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Jan 25, 2021 - 5:40:21 PM
171 posts since 12/29/2020

sorry if my thread is similar to my last one but I have known the instrument has origins in West Africa (the part of africa slaves in the southern U.S came from). However why is it rarely used in black-american music (ie rap/hip hop, soul, jazz/blues etc.) I understand their are some black banjoists such as the Carolina Chocolate Drops or some black ragtime banjoists. However in GENERAL why has the banjo been adopted by Scots/Irish/white-southern culture and "abandoned" in black culture in favor for jazz/blues guitars? (FAR more black jazz/blues guitarists than banjoists)

-anyone know black history? and why the banjo completely "switched" cultures like that.

Jan 25, 2021 - 5:48:33 PM
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KCJones

USA

1351 posts since 8/30/2012

First: Define "African American music today". While you do that, here's some thoughts...

To be honest, you could ask the same question about nearly any instrument for any ethnicity.

Banjos are not really used in any modern genre, in any location. It is reserved for niche genres (bluegrass, old time, irish).

I disagree with your assertion that the banjo has been adopted by "white" culture. The vast majority of all people, of all races, listen to music that does not contain any musical instruments at all. It's pretty much all synth and keyboards nowadays, across all genres. Even "country music" nowadays features very little actual instrumentation. 

I don't know much about the history of music, so I'll leave that to the experts. But frankly, in modern times, I don't think you can find any examples of the banjo being used in truly popular music. 

Also, I think it's silly to put "jazz/blues/rap/hiphop" in the "black music" category. Those styles are universally popular across all ethnicities. Rap specifically is the most popular genre in the world, across all ethnicities. 

Edited by - KCJones on 01/25/2021 17:49:28

Jan 25, 2021 - 5:59:46 PM

171 posts since 12/29/2020

quote:
Originally posted by KCJones

First: Define "African American music today". While you do that, here's some thoughts...

To be honest, you could ask the same question about nearly any instrument for any ethnicity.

Banjos are not really used in any modern genre, in any location. It is reserved for niche genres (bluegrass, old time, irish).

I disagree with your assertion that the banjo has been adopted by "white" culture. The vast majority of all people, of all races, listen to music that does not contain any musical instruments at all. It's pretty much all synth and keyboards nowadays, across all genres. Even "country music" nowadays features very little actual instrumentation. 

I don't know much about the history of music, so I'll leave that to the experts. But frankly, in modern times, I don't think you can find any examples of the banjo being used in truly popular music. 

Also, I think it's silly to put "jazz/blues/rap/hiphop" in the "black music" category. Those styles are universally popular across all ethnicities. Rap specifically is the most popular genre in the world, across all ethnicities. 


how come in "old school" black music I never hear banjos? plus hip/hop/jazz/blues has strong black influences heck many blacks I know take pride in their cultural influence in those music genres. I mean music is not tied to an ethnicity, however it is safe to say jazz/hip hop is not chinese music lol

Jan 25, 2021 - 6:10:21 PM
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5954 posts since 9/21/2007

I'll take a guess and say that these photos of professional banjoists have (at least in part) something to do with it...

You could also check out "coon songs".  

So, again, I recommend reading Roots and Branches.  After you get done with that, I've got a pile of other reading for you.  One we get you caught up with the recent stuff, I'll send you down the path of primary documentation. 

But please understand that you are starting to come off like a troll.  The questions you are asking have been explored and are currently being explored.  But the way you are asking them seems to be an attempt to stir up trouble.  

The history of the banjo, from about 1840+ is basically one filled with constant racism.

Jan 25, 2021 - 6:18:12 PM

171 posts since 12/29/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

I'll take a guess and say that these photos of professional banjoists have (at least in part) something to do with it...

You could also check out "coon songs".  

So, again, I recommend reading Roots and Branches.  After you get done with that, I've got a pile of other reading for you.  One we get you caught up with the recent stuff, I'll send you down the path of primary documentation. 

But please understand that you are starting to come off like a troll.  The questions you are asking have been explored and are currently being explored.  But the way you are asking them seems to be an attempt to stir up trouble.  

