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What is a Plectrum Banjo?

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Peter T. 27 Oct 98 - 03:40 PM
Jon W. 27 Oct 98 - 01:16 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 27 Oct 98 - 02:08 AM
Art Thieme 26 Oct 98 - 11:17 PM
Big Mick 26 Oct 98 - 08:28 PM
Songbob 26 Oct 98 - 12:48 PM
Ole Bull 24 Oct 98 - 10:27 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 22 Oct 98 - 09:19 PM
Jerry 22 Oct 98 - 04:23 PM
Bill D 22 Oct 98 - 01:41 PM
Ritchie 22 Oct 98 - 11:32 AM
Jon W. 22 Oct 98 - 10:47 AM
Jerry 22 Oct 98 - 10:38 AM
Bob Bolton 21 Oct 98 - 07:13 PM
murray@mcpe.mq.edu.au 21 Oct 98 - 06:21 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 20 Oct 98 - 10:16 AM
Bill in Alabama 20 Oct 98 - 06:33 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 19 Oct 98 - 09:26 PM
Jerry 19 Oct 98 - 10:56 AM
BSeed 18 Oct 98 - 01:44 AM
Big Mick 18 Oct 98 - 01:29 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 17 Oct 98 - 08:06 PM
Big Mick 17 Oct 98 - 12:39 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 17 Oct 98 - 04:45 AM
Jon W. 16 Oct 98 - 06:31 PM
Ole Bull 16 Oct 98 - 05:41 PM
BSeed 15 Oct 98 - 10:34 PM
Noel Induni 15 Oct 98 - 08:11 PM
Bob Bolton 15 Oct 98 - 02:14 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 14 Oct 98 - 06:37 AM
Bob Bolton 13 Oct 98 - 07:05 PM
Big Mick 13 Oct 98 - 07:07 AM
Bob Bolton 13 Oct 98 - 03:44 AM
Bob Bolton 13 Oct 98 - 03:33 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 12 Oct 98 - 08:06 PM
Bob Bolton 12 Oct 98 - 07:39 PM
Frank in the swamps 12 Oct 98 - 05:48 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 12 Oct 98 - 04:55 AM
Bob Bolton 12 Oct 98 - 02:06 AM
BSeed 12 Oct 98 - 01:21 AM
Bob Bolton 12 Oct 98 - 01:15 AM
gargoyle 12 Oct 98 - 12:19 AM
BSeed 11 Oct 98 - 04:29 AM
BSeed 11 Oct 98 - 04:12 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 11 Oct 98 - 03:06 AM
11 Oct 98 - 12:30 AM
gargoyle 11 Oct 98 - 12:19 AM
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Barbara 10 Oct 98 - 05:45 PM
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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Peter T.
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 03:40 PM

Given that this is a banjo thread, there might be interest in this month's issue of The Atlantic Monthly which has a substantial article on Dock Boggs by William Hogeland, part of which deals with the origins of clawhammer, etc. Very interesting (for a non-banjoist, anyway)

Yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Jon W.
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 01:16 PM

Well, now I have no doubt but that the true origins of the banjo are so lost in the mists of time that we'll never really know. Actually, the short high-pitched drone string seems so illogical to me (although that's the part that makes banjo playing so fun) that I wonder how it ever got added - perhaps, therefore, it couldn't have originated from anyone so steeped in Western civilization as I am, and presumably Joel W. Sweeney was. Can anyone cite examples of short drone strings on any other Western instrument? Or on the other hand, Eastern instruments? I have a hunch the number of Eastern examples wins in a landslide.

As far as playing jigs etc. on 5-string, the book I am currently learning from, "Basic Clawhammer Banjo" by Ken Perlman, has a few jigs, slip jigs, slides, as well as hornpipes and even a couple of 3/4 tunes. I have so far just learned on of the jigs and found it not much harder than the other pieces I learned from the book - but that's probably because I cheat (I up-pick with my index finger most of the time).


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 02:08 AM

Yeah, that is a great post Bob.

