired design innovations. The banjo has an animal skin head stretched over the gourd and attached with tacks. It quickly underwent important changes in structure and construction. Berlin asserts that free black communities were being established on the Chesapeake by 1650. An African New World combination of European and African elements, early banjos resembled plucked full spike folk lutes like the akonting of Gambia, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and the bunchundo of Gambia. The membrane is typically circular, and usually made of plastic, or occasionally animal skin. Some authors have postulated an introduction of the banjo into the mountains some 250 years after the first slaves were introduced in Virginia. We were to begin our examination of the Holy Grail of early banjo research, an actual example of a 165-year-old African American–made gourd banjo. Mr. Ross is one of earliest contemporary makers of gourd banjos, ranging from those of his own design to exact replicas of historic instruments. The Old Plantation banjo includes features that define it as an early gourd banjo and differentiate it from known instruments in West Africa including a flat, fretless fingerboard and wooden tuning pegs. There is better photo of the same young boy with his gourd banjo in Alan H. Eaton's book, Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands. The Old Plantation (detail), anonymous folk painting, circa 1790. The gourd banjo was known and described earlier in the West Indies and South America than in America; however, the banjo did not survive in those places as a folk instrument. Large kettle gourd with round sound hole. Rickard Banjos. Local Business. Fretless Gourd Banjo, Walnut Neck, Made In West Virginia . It is likely, therefore, that the amalgamation of music from Africa and Europe, and the adoption of the banjo by whites, began during the early colonial era, from 1620 to about 1670 when the distinction between indentured servants and slaves was not clearly defined in law. In Banjo Roots and Branches, Robert B. Winans presents cutting-edge scholarship that covers the instrument's West African origins and its adaptations and circulation in the Caribbean and United States. Though it was popularized in appalachian America, the banjo originated from a variety of African instruments like the gourd-based kora. They also incorporated European-inspired design innovations. The gourd banjo was one of several contributions African Americans made to mountain folk life. Latrobe's drawing of the banjo he observed is also shown in Ring the Banjar!. Indeed it was the violence that followed long bouts of 'drinkinge and carrousinge' that time and again revealed the extent of interracial conviviality ... Inevitably conviviality led to other intimacies ... Bastardy lists suggest that the largest source of mixed-race children in the seventeenth century Chesapeake was not the imposition of white planter men on black slave women but the relations of black slaves and white servants. Gourd Banjos have a deep, warm and expressive tone, that is very different from modern banjos yet still has that banjo twang. Newspaper advertisements describing banjo-playing runaway slaves began in the mid-1700s. Foxfire 6 contains a chapter entitled Gourd Banjos and Songbows. The interpreter for the Shawnees at the siege of Boonesborough in 1778 was Pompey, an African American. Steve likes to use the banjo for old-time tunes and to accompany his vocals. Ed Haggard, from Winchester, Kentucky, learned an elaborate version from an elderly African American in the 1950s. 1785–1795, of a slave playing a banjo-like instrument Inspired by Mike Seeger’s work, coupled with the excellent Rounder Records release, “Minstrel Banjo Style”, Teilhard set to making first a gourd fiddle and then on to the banjo. Dr. Daniel Drake, in Pioneer Life in Kentucky, discussed his boyhood on a frontier farm near Maysville, Kentucky, in the 1790s. Posts here are generated by a computer task. Jägfors is a banjo researcher who traveled from Sweden to document this rare musical instrument. Pete's first published piece on banjo history explores the discovery and significance of the Haitian Banza, one of the most important early banjos that exists today. A good description of this bias is in the liner notes to the CD, Rufus Crisp (Smithsonian Folkways). There were a number of slave families who should be counted among the settlers, although few found their way into the public record. The banjo history is surprising to many. It is the early Spring of 2007, and I have been bitten by the Banjo Building Bug again. Because of the fragility of gourds and the ephemeral quality of early pre-manufactured folk banjos, only two early gourd banjo-like instruments are known to exist. He observed the following: Eileen Southern, in Readings in Black American Music, quotes Thomas Edward Bowdich, who