The history of the banjo, from about 1840+ is basically one filled with constant racism.

yes I am aware of black-face mistrel/racism/ and sweeney popularizing the banjo. however despite racism what stopped black people from playing the banjo in their musical culture? (i mean after the civil war they were free to play a banjo no?)

look not to be a troll but why don't you see jimmy hendrix or rappers like lil wyne/kanye west playing a banjo in their songs lol its part of their heritage. (which they should be proud of). Not trolling just genuinely curious. why does everyone get so defensive? I kinda find it interesting when a thing originates from one culture but is then abandoned or adopted by a completely different culture

Edited by - thebanjoshopper on 01/25/2021 18:34:23

Jan 25, 2021 - 7:23:09 PM
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beegee

USA

22181 posts since 7/6/2005

That is a question better-answered by sociologists than musicologists.

I once did a presentation about the banjo for a 1st grade class. As I explained about the African origins of the banjo, my words were:"The banjo was actually 'invented'(for lack of a better word) by Black people," one boy asked."Why?" much to the delight of his peers.

Many years later I appeared in the Chuck Davis African musical "Bluegrass to Brown Earth" about the evolution from the Akonting to the modern banjo. I played Bluegrass licks accompanying traditional African dance with primarily drums and chants.

Jan 25, 2021 - 11:23:44 PM
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Ciao

Mali

3116 posts since 5/15/2011

quote:
Originally posted by thebanjoshopper
quote:

look not to be a troll but why don't you see jimmy hendrix or rappers like lil wyne/kanye west playing a banjo in their songs lol its part of their heritage. (which they should be proud of). Not trolling just genuinely curious. why does everyone get so defensive? I kinda find it interesting when a thing originates from one culture but is then abandoned or adopted by a completely different culture


Perhaps for the same reason not every American musician whose ancestors hail from Germany are playing the button accordion?

Jan 26, 2021 - 12:16:19 AM
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1597 posts since 7/4/2009

The banjo is also rarely used in Euro- and Anglo-American music today. (Scots, Irish, and Southern are all three different things. There is some overlap, obviously, but you keep acting as if they're synonymous.)

I agree with Joel that you're starting to sound like a troll, or at least a little kid playing the "why?" game. "After the Civil War, they were free to play the banjo, no?" is ignorant bordering on offensive. The negative stereotypes associating Black people with the banjo persisted long after the Civil War, and haven't entirely disappeared today.

There's also the fact that musical styles go in and out of fashion quickly, and by the time the African-American community's music began to be documented on records, the records were being made by a younger generation for whom the banjo would sort of been the equivalent of what polkas and schottisches were to a hip teenager playing rock and roll in the 1950s. Sam Chatmon of the Mississippi Sheiks, when interviewed about the songs his father played, mentioned fiddle tunes like "Can't Get the Saddle on the Old Grey Mule" and "Little Liza Jane." It was of the previous generation; just as some young musicians want to play "dad music" today, then, as now, plenty were more interested in newer, hipper styles. (Though I remember reading somewhere that the Sheiks, in addition to their blues repertoire, did play fiddle tunes in that style when hired to play for white audiences at dances and parties, which is another example of how versatile these musicians could be, and how what they recorded was often not what they actually played.)

"how come in 'old school' black music I never hear banjos?"

In addition to the fact that the banjo had fallen out of favor with African-Americans by the time they began to record in large numbers (the 1920s), there are also the selective processes of both commercial recording companies, who were pretty uninterested in letting Black artists record anything but blues, (the same was true for other styles. There were Italian bands to record Italian music, and so Black stringband musicians like Charlie McCoy or Howard Armstrong's repertoire of Neapolitan mandolin pieces went unrecorded) and folklorists.

Jimmie Strothers was a Black banjo player and singer who was recorded in 1936. Born in 1883, he was one of the oldest rural African-American players to be documented on records, and stylistically his repertoire tends to reach back from before the blues era and includes many songs that sound more like Euro-American country music.

You may also want to check out the CD Altamont - Black Stringband Music from the Library of Congress.