Mick: I have never seen a 12 string banjo, but wherever it was that I read about six string ones being used by guitar players to "cut" through a band. The twelve-string ones were mentioned as used for the same purpose.

Art: Catherine must have been greater than I imagined!

Murray


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 26 Oct 98 - 11:17 PM

bit o' history! The banjo was actually invented as an IUD for Catherine the Great.


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Big Mick
Date: 26 Oct 98 - 08:28 PM

Great post, but am I the only person who has seen the 12 string version? And does anyone know if there is a specific name for the flat pick style of playing the banjo?

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Songbob
Date: 26 Oct 98 - 12:48 PM

The plectrum banjo does NOT predate the five-string, having been introduced for the banjo-band craze of the late 1800s-early 1900s. Joe Hickerson once showed me an ad from, I think, 1909, for a five-string banjo with a special hook which you slipped the fifth string under (also slipping it to the side of the bridge) so as to drop it out of the plane of the other strings for plectrum use. The plectrum banjo is typically tuned like the "classical" banjo, CGBD (low to high), and is a melody instrument in the classic banjo band.

The tenor banjo, developed around 1910-15 (as a commercially-made instrument), has 17 or 19 (not 20) frets, and is tuned like a cello (CGDA). It is primarily a chordal instrument (and I seem to remember that Eddy Peabody played lots of chord-melody, so my guess is he played a tenor). Use of it by Irish musicians for melody is an example of the "dog walking on hind legs" syndrome (it's not that he does it well, but that he does it at all) -- the plectrum is actually a much better melody instrument than the tenor, but the tenor is what gets used. (Probably a supply-and-demand thing there; tenors are a dime a dozen and plectrums are pretty rare).

The five-string banjo, which passed into white use about 1830-40, was one of many kinds of banjo-like instruments found among African slaves and freed blacks in the 1750-1850 period. Some evidence exists that the fifth string that Joel Sweeney supposedly "added" was, in fact, the low (4th) string, and the thumb string -- chanter -- was already in wide use among African banjo players. The non-use of the fifth string in some musics, like in Australia, probably relates to the prevalence of the 6/8 and 9/8 celtic-based tune in those areas. It's hard to play jigs on a five-string, especially if one uses the down-picking "Clawhammer" style of southern US players. I hold, in fact, that that difficulty is one reason that southern fiddle players don't have very many jigs, strathspeys, or hornpipes -- played in the original time signatures -- in their repertoires. Accompaniment by the banjo, the most common fiddle accompaniment instrument in the south, was difficult, so the tunes got dropped or turned into reels.

Anyway, that's what I know about the various banjos (the guitar banjo and banjo-mandolin, which have been mentioned, were a part of that late-19th-Century period of experimentation with banjo-like instruments I cited earlier). I have a bunch of the things (several fives, one tenor -- but no plectrums, and no electrics -- a six and an eight, and a couple of banjo-ukes), but tend toward guitar and mandolin these days. Haven't found any in the trash, either, nor bought any on eBay (actually, I did, but it was for my sister in Iowa).

There, have I covered all the significant sub-threads in this one?

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Ole Bull
Date: 24 Oct 98 - 10:27 PM

Jon W. The reason I stated 1842 is because after that point there is no question about what the Banjo configuation was. Yes, Sweeney predates the Virginia Minstrels but to When?? I don't consider the info on that web-page to be a good de-bunk. The point has been oft repeated but I wonder if those who do have looked at that plantation painting mentioned. I've seen it and it doesn't for sure look definately like it's most certainly a drone string to me! I find it questionable, not real proof. Maybe somebody had it "computer image enhanced"....


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 22 Oct 98 - 09:19 PM

About egg banjos. I almost forgot about them. We had an egg banjo in our house where I grew up. It consists of a round metal frame with thin metal wires strung across it and this mechanism has a handle. (So it looks like a banjo.) You push a hard-boiled egg through it, over the wires, and the egg gets sliced.

Now somebody is going to tell me a plectrum banjo is for slicing hard-boiled plectrums (or should I say plectra.)

