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 Playing Advice: 4-String (Jazz, Blues & Other Trad Styles)
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Western Swing banjo players


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/347541

malarz - Posted - 10/21/2018:  07:44:34


Anyone know of 4-string banjo players who played, or currently play, Western Swing/Texas fiddle rhythm accompaniment? I know of Ocie Stockard, who played mainly rhythm with Milton Browen and Bob Wills and then leading his own band, and Smokey Montgomery. The Texas fiddler Eck Roberston also was accompanied by tenor banjo on his early recordings.

From my reading it appears that banjo players switched to guitar as soon as drums came into the bands.

Thanks for any names or links to videos or recordings.

Ken

BobTheGambler - Posted - 10/21/2018:  08:35:12


More old-time/ragtime than Western Swing, but Hugh Roden's Texas Nighthawks had a tenor banjo way out front playing melody lines and The East Texas Serenaders 78 sides all have a tenor banjo chording along with heavy strums on the back beat.

mike gregory - Posted - 10/21/2018:  08:56:13


I looked up WESTERN SWING BANDS on AOL images, found thee:



Tune Wranglers c8.alamy.com/comp/BRC395/tune-...RC395.jpg



Dave Edwards & his Alabama Boys i.ytimg.com/vi/6Jai6VZ0ANA/max...fault.jpg



Album cover, no name



 



Light Crust Doughboys rocky-52.net/photos_l/light_crust_d.jpg



Hope that helped, some.

mike gregory - Posted - 10/21/2018:  22:44:58


Of course, in the WILD days of the West, "Western Swing" was not so much a musical subgenre, as it was a way to deal with horse thieves.cheeky



Veerstryngh Thynner - Posted - 10/23/2018:  04:03:53


That branch doesn't look very sturdy though....:-)

Veerstryngh Thynner

aintbrokejustbadlybent - Posted - 10/23/2018:  06:20:27


@malarz

Hey Ken,
I knew this would be your post. Are you playing back up western swing and/or Texas fiddle on your banjo?

malarz - Posted - 10/23/2018:  06:37:19


@aintbrokejustbadlybent



Hi Mike,



trying to play in that style. Doesn’t sound as if it’s any different from the tenor guitar playing except for the stronger and more percussive sound of the banjo vs guitar. In some ways it does sound “old timey” (thanks to @BobtheGambler for pointing that out) but always with the “sock” rhythm (on the offbeat). Sometimes I hear the old time rhythm banjo stressing the “1” beat.



if you listen to the earlier recordings of Milton Brown you’ll hear solid rhythm banjo by Ocie Stockard.

aintbrokejustbadlybent - Posted - 10/23/2018:  06:47:46


@malarz

Ken,
Are you playing with anyone? I'd like to hear some samples.

malarz - Posted - 10/23/2018:  07:56:16


A fiddle player and I are trying to get it together. I’ll let you know as soon as it happens.

stanger - Posted - 10/23/2018:  09:09:54


quote:

Originally posted by malarz

Anyone know of 4-string banjo players who played, or currently play, Western Swing/Texas fiddle rhythm accompaniment? I know of Ocie Stockard, who played mainly rhythm with Milton Browen and Bob Wills and then leading his own band, and Smokey Montgomery. The Texas fiddler Eck Roberston also was accompanied by tenor banjo on his early recordings.



From my reading it appears that banjo players switched to guitar as soon as drums came into the bands.



Thanks for any names or links to videos or recordings.



Ken






 



The tenor passed through Western Swing in much the same way it did with other jazz  bands.  Some bands stuck with it for a lot longer than others, and many bands that used mostly the guitar still employed the tenor for some tunes. 



It all depended on the bandleader and who he could hire for his orchestra. The best string players were always in high demand, so they would often be stolen from one band by another. Then, when the first band grew more popular than the second, would go back again if the wages were good enough.



Some of the western swing bands in Texas and California quit the road and settled down in one ballroom as the music became widespread. Bob Wills was one, and when the Texas Playboys were younger, his brother played the banjo and the guitar in the band, and occasionally, 2 banjos were used, or 2 guitars. Wills preferred the sound of the piano to the accordion, but the bands that used accordions tended to also use banjos more than guitars, as the banjo tone didn't blend into the sound of the accordion as much as a guitar.



Los Angeles was a real western swing hotbed. A lot of the best bands moved there semi-permanently because the music stayed really popular well into the 1950s. Because L.A. was both a big movie and recording center, a lot of studio musicians would moonlight in the western swing bands, playing movie scores during the day and hot swing at night. 



With so many good musicians of all kinds available, Wills was able to use a horn section for a while, and Spade Cooley used a harpist. Some of the fiddlers spent their days playing semi-classical violin movie scores, so the fiddling lost some of its raw Texas edge. Other bands, like Milton Brown's Brownies, tended to stick with the early western swing, the sound of the 1930s bands.



Still others were essentially vaudeville acts that played dance music as vaudeville dried up, and the music was mostly cowboy hokum. More show entertainment than dance music.



The western swing genre's popularity lasted quite a long time in the west. The farther west, the longer it lasted. There are distinct differences in the instruments that were used in each decade of its popularity, and in the music. In the beginning, 



The tenor was almost entirely rhythm. I can't recall any lead taken on one. Fiddles, the piano, and later the steel guitar took the leads almost always, and usually in twin or 3 fiddles. 



regards,



stanger

malarz - Posted - 10/23/2018:  19:27:21


Thanks for that history.

Laurence Diehl - Posted - 10/25/2018:  12:45:13


Bill Boyd Had a popular western swing band, and carried a banjo player - Walter Kirkes

malarz - Posted - 10/31/2018:  05:03:19


Thanks to all who responded with comments and listening suggestions. Bill Boyd had at various times the banjo players Walter Kirkes, Rankin Moler and Marvin Montgomery. The banjo players mainly did play rhythm accompaniment but there are recordings where the banjo steps out with solos.

The Boyd recordings are fun. Not as sensitive to race, gender and ethnicicty as I would like them to be but many moments, both lyrical and musical, which make me laugh.

Ken

Richard Hauser - Posted - 10/31/2018:  08:24:44


In a fiddle publication I read that the great fiddler Benny Thomasson preferred being accompanied by a 4 string tenor guitar. I think I would also rather play those complex chords on a 4 string tenor banjo than a regular guitar.

malarz - Posted - 10/31/2018:  08:59:44


Yes. His son Jerry was the master of Texas fiddle accompaniment on tenor guitar.

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