Asking why Jimi Hendrix didn't and why Kanye West doesn't use the banjo is ridiculous. Since according to you the banjo "changed cultures," then Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eminem should feature the banjo prominently.
 

I just want to add that KCJones' assertion that synths and keyboards are somehow not actual instruments can't be taken seriously by anyone who's not a musical Luddite.

Edited by - UncleClawhammer on 01/26/2021 00:27:31

Jan 26, 2021 - 4:23:28 AM
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Paul R

Canada

13886 posts since 1/28/2010

For one: Same reason why bell bottoms become popular and then fade - fashion. African Americans/Canadians dropped blues when soul came along. Why stick with something when it's no longer popular? How many Black blues players are around today? How many Sixties-style soul singers? Trends change. Why should Black musicians be stuck in the same musical milieu?

It seems that white people tend to fill the void - banjo players, blues guitarists, soul singers, and even rappers now. This displacement sees people looking to break new ground. I'd like to see more black banjoists, but that's not my/our decision.

Jan 26, 2021 - 4:41:29 AM

KCJones

USA

1351 posts since 8/30/2012

quote:
Originally posted by UncleClawhammer

 

I just want to add that KCJones' assertion that synths and keyboards are somehow not actual instruments can't be taken seriously by anyone who's not a musical Luddite.


I didn't mean actual keyboards and synthesizers. I'm referring specifically to "laptop music" aka "Fruityloops-style" synth beats and sampling, assembled like Lego to make "songs". I'm referring to "bands" that go on tour that are actually just one person and their laptop. I stand by my opinion that assembling notes on a digital music sheet, basically advanced tablature writing, and using synthesized sample tones to give that tablature sound, is not the same as playing a musical instrument.

Obviously, keyboards are instruments. To imply I stated they weren't is simply absurd. I stated modern pop music is mostly synth and keyboards, and features little instrumentation beyond that. When the entire studio setup consists of a laptop and 32-key keyboard, and I think it's fair to say there's not a lot of instrumentation. When the "live concert" version of music consists of a producer pressing 'Play' and a team of dancers standing behind a single lead singer, I think it's fair to say that there isn't a lot of instrumentation in a song. 

Jan 26, 2021 - 4:49:04 AM
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2746 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

Copyright laws were supposed to generate innovation. Unfortunately, music became profitable. Money and Law changes music styles.

If music is played with banjos, the black musician played on something different and a different beat. This was so he could feed his family. That is provided people other than his family like the music.

PBS did a fine presentation on Music. It wasn’t until after jazz/blues/hiphop became profitable that record companies picked the winners. Equal protection is now enforced.

The interesting item is music has no boundaries. Anyone can either like it or leave it. To play it for profit is where the boundary exists. Writers, musicians, and bands want their cut of the profits.

But music is for the moment. To have it with us means to either play it or buy it. Having it means any instrument can be used.

However, the banjo is limited to 5 strings. The guitar has 6. Some songs sound better on the guitar than banjo, because of the lower register of notes available with a guitar.

A recent video was posted of a person playing Jimmie Hendrix’s Voodoo Child. It sound like a banjo. Those missing registers of notes left it hollow. Substitutions were used to mimic Jimmie’s play. But, I can see why the banjo wasn’t used.

No. The banjo is limited to the number of notes it has. To do more than the banjo requires a different instrument. Back to money and law, being different means being able to create different music. The banjo is forgotten and the guitar took over. This happened in the 1920’s. Over 100 years ago the shift became a fixed genre of types of profitable music.

Jan 26, 2021 - 6:10:23 AM
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171 posts since 12/29/2020

quote:
Originally posted by UncleClawhammer

The banjo is also rarely used in Euro- and Anglo-American music today. (Scots, Irish, and Southern are all three different things. There is some overlap, obviously, but you keep acting as if they're synonymous.)

I agree with Joel that you're starting to sound like a troll, or at least a little kid playing the "why?" game. "After the Civil War, they were free to play the banjo, no?" is ignorant bordering on offensive. The negative stereotypes associating Black people with the banjo persisted long after the Civil War, and haven't entirely disappeared today.