Murray


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Jerry
Date: 22 Oct 98 - 04:23 PM

Jon,

I learned this chantey from Joanna Colcord's collection "Roll and Go" which is devoted to American chanteys. The only recording I know of is a disc by Forebitter, a chantey group based at Mystic Seaport Museum. They've released an anthology of American chanteys. You can contact them at craig@mystic.org.

Here are all the verses I know:

Today is the day we pick on the banjo. Dance, gal, gimme the banjo! Oh, that banjo, that 7-string banjo. Dance, gal, gimme the banjo! Oh, that banjo, that talla talla wango. Dance...

When I was just one and twenty Dance... I had gals and money a-plenty. Dance... Oh, that banjo, that talla talla wango. Dance... (these two lines repeat at the end of each verse)

I was sent to school to be a scholar. My collar was tight and I could not swaller.

That's my book there on the table, You can read it if you are able.

I think Stan Hugill gives a version in his Shanties of the Seven Seas. I don't know how to do tunes on this rig yet, so I can't help you there. The books and the recording can supply that for you.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Bill D
Date: 22 Oct 98 - 01:41 PM

since I know nothing about banjos except what I glean fron banjo playing friends, I did not open this thread...but in the 'Cat I KNOW that any 70 message thread has GOT to have interesting stuff, I bit...and, though I enjoyed the byplay, I find I can make only one contribution....waaaaayyyy back up there ^ was a mention of Heinlein and the "Stranger in a Strange Land" book...and the correct name of the 'hero' was

Valentine Michael Smith (first paragraph, I think)

Bill D...(nearly too old to be a child of the '60s, but still heavily under their influence)


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Ritchie
Date: 22 Oct 98 - 11:32 AM

Well a fried egg sandwich here is some times known as an Egg Banjo !

Why?

Well (this is gonna take some explaining but here goes)

Stand in front of a mirror , pretend that you are eating a fried egg sandwich with your left hand..

Whoops , what always happens ? yes the yolk has broke and squirted on to your chest ..damn

Right move the sandwich to your left side and with your right hand quickly rub away the egg from your chest.

There you’ve got the answer....An Egg Banjo....Hee Hee Hee

love and happiness Ritchie


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Jon W.
Date: 22 Oct 98 - 10:47 AM

Jerry, any chance you could post more info on that song - any recordings available? Can you post the rest of the lyrics and the tune?


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Jerry
Date: 22 Oct 98 - 10:38 AM

There's a traditional chantey, of African-American origin, called "Dance Gals, Gimme the Banjo" that has these lines:

Today is the day we pick on the banjo/ Dance gal, gimme the banjo/ Oh, that banjo, that 7-string banjo/ Dance Gal, gimme the banjo/ Oh, that banjo, that talla talla wango/ Dance gal, gimme the banjo.

I love the onomatopoeia in that verse, and imagine a 7-string banjo sounds a lot like that.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 21 Oct 98 - 07:13 PM

G'day all,

I have also seen the odd seven-string banjo ... six guitar-like stings plus a drone. I saw one in the hands of a Canadian singer visiting Sydney back in the 1960s and I also noted that in a book The Diary of Charlie Hammond (?)(a facsimile of a late 19th / early 20th century illustrated diary of a young artist who moved between England, New Zealand and Australia) when his brother, who had been in the RCMP, visits he has a seven-stringer.

I presume the drawings are accurate as Charlie was a skilled artist (who did reportage illustrations for newspapers), a musician (autoharp, guitar and uke in one photograph of his studio) and a skilled photographer (he was the first to take action photographs of horse-racing in Australia).

The Canadian I met used guitar chords with a thumb-played drone. There must have been a lot of interchange across body types and stringings: occasionally I play a tenor guitar, the four strings of which can be tuned like a banjo instead of the four highest of the guitar, depending one the player's preference.

What was it they said about banjo tunings "... there are as many mountain banjo tunings as there are mountain banjo players ..."?