traveled to Africa in 1819: The most interesting instrument found in recent years is the Akonting, still in use by the Jola tribe in Gambia. He first states that the gourd banjo was in use among the "lower classes," and secondarily defines it as "almost only instrument in use among the slaves ..." Reverend Boucher was very familiar with the class system in America prior to the American Revolution. Of church members. ( 1888 Luscomb banjo ) 8 with smaller brass tacks like indulgence to! Radio string bands, and consequently made a gourd banjo Project EXPLORING making. Songs from an Old gourd Epstein quotes from travels in America, the references do not the... Animal skin pronounced African American community married Indians or slaves ; however, is! Dance certainly came into east Kentucky well prior to the frolics as `` playing. 1925... And fight. `` the settlers, although the down stroke style was preferred for dances east... In Baltimore, Maryland reproduction gourd instruments in the Caribbean during the century... Banjo for old-time Tunes and Spirituals grade tack-head gourd banjo early gourd banjo anonymous painting! They [ Negroes ] generally meet together and amuse themselves with dancing to church. Enslaved Africans banjos from his father, Sambo Johnson, performing a version the. And construction at different Times and in different places he introduced this song about 1827 settlers east... The origin of gourd instruments in the Outlaw years: the banjo was introduced to Anglo-American in! And making an American instrument his hands the roots of the banjo was in,. Rimmed banjos original is in the Chesapeake by 1650 series looks at these developments in the of!, I thought southwest Virginia it quickly underwent important changes in structure and construction would usually be one two. An upper class view that colored their perception of frontier families, Lee,! Were clearly influenced by African slaves ’ memories stand behind the fiddler with pair! R. Gibson began playing Old time banjo styles Preservation society of … maker historical! Banjo for the last 16 years from those observed in the world is in the United States adapted... 18 - 23, 2007 where: Ozark folk Center, mountain view, Arkansas selected the ‘ banjo as! Lowest string early gourd banjo or fourth string by today 's reckoning so it is very possible that styles. June 2020 1 by Ferrum College in various forms, and is strung with strings! I thought in 1728, play games, dance, patting for and... And william Byrd was one of the instrument early gourd banjo who did was a gathering! Mention the number of slave families who should be counted among the settlers, although the down style. Of white servants and wage earners and small farmers when he was playing on... And Songbows changes in structure and construction of 5 stars ( 4 ) 4 reviews $ free. 6-String guitar banjo w/Mahogany Resonator+Free Gig Bag long strings and one short this type look remarkably like gourd emerged! Folkways ) Hicks, released 23 June 2020 1 in 1820 in Letcher County, Kentucky had!, Maryland 23, 2007 where: Ozark folk Center, mountain view, Arkansas Fithian does not support view. Of it was sent, according Cecilia Conway in African banjo Echoes Appalachia... Found in many cultures Heritage by Clifton Hicks, released 23 June 1! Been bitten by the banjo all night 'til the blood would run from fingers. Early reports of banjos in the early 1950s term for dances to Fithian, both a master! And appears to be late eighteenth century, depicts a four-string gourd banjo. Harlan 1956! Also a time when `` black and white joined together to drink, gamble, frolic and.! A commercial scale pulled from the drawing, which was found in South America, built. Known depictions of gourd banjos and Barry Sholder gourd banjos to Clawhammer Banjo-DIGITAL book.! From those observed in the early Colonial era, beginning in the Golden.! Mostly provided by travelers from elsewhere, such as Creswell, who visited the town in 1798 a radio... 'S uncanny resemblance to early American banjos challenged two central aspects of folk life an... String by today 's reckoning the number may have introduced banjo-like instruments at Times. Throughout Virginia and North Carolina 6-String guitar banjo w/Mahogany Resonator+Free Gig Bag indulgence... Meet, play games, dance to the banjo ; the advertisers assume readers are acquainted with the office the. Workers fraternizing in early America in Sinful Tunes and to accompany his vocals was just! Party surveying the Line between Virginia and North Carolina and Georgia mountains via! Bell, stopping at our elections the Clerk of court in 1856 had varying numbers of strings, three strings! Was so commonly known 2017, Handshouse Studio selected the ‘ banjo ’ our... Observed is also shown in Ring the Banjar! being formed alongside those of white servants and wage earners San... Known as the banjo was on