There's also the fact that musical styles go in and out of fashion quickly, and by the time the African-American community's music began to be documented on records, the records were being made by a younger generation for whom the banjo would sort of been the equivalent of what polkas and schottisches were to a hip teenager playing rock and roll in the 1950s. Sam Chatmon of the Mississippi Sheiks, when interviewed about the songs his father played, mentioned fiddle tunes like "Can't Get the Saddle on the Old Grey Mule" and "Little Liza Jane." It was of the previous generation; just as some young musicians want to play "dad music" today, then, as now, plenty were more interested in newer, hipper styles. (Though I remember reading somewhere that the Sheiks, in addition to their blues repertoire, did play fiddle tunes in that style when hired to play for white audiences at dances and parties, which is another example of how versatile these musicians could be, and how what they recorded was often not what they actually played.)

"how come in 'old school' black music I never hear banjos?"

In addition to the fact that the banjo had fallen out of favor with African-Americans by the time they began to record in large numbers (the 1920s), there are also the selective processes of both commercial recording companies, who were pretty uninterested in letting Black artists record anything but blues, (the same was true for other styles. There were Italian bands to record Italian music, and so Black stringband musicians like Charlie McCoy or Howard Armstrong's repertoire of Neapolitan mandolin pieces went unrecorded) and folklorists.

Jimmie Strothers was a Black banjo player and singer who was recorded in 1936. Born in 1883, he was one of the oldest rural African-American players to be documented on records, and stylistically his repertoire tends to reach back from before the blues era and includes many songs that sound more like Euro-American country music.

You may also want to check out the CD Altamont - Black Stringband Music from the Library of Congress.

Asking why Jimi Hendrix didn't and why Kanye West doesn't use the banjo is ridiculous. Since according to you the banjo "changed cultures," then Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eminem should feature the banjo prominently.
 

I just want to add that KCJones' assertion that synths and keyboards are somehow not actual instruments can't be taken seriously by anyone who's not a musical Luddite.


That makes more sense now. Not trying to offend anybody. But if I get this right it seems overtime the banjo in the black community became "uncool"  and moved on to new instruments. (I guess like for example old fashioned music in the white community is considered "uncool" in 2021) it is an interesting phenomina when one culture gets "bored" of a "fad" or cultural practice they did and a completely different culture gets into the "fad" 

-any examples in modern america culture? like are bell bottom jeans are "uncool" now but are considered "cool" in another country/culture lol

Edited by - thebanjoshopper on 01/26/2021 06:23:00

Jan 26, 2021 - 6:15:57 AM

171 posts since 12/29/2020

deleted

Edited by - thebanjoshopper on 01/26/2021 06:29:17

Jan 26, 2021 - 6:29:54 AM

171 posts since 12/29/2020

quote:
Originally posted by thebanjoshopper
quote:
Originally posted by UncleClawhammer

The banjo is also rarely used in Euro- and Anglo-American music today. (Scots, Irish, and Southern are all three different things. There is some overlap, obviously, but you keep acting as if they're synonymous.)

I agree with Joel that you're starting to sound like a troll, or at least a little kid playing the "why?" game. "After the Civil War, they were free to play the banjo, no?" is ignorant bordering on offensive. The negative stereotypes associating Black people with the banjo persisted long after the Civil War, and haven't entirely disappeared today.

There's also the fact that musical styles go in and out of fashion quickly, and by the time the African-American community's music began to be documented on records, the records were being made by a younger generation for whom the banjo would sort of been the equivalent of what polkas and schottisches were to a hip teenager playing rock and roll in the 1950s. Sam Chatmon of the Mississippi Sheiks, when interviewed about the songs his father played, mentioned fiddle tunes like "Can't Get the Saddle on the Old Grey Mule" and "Little Liza Jane." It was of the previous generation; just as some young musicians want to play "dad music" today, then, as now, plenty were more interested in newer, hipper styles. (Though I remember reading somewhere that the Sheiks, in addition to their blues repertoire, did play fiddle tunes in that style when hired to play for white audiences at dances and parties, which is another example of how versatile these musicians could be, and how what they recorded was often not what they actually played.)

"how come in 'old school' black music I never hear banjos?"