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: murray@mcpe.mq.edu.au
Date: 21 Oct 98 - 06:21 AM

Actually I might have found an answer to my question. There was a thread in RMMA about six-string guitars. It was said that they were played by guitar players in the 20s and 30s who wanted to get more volume than they could from the existing guitars--same for 12 string ones.

Murray


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 20 Oct 98 - 10:16 AM

Are they tuned like guitars, Bill. (I imagine the can be, but are they?)

Murray


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Bill in Alabama
Date: 20 Oct 98 - 06:33 AM

The Deering Banjo Company in California has been manufacturing six-string banjos for many years. They also manufacture an electric banjo called the crossfire; Bela Fleck performs with one.


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 19 Oct 98 - 09:26 PM

Jerry, I had a friend who tuned his guitar like a lute (don't ask me what that is!) so he could play ancient lute tablature. He tended to appologize for it until he read in some book that it was a practice in the seventeenth century. Then he not only became guilt-free; but he bragged about it!

Murray


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Jerry
Date: 19 Oct 98 - 10:56 AM

Noel,

Yer the first one in this entire thread to mention tuning the plectrum banjo like a guitar. I acquired a tenor banjo some time ago, and being too lazy to learn new chords, I tuned it guitar-like (feeling semi-guilty for not honoring the tenor banjo tradition). I was delighted to be told at one point that a banjo tuned my way had a name of it's own. Very few folks, it seems, have heard of a plectrum banjo.

So now I sing on merrily, secure and guilt-free as I accompany meself on my plucky plectrum.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: BSeed
Date: 18 Oct 98 - 01:44 AM


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Big Mick
Date: 18 Oct 98 - 01:29 AM

Hi Murray, Yes, they were in courses like a twelve string guitar.

All the best, Mick


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 17 Oct 98 - 08:06 PM

Were all twelve strings independent, Mick, or were they tuned as courses (like on a 12-string guitar)?

Murray


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Big Mick
Date: 17 Oct 98 - 12:39 PM

I was at a local historical tourist sight, Bowens Mills, and they had a mountain man rendevous, and a hammer dulcimer club. One of the supporting musicians was playing a 12 string banjo. The sound was very unique. It looked like a 12 string guitar neck and a banjo body. Is this just something that someone "cobbled together" or is it an accepted instrument with a history?

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 17 Oct 98 - 04:45 AM

That is an interesting site Jon.

Today I saw a six-string banjo in a shop in the same neighborhood whre I saw the plectrum. I guess they (the 6-string ones) were made for guitarists.(?)

The only thing I never see here is a five-string.

Murray


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Jon W.
Date: 16 Oct 98 - 06:31 PM

Ole Bull, you proved my point. Note that the comment I made above was about a 5-string banjo which was supposed to have been developed in by Joel Walker Sweeney in 1830 in America (Apottomax VA as I recall), which predates your 1842 documentation. I have seen the Sweeney story cited in several banjo books, sometimes as fact, sometimes as conjecture.
Here is a web page of banjo history that debunks the Sweeney story.

Jon W.


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Ole Bull
Date: 16 Oct 98 - 05:41 PM

Banjo history is not so sketchy as the one (way above) thinks. Wheras traders and explorers of the 17th century made note in their journals of African banjo-like instruments (with any number of strings) the first documented true American banjo (which began the craze) from about 1842 on had five strings, one being the short chanterelle. About 1860 and later come all the other variants.


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: BSeed
Date: 15 Oct 98 - 10:34 PM

Another of my missing posts: A couple of days ago I posted a note in response to Bob Bolton's post about the electric banjo that didn't sound like a banjo. Alison Brown plays kind of a bluegrass/jazz fusion on a couple of banjos that have microphones under the drum. The drum, vibrating sympathetically with the strings, produces the sound of the banjo. Alison's banjo sounds like a banjo; I heard her play in front of a music store in Berkeley, with her combo (herself, a keyboard, an electric bass, and a drummer). An electric guitar with magnetic pickups doesn't sound like a wooden guitar, either. A wooden guitar with a magnetic pickup doesn't sound like a wooden guitar, either. But one with a mike pickup inside the body does. The sound comes from the body, not the strings. --seed (more off-the-top-of-my-head pontificating; wait until Gargoyle reads this!) --seed