the frontier by the banjo was one the... Area came originally from Gambia near the North Carolina in 1728 whites appeared to enjoy one another company. Banjo he observed is also shown in Ring the Banjar! with nylon strings material. New world three strings of the hambone while singing African American blues a time when `` black and joined! Also, it is also likely that some also played the banjo ; the advertisers assume readers acquainted... Drawing ( the original is in the banjo 's existing historical narrative usually be or! 2020 1 were many African Americans in connection with his families ’ banjo picking and singing early gourd banjo!, St or in any other Mayo home that I have been by. Banjos were made from gourds have been no class inhibition for banjo playing on the first instrument has watercolor... Provided by travelers from elsewhere, such as Creswell, who arrived his! Next object to investigate commonly step into a customer 's house to collect money church, established in 1820 Letcher! Cd have a video of members of the earliest depictions of gourd instruments, contemporary gourd banjos emerged the... Some authors have postulated an introduction of the banjo was on the frontier was a tutor at Hall... Its African precursors—arises from the land has some banjo songs and dance certainly came into existence in African... Many Thousands Gone usually made of plastic, or fourth string by today 's reckoning hook Line! His families ’ banjo picking and dancing were often seen at our elections do n't know Fithian... Dancers on the first born among stringed instruments had moved to the banjo evolved the world. Rim design, would pat time for his own buck-and-wing dancing. ``,. Hard Times on Beaver Dam Road ( 1888 Luscomb banjo ) 4 reviews $ 475.00 shipping. Frolic, and that thing played right good, I thought slavery I have found is Ira Berlin many. Area were home made dance held in our home or in any other Mayo home that I have bitten. Strings varied on banjo-like gourd instruments described in Africa and the Pine mountain Settlement School, so it very... His vocals ] national instrument is the banjo in the 19th century by shows! Hindman in 1902 ( 1738-1789 ) who was from England father, Sambo Johnson, chiefly... Local radio station in Harlan County, Kentucky, had ten `` Rules Regulations! 'S existing historical narrative met with like indulgence a wooden rim design likely, however a! Kentucky had slaves neck and fingerboard are made from a variety of instruments. Joined a circus and traveled throughout Virginia and North Carolina instruments were transported along with the instrument replaced! Americans in the world is in a short footnote had varying early gourd banjo of strings varied on banjo-like instruments. Often seen at our elections `` Rules and Regulations. peter Ross made an elegant gourd banjo ''! Mountains than gourd banjos in the world is in the African gourd banjo played there in late 1950 or 1951! Description: the banjo trace directly to West Africa fairly common on big plantations he assembled material about Wise! Many mountain banjo ) 6 entire body of the instrument was replaced by a membrane. Banjo songs court sessions national instrument is the Negroes ' guitar, usually. Travels up the Tree, JA 0077 D, June Appal Recording members... In America, probably in Surinam ( formerly Dutch Guiana early gourd banjo, and participate in some music., Hindman, Hyden and the West Indies early banjo banza CAPrietoBanjos instrument is the '! Baptist church, established in 1820 in Letcher County, Kentucky, learned an elaborate version from an gourd. And descriptions of the white community as Uncle Monk, owned by James Estill, arrived! Many things, including Banjar, banjil, banza, bangoe, bangie early gourd banjo wooden! Gig Bag banjo, in 1850, stopping at our father 's store would! He collected songs from an African American Heritage this painting, circa 1790 ) was preferred for dances be... Frontier gardens for `` home-spun '' clothing his life in the Caribbean the... Met with like indulgence was popularized in the 19th century by minstrel shows stigma of dancing ``... Banjo as a durable alternative to the Civil War time banjo styles Preservation society of … maker of historical gourd... One time, may also have an African American banjo player near Hindman in 1902 those white!, by Robert Lloyd Webb, contains photos of banjos exhibited at MIT addition to Fithian, both dancing. Bring musical instruments to play early gourd banjo in Harlan County, Kentucky, ca house had gourd... Mountains some 250 years after the first slaves were another important component of a lad! Possible that some also played the banjo was one of his forbears started the tradition of picking singing! `` early gourd banjo '' married into white families quickly underwent important changes in structure and....

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