In addition to the fact that the banjo had fallen out of favor with African-Americans by the time they began to record in large numbers (the 1920s), there are also the selective processes of both commercial recording companies, who were pretty uninterested in letting Black artists record anything but blues, (the same was true for other styles. There were Italian bands to record Italian music, and so Black stringband musicians like Charlie McCoy or Howard Armstrong's repertoire of Neapolitan mandolin pieces went unrecorded) and folklorists.

Jimmie Strothers was a Black banjo player and singer who was recorded in 1936. Born in 1883, he was one of the oldest rural African-American players to be documented on records, and stylistically his repertoire tends to reach back from before the blues era and includes many songs that sound more like Euro-American country music.

You may also want to check out the CD Altamont - Black Stringband Music from the Library of Congress.

Asking why Jimi Hendrix didn't and why Kanye West doesn't use the banjo is ridiculous. Since according to you the banjo "changed cultures," then Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eminem should feature the banjo prominently.
 

I just want to add that KCJones' assertion that synths and keyboards are somehow not actual instruments can't be taken seriously by anyone who's not a musical Luddite.


That makes more sense now. Not trying to offend anybody. But if I get this right it seems overtime the banjo in the black community became "uncool"  and moved on to new instruments. (I guess like for example old fashioned music in the white community is considered "uncool" in 2021) it is an interesting phenomina when one culture gets "bored" of a "fad" or cultural practice they did and a completely different culture gets into the "fad" 

-any examples in modern america culture? like are bell bottom jeans are "uncool" now but are considered "cool" in another country/culture lol


DELETED this post too. (sorry the site won't let me delete my damn posts)

Jan 26, 2021 - 6:48:06 AM
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56647 posts since 12/14/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Chris Meakin
quote:
Originally posted by thebanjoshopper
quote:

look not to be a troll but why don't you see jimmy hendrix or rappers like lil wyne/kanye west playing a banjo in their songs lol its part of their heritage. (which they should be proud of). Not trolling just genuinely curious. why does everyone get so defensive? I kinda find it interesting when a thing originates from one culture but is then abandoned or adopted by a completely different culture


Perhaps for the same reason not every American musician whose ancestors hail from Germany are playing the button accordion?


There were HUNDREDS of accordion players in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the early 1950's.

And then, some truck driver from Tupelo, Mississippi proved that if a fellow knew three or four guitar chords, he could attract the attention of a LOT of  women, and make some money.

Accordion sales plummeted.

Jan 26, 2021 - 7:28:42 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

9750 posts since 1/22/2003

I always thought many black banjo players abandoned the banjo, as it was too much associated with plantation life (slavery) and racist stereotypes. They switched to the guitar. White folks though adopted the banjo and kept it alive. Old-time mountain music, later "classic banjo", even later bluegrass…

Jan 26, 2021 - 7:31:07 AM
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61 posts since 11/28/2015

quote:
Originally posted by thebanjoshopper

how come in "old school" black music I never hear banjos? plus hip/hop/jazz/blues has strong black influences heck many blacks I know take pride in their cultural influence in those music genres. I mean music is not tied to an ethnicity, however it is safe to say jazz/hip hop is not chinese music lol

Beg to differ. My niche obsession is listening to an old Chinese standup comedy tradition called xiang sheng (??). Chinese is a language of homophones -words that sound alike but have different meanings (read, red), so the basis of the performance is wordplay. The history of this discipline is about as old as Old Time Music, being formally traced back to teahouse performances during the Qing Dynasty. Some performances involve rhythmic wordplay that to me have the same feel as hip hop. I am posting an example of this, mercifully edited from the original duration of 23 minutes (It's an acquired taste.) The skit is called Wu Song Fights the Tiger.

Can't say whether there are any jazz equivalents, since I no nothing about Chinese music.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Jan 26, 2021 - 8:50:46 AM

1080 posts since 1/9/2012

Some years ago, a Black neighbor and friend asked me to help her get started playing some banjo. At some point she explained that she had wanted to pick it up since she was a child, but her parents were horrified at the prospect and forbade it. The friend would be about 65 now.