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Noel Induni
Date: 15 Oct 98 - 08:11 PM

The plectrum banjo is a 4 string banjo. It has 22 frets. The standard tuning is CGDB but is often tuned like the 1st 4 strings of a guitar. It is used predominately for Dixieland Jazz or solo banjo playing. Probably the most famous plectrum banjo player was Eddie Peabody. I suspect that among most banjo players Perry Bechtel would be favored in terms of ability although he was not the showman that Peabody was. If you want more information about 4 string banjos in general check out the links on http://homepages.together.net/~induni/4string.htm

Noel


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 15 Oct 98 - 02:14 AM

G'day Murray,

The Book is called Band in a Waistcoat Pocket and the Larrikin 2 CD set has the same name and matching artwork - they are designed as a set and were launched together. I don't have the cassettes here but I'm fairly sure they have another, more generic name (like Australian Harmonica Players). I also seem to remember that that have a double credit - the recordings are on Ray's Bush Lark label and the whole package is retailed under Australian Harmonica History Association or similar.

I'll probably be calling in on Ray, at Blaxland, on my way up to Clarence, in the Blue Mountains, tomorrow and I will see what is still available and refresh my memory on details and prices. I am in the final throes of organising a free camping weekend, [23]/24/25 October for the Bush Music Club at a friend's property (up the hill, opposite the Zig Zag Railway).

I might post this to your new site as well ... and leave this one to Plectrum Banjos (remember them?).

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 14 Oct 98 - 06:37 AM

Bob, that post about Australian-style harmonica deserves its own thread. I am going to start a thread with just a reference to that.

Let me get this straight. Is there another book besides "Band in a Waistcoat Pocket" or does the 4 CD set have that name?

Murray


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 13 Oct 98 - 07:05 PM

G'day even yet again Murray,

Back onto the topic: I mentioned this thread and the Gibson EPB at Backblocks practice last night.

Bob Foggin, who plays my bush music arrangements on fiddle (as long as you restrain him from playing schmaltzy 30s stuff on uke ... or mouthorgan ... or fiddle) believes he has handled and played the same instrument - and owns a copy - one of several made in Sydney by the previous owner.

He has played his copy 'EPB' in local churches and describes it (and the original) as sounding a bit like an Hawaiian guitar. To round out the sound, he added a phaser and says the result is quite interesting for church music (but not very much like a banjo!). They did a bit of experimenting to get a better banjo sound from the electric instrument ... different pickups etcetera but it is hard for it not to be a 4-string electric guitar - for banjoists. There is only one set of pickups and this is fairly limiting.

I also looked at Diagram's World book of Musical Instruments and found illustrations of the full range of banjo band instruments ... Tenor Banjo, Plectrum Banjo and Bass Banjo - about 1.6 metres of monster 4-stringer with a 60 cm head! Just the thing for duos with those Mexican acoustic bass guitars that look as if they are designed to be played by three men and a boy.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Big Mick
Date: 13 Oct 98 - 07:07 AM

Fantastic piece of the history, Bob. Stuff like this just keeps me coming back to the Cat.

All the very best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 13 Oct 98 - 03:44 AM

Dang ...

Maybe I should not use angle brackets to highlight URLs - presumably they mean something else entirely in HTML!

Australian Bush Music Wongawilli Style is at: http://wollongong.starway.net.au/~gsmurray/index.html#contents.

This is a site with loads of its own material, as well as links to many other interesting Australian sites.

Re-gards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 13 Oct 98 - 03:33 AM

G'day Murray,

Now we are really of topic - again!

It was the matter of "Australian", or at least traditional style mouthorgan that was the subject of the conversation that ultimately led to Ray's book A Band in a Waistcoat Pocket. Ray and I both played in "Rouseabouts Bush Band" in the early 70s (rather earlier than Ray's recollection in that opening sentence!).