Jan 26, 2021 - 12:11:17 PM

914 posts since 6/25/2006

 

Sorry its a bit off-topic but there are unique banjo traditions in different countries e.g. Algeria and Brazil.  We seem to think it's all about bluegrass or oldtime but the banjo has wings!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sj5ke_0bODk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPqg7nLhJZQ

Edited by - hobogal on 01/26/2021 12:17:15

Jan 26, 2021 - 12:44:54 PM
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7143 posts since 11/4/2005

quote:
Originally posted by davidppp

Some years ago, a Black neighbor and friend asked me to help her get started playing some banjo. At some point she explained that she had wanted to pick it up since she was a child, but her parents were horrified at the prospect and forbade it. The friend would be about 65 now.


I started playing banjo when I was 17 years old, in 1967.  For a couple of summers, a high school friend of mine got me a job working at the Cincinnati Zoo, where I worked the cash register charging admission.  I don't know about today, but back then, the area around the zoo was a predominantly black neighborhood.  So the white folks who drove in from the suburbs would generally come through the auto gate up at the northeast end of the grounds, where we had four or five registers, while the neighborhood folks and the folks who still took the bus would come in through the walk-in gate, located on Vine Street on the southwest corner, where we had only two.  We didn't see too many walk-in customers most of the day, it was pretty quiet, you wouldn't see the neighborhood folks until the end of the day, when they got off work.  So when I was posted there, I would bring my banjo to practice.  My immediate boss was an old Kentucky fellow who loved banjo, so pretty soon I would get the walk in gate most days I worked.

One day, I noticed a young kid from the neighborhood about 7 or 8 years old standing outside the window listening to me.  After two or three days he was still coming by, so finally i said to him, "You want to try my banjo?"  He nodded yes.  He gave a big smile when he brushed the strings and heard the sound up close.  The next day he was back, and I asked him if he wanted to try to learn to play something.  He nodded yes again.  So he came into the old wood frame gate house and sat in the chair next to me, and I taught him the low part of Cripple Creek, with that simple box roll and smooth 3rd string slide Earl played so well.  After about a half hour, he had it perfect.  So I told him, "Come back tomorrow and I'll teach you the second half."  He did.  Same result.  So I told said, "Come back tomorrow, I have an old banjo you can borrow." The next day, I gave him an old spun over beater I had bought in a pawn shop for about 50 bucks.  What a smile he had then, he thought he had gold.  At the end of the day, he was back, though, handing me the banjo, telling me sorrowfully, "My Daddy says no son of his is going to play the banjo."  That's how it was.  He'd be about 60 now.

Jan 26, 2021 - 2:44:45 PM

234 posts since 4/14/2014

That's a profoundly sad story, Don.

Jan 26, 2021 - 6:37:21 PM

105 posts since 9/27/2014

William Grant Still’s African American Symphony uses phrases and melodies from older folk songs. One movement features a banjo. Still was a gifted composer and had success in the music business.

Jan 27, 2021 - 12:16:26 AM
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1540 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by thebanjoshopper

look not to be a troll but why don't you see jimmy hendrix or rappers like lil wyne/kanye west playing a banjo in their songs lol its part of their heritage. (which they should be proud of). Not trolling


Looked like trollong to me. Possibly worse. My question is if you have that question why are you asking a bunch of mainly older white men?

Jan 27, 2021 - 6:48:17 AM
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3937 posts since 5/1/2003

All I have to do is to try to imagine a black banjo player trying to get into a jam session in the south in the 50s and 60s to realize why none would want to persue such.

Jan 27, 2021 - 8:33:37 AM
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KCJones

USA

1351 posts since 8/30/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Ks_5-picker

All I have to do is to try to imagine a black banjo player trying to get into a jam session in the south in the 50s and 60s to realize why none would want to persue such.


Probably the same reason there's not a lot of black otr truck drivers. Nearly every trucks stop I've been in has an entire section dedicated to confederate flags.

Jan 27, 2021 - 6:07:08 PM
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2404 posts since 4/5/2006

Haven't any of you guys ever heard of Rhiannon Giddens, & the Carolina Chocolate Drops?

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