After a practice at Greycliffe House, Ray (who played flute) asked me about my full vamping style and I said that I had learned a lot from three 78 rpm records that the collector John Meredith had played to me (and I had taped) in 1967. The artist was named as "P.C. Spouce - Mouthorgan Champion of Australia" - a later record adding the years "1927 - 1935".

Ray's reply was something of an Australian classic: "My wife's grandmother's second husband was named Percy Spouse ... and he used to play the mouthorgan and he won some contests. I wonder if it was the same bloke?" Well, it turned out that it was ... his widow Gerty was still alive and living at Budgewoi, so I interviewed her about Percy. I wrote an article for Mulga Wire and left it at that, but she had a stroke not long after.

Ray and I had brought back memories of Percy's playing and she lamented, in the hospital, that she no longer had any of his records to play, having lent them to some relative who did not bother to return them. Ray chased those I had heard, now with a person in Canberra and got them lodged with the Film & Sound Archive ... them chased the remaining seven records all round Australia, New Zealand and Norfolk Island!

These were filtered by the Sound Archive, remastered and released by Ray as an LP P.C. Spouce - Mouthorgan Champion of Australia. The National Library then asked Ray to write a book on mouthorgan players in Australia, since his researches had covered the whole area so thoroughly ... and they promised to help get it published.

Of course, by the time Ray finished the book, governments had come and gone, funding had gone and gone and we came close to privately publishing, but at last he got a mainstream publisher, Kangaroo Press.

The book is possibly still in print - certainly Ray has copies and there is an accomanying 2 CD set, of the same name, from Larrikin Records as well as a 4 cassette set from Ray's label Bush Lark. The last cassette contains material not on the CDs - Ray's field recordings of old competition players doing their competition sets ... wondrous stuff!

Now, all this includes the original ten 78s of Percy Spouse, who was the finest player of true vamping style I have ever heard. He plays the melody accompanied with rhythmic chords made by controlled lifts of the tongue, below the melody hole, but also uses gapped chords (3rds, 5ths and octaves) by cunning control of the angle and placement of the lift. He clearly arranged and controlled the harmony line to improve on the simple Richter scheme's "automatic" harmony and does all this at full speed and with impeccable rhythm.

If you only have the book, you should at least get the CD - and preferably the set of 4 cassettes. The styles you will hear are what was popular and traditional in the late 1800s and early 1900s - before the jazz era and the chromatic harmonica of Larry Adler (who, incidentally, launched the book!). It is a rich, powerful, harmonic music - fully capable of feature solos and veritably A Band in a Waistcoat Pocket.

It is not the only way to play mouthorgan, but it is what the old players aspired to. When Dave de Hugard did a collecting trip in south western Queensland (~1974) - mainly concerned with style of traditional dances and music - he ran into a number of old mouthorgan players and recorded them.

I have a copy of the best of that material and can recognise most of it as being attempts to copy Percy Spouse's competion (and recorded) sets. Percy did for solo mouthorgan contests what Walter Lindrum did for billiards contests ... completely destroyed them! If Percy turned up for a contest, everyone else gave up. They knew they just couldn't beat him (especially playing sets they had copied from his records!)and the contest scene quickly became band oriented, with no more solo contests for years after.

If you want additional material on Australian traditional mouthorgan players, there is a very nice cassette from Wongawilli / Carrawobbity / Pioneer Performers Press of the playing of Bert Jamieson (who died just a year or two back), playing at 91 years of age - blind, severely asthmatic and confined to a home, but still playing 6 hours a day .. he probably kept those lungs going for a half dozen years longer than a non-player - and he played beautifully.

There is an accompanying monograph with a range of his tunes for a paltry A$4 (at least that was the price last time I looked). Check their site at: .

I hope this helps with you harp playing - perhaps this should be placed in a separate thread, but I have answered it where the query came up.

Sorry about all the bored banjoists out there (Yes ... really ... don't I look sorry?).

Regards,

Bob Bolton

PS - Sorry if this is a double-posting. My machine just collapsed haemorrhaging from the task of transferring all those words. I had to re-start the transfer.

RB


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 12 Oct 98 - 08:06 PM

My brother-in-law lives in Phoenix, Arizona. There the streets are on a grid, but they are discontinuous. If you want to get to Blah-Blah Street, you have to know what segment of the grid if lies on.

Now (almost) back to the subject. I am learning to play the harmonica. Is there an Australian style? Grieve really doesn't get into it. At the moment I am trying play some of the songs in "The Bushwackers Australian Songbook" but just straight outharp with no harmony.

Murray


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 12 Oct 98 - 07:39 PM

G'day Murray,

To drift completely off topic ... you may have identified an Australian Cultural Oddity - the tendency for roads to change name (and street numbering) at every municipal boundary whilst keeping a spare name hidden up the sleeve: e.g. City Road, Darlington / King Street, Newtown (all Princes Highway).

All this must seem very foreign to Americans who can have an avenue ... with street numbers in the mid thousands!

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Frank in the swamps
Date: 12 Oct 98 - 05:48 AM

Well, if we MUST post on topic...

Any of you banjo players who can get to Edinburgh (Embro), two years ago there was a used book store not far from the grassmarket, past some seedy strip bar, that had a HUGE collection of sheet music downstairs, including a whole box of banjo music I would describe as "parlour music". That is, music from the 1890's through early twentieth century. Duets for banjo & piano, two banjoes, banjo & mandolin, solo material. It was a real treasure trove, I kick myself in the backside now for not snagging it (though I'm not a banjo man). If you're nearby it's certainly worth having a look see if any of it can still be found. My Lady Fair got a lot of violin music there.

An acquaintance of mine plays the tuba. His father recently gave him an instrument he found out bye the street curb, it had been used as a garden planter. Turned out to be an excellent (and expensive) piece of work, it is being rebuilt. Talk about one man's trash being another man's treasure!

Frank who groks the tall timber down by Gun lake.


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 12 Oct 98 - 04:55 AM

Bob. It was that banjo that I saw that caused me to make this posting. I had passed the shop quickly and didn't realize it was an electric banjo. I was back there today and saw it in more detail. By the way, it is called King Street there in Newtown.

Murray


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 12 Oct 98 - 02:06 AM

Er G'day again! The moving finger writes and, having writ,
Reads not but witless ... strikes “Submit ...”
And not all my profanity (much less wit)
Can lure it back to cancel half a word: - Oh ...!

Yeah, well sorry about the typo ... and the miss(plac)ed slash in the HTML ... failing to cancel the bolding.

Hey Max - while you are working on that spell checker ... can you devise an HTML previewer?

Also, to the phantom poster of the McClure Phillips' Music Lover's Encyclopedia; a banjo playing friend showed me some old (~1890s) English sheet music for the banjo - with arrangements for instruments of 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11 strings!

Regard(les)s,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: BSeed
Date: 12 Oct 98 - 01:21 AM

Gargoyle, the total on-topic material on this thread is contained in about twelve postings (two of them mine). I used to be an educator--now I'm just a teacher--of (or if we must be pedantic, in) photography --seed


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 12 Oct 98 - 01:15 AM

G'day all ...

1/ Murray:

I must admit that I am the mouthorgan player that shared a mike (in a very primitive PA ... a six channel mixer for about 9 players ... and the leader kept 2 channels for his concertina!) with Ray Grieve for a few years and clearly turned his mind, sufficiently that he spent years researching ... and years more getting published the definitive book on mouthorgan players in Australia.

Mind you, Ray doesn't even play the dammed instrument!

2/ Banjos in Garbage bins.

My older brother (who, admittedly, already played the banjo ... a 5-stringer without the fifth string, but not supplied that way) found a very nice old English 5-stringer in his garbage bin ... not long before his wife left him.

3/ Really Rare Banjos

a few days after first reading this thread, I looked into a secondhand shop on City Road, Newtown (south of Sydney) where there are often interesting old instruments. Actually I pulled up to investigate the strange object that looked like a completely wooden banjo.

It was! A full wooden body, in rather flashy veneer, ... four strings and an electromagnetic pickup. The sign says that it was a Gibson EPB (Electric Plectrum Banjo) ... one of only 18 ever made. The neck was full 5-stringer length but had no bulge or plugged peg hole - therefore made expressly as a Plectrum Banjo.

An artifact of the meso-banjoic era when the banjo bands evolved into jazz bands (or were eaten buy them ... or some such Darwinian fate)?

Does life copy the Mudcat?

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: gargoyle
Date: 12 Oct 98 - 12:19 AM

And You Call Yourself an "Educator?"

Blast it BS....there you...I....go again

I've fallen for another of your "pitfalls" and posted "Off-Topic" AGAIN!!


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: BSeed
Date: 11 Oct 98 - 04:29 AM

Gargoyle--So I got the first name wrong. I didn't go back to the book to look it up; it was just a guessing game, not scholarship, for god's sake. --seed


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: BSeed
Date: 11 Oct 98 - 04:12 AM

Jazz banjo is what the usual pizza palace banjo band plays, using plectrae. Irish banjo (Seamus Egan) is another plectrum style. --seed


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 11 Oct 98 - 03:06 AM

In all this banter, Mick's last question wasn't answered. What is the style of playing banjo with a flatpick called?

Murray


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From:
Date: 11 Oct 98 - 12:30 AM

Banjo players may find this amusing.
From:
Music Lover's Encyclopedia By:
Rupert Hughes and Deems Taylor
Copyright:
1903 by McClure Phillips & Company

Plectrum= A small bit of ivory, metal or shell for plucking the strings of mandolins etc.

Banjo=A long-necked stringed instrument with a broad, round body, covered with a tight skin, which gives the five to nine strings a quaint sound.


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: gargoyle
Date: 11 Oct 98 - 12:19 AM

Dear BS

Perhaps, it because we are so alike, and yet so very distant that raises the hackles on my neck.
(Half right, almost full, 3/4 there, off topic)

From the following excerpt you will note that there are many names for "Mr. Smith," "Mike Smith" they range from "Man from Mars" to "bastard"

Stranger In a Strange Land

By Robert A. Heinlain

"We have just learned that the fake messiah, sometimes know as the Man from Mars, has crawled out of his hide-out in a hotel room here in beautiful S. Petersburg the City tha Has Everything to Make you Sing. Appartently Smith is about to surrender to the authorities...."

"Look at me. I am a son of man."

"God damn you!" A half brick caught Mike in the ribs.....

"Oh my brother, I love you so! Drink deep. Share and grow closer without end. Thou art God."

"Lynch him! Give the bastard a nigger necktie!"

PLECTRUM BANJO

? ? ? ? ? ? ?

I grok you friend, but I hope no one ever uses your material for an "educational research paper."


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: BSeed
Date: 10 Oct 98 - 08:06 PM

Barbara, m'love. I just remembered his name: John Smith. That was a tough one. --seed


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: BSeed
Date: 10 Oct 98 - 08:03 PM

Grok is from Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, another of my favorite books. Grok means appreciate, dig, etc. I can't remember the name of the man from Mars, but he taught it to all his followers, who said, at the end of the book while eating a stew made from what remained of him after the mob killed him, "He groks good."

Here's another for you: "Nice, nice, very nice: so many different people in the same device." You get it and I'll reinstate my offer. love, seed


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Subject: RE: What is a Plectrum Banjo?
From: Barbara
Date: 10 Oct 98 - 05:45 PM

The only catch to this is Catch 22; I was hoping anyone with as much free time as you was independently wealthy himself...I shoulda just figured you were a musician, like the rest of us... If you're independently wealthy, you can alway HIRE a housecleaner. Yosarian wrote it when he was censoring the letters. Like Big Mick said, if you remember the '60s, you weren't there. Now, for bonus points, what is 'grok', who said it and where does it come from? Blessings,
Barbara


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