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Nov 25, 2021 - 9:39:01 AM
99 posts since 7/31/2012

Hi all,

As part of my ongoing research, I'm analyzing pop culture depictions/references of the banjo and how those depictions/references shape perception of the instrument among the general public. Working off of this thread [https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/358826], I'm looking to expand the list as much as possible. I'm focused on pre-1980 (Deliverance was 1972, Kermit singing Rainbow Connection was 1979; most stuff after that seems derivative of past media, but I may be missing some things). It can be characters/actors playing the banjo on-screen or otherwise iconic uses of banjo in soundtracks (e.g. the chase scene in Bonnie and Clyde), but it should be obvious and geared toward a general audience.

Cartoon shorts
Felix the Cat: Uncle Tom's Crabbin' (1927)
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: Rival Romeos (1928)
Mickey Mouse: Pioneer Days (1930)
Mickey Mouse: Trader Mickey (1932)
Looney Toons: Yankee Doodle Daffy (1943)
Looney Toons: Hare Trigger (1945)
Mr. Magoo: Ragtime Bear (1949)
Looney Toons: Long-Haired Hare (1949)
Looney Toons: Southern Fried Rabbit (1953)
Looney Toons: No Parking Hare (1954)
Woody Woodpecker: Romp in a Swamp (1959)
The Huckleberry Hound Show: Hillbilly Huck (1960)

Film
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reinder (1964)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Deliverance (1972)
The Muppets Movie (1979)
Songcatcher (2000)
Oh Brother Where Art Thou (2000)

Live-action television/other
The Andy Griffith Show w/ The Dillards
Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest (1965-66)
Grand Ole Opry
Beverly Hillbillies 
Hee Haw 
Hootenanny
Steve Martin standup w/ banjo (1970s)

Edited by - banjoboyd on 11/25/2021 10:55:19

Nov 25, 2021 - 9:46:35 AM
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1248 posts since 1/9/2012

film: Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Nov 25, 2021 - 9:51:12 AM
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pickn5

USA

1644 posts since 8/8/2012

Last night I was watching The Last Alaskans and in one of the cabins a banjo was propped up on a chair.

Nov 25, 2021 - 10:23:38 AM

10 posts since 11/21/2021

If you include films (movies) that include banjo prominently in the soundtrack, then there are surely quite a few others:
Vanishing Point (Doug Dillard)
Smokey and the Bandit
The Return of the Beverley Hillbillies
Cold Mountain
Sabata (if my memory serves).

Nov 25, 2021 - 10:28:41 AM

4891 posts since 5/9/2007

Father Knows Best

Multiple references to Mr. Anderson being a banjo player in his younger days.

It looked like a Buckbee (Scene in the attic with Betty and Bud)

No playing as far as I know.

Edited by - mrphysics55 on 11/25/2021 10:33:36

Nov 25, 2021 - 10:44:36 AM

9176 posts since 8/28/2013

Felix the cat played the banjo in quite a few cartoons, although most of them were pre-sound, so the banjo is only seen and not heard (some people would probably count that as a blessing).

When I have more time, I'll go through my cartoon DVDs and find some of the titles. I'll also check some other period animation for banjos. Cartoons became popular about the same time as jazz and the tenor banjo, so I'm sure ther are other animated characters who played once in a while.

Another possibility you might consider is Broadway musicals of the early 20th century. Also, are you counting such things as banjo-ukes, banjo mandolins, and guitar banjos?

Nov 25, 2021 - 10:44:41 AM

2801 posts since 3/30/2008

Don't forget the ubiquitous music from commercials, & background music in documentaries, shorts, opening themes, closing themes, etc. I hear the banjo 10x's more than ever, in this anonymous space. It seems the banjo has been embraced by the culture as a soundtrack instrumentation, even though it may not have the top position in the world of "The Star System",

Nov 25, 2021 - 11:10:38 AM

14439 posts since 10/30/2008

The old movie "Showboat" is reportedly one of the last fairly authentic representation of a classic minstrel show. Plenty of banjos. A Bing Crosby vehicle (plus many other stars).

The Marx Brothers did a big musical number pretending to play 4 banjos in one of their famous movies. I forget if it was Horsefeathers or the one with Captain Spaulding.

Mark Twain wrote extensively and colorfully about the banjo and banjo players.

There were other folk music tv shows in the early 60s where banjo players turned up. Notably "Hootenanny", but there were others too.

Flatt & Scruggs, Jim & Jesse McReynolds, Porter Wagoner, The Wilburn Brothers, The Stanley Brothers and Reno & Smiley all had tv series presenting their music, sometimes with banjo playing guests. Early syndication shows, not network. 1950s and 60s and even the 1970s.

The Glen Campbell network tv show had a featured banjo player every week doing a "folkie" number with Glen. Banjoists included John Hartford, Larry McNeeley and Carl Jackson. Late 1960s.

Flatt & Scruggs had a featured "remote-live" section on Frank McGee's NBC News program in the early 1960s, from the stage of a college somewhere. Frank (at NBC HQ) asked Lester some questions. Lester replied reading from a script. I believe they did two numbers.

The Grand Ole Opry had several one-off tv specials in the 1950s and 60s and bluegrass groups appeared on them.

PBS and TNN broadcast the Grand Ole Opry in various ways in the 1970s and 1980s, and of course bands often had featured banjo players. PBS used the Opry for several years, broadcasting it in its entirety (!!) during pledge week! It was beautifully presented and a REAL TREAT for us northerners. TNN (The Nashville Network on cable) broadcast portions of the Opry every Saturday through the 1980s.

Finally, there were local TV productions of local country/bluegrass bands through the 50s to the 80s where a lot of folks all over the country got their dose of banjo playing. We had two or three such shows even in Maine.

I don't want to make it out that banjo playing was ubiquitous in the media. But through my lifetime so far it has been there, and has been a TREAT when you could catch it.

Nov 25, 2021 - 12:15:08 PM

Omeboy

USA

3007 posts since 6/27/2013

From the mid Sixties to early Seventies: The banjo nightclub entertainment craze (featuring plectrum and tenor banjos) that became well established on the east and west coasts as well as other major cities. Of particular note in this phenomenon was the Red Garter Clubs, Your Father's Mustache club chain and notable pubs like the Red Onion. It was like stepping back into the Roaring Twenty's speak-easys.  For a real historical perspective, see this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEn-GirfYPw

Edited by - Omeboy on 11/25/2021 12:15:38

Nov 25, 2021 - 12:36:50 PM
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6663 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Omeboy

From the mid Sixties to early Seventies: The banjo nightclub entertainment craze (featuring plectrum and tenor banjos) that became well established on the east and west coasts as well as other major cities. Of particular note in this phenomenon was the Red Garter Clubs, Your Father's Mustache club chain and notable pubs like the Red Onion. It was like stepping back into the Roaring Twenty's speak-easys.  For a real historical perspective, see this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEn-GirfYPw


Like stepping back into the 1960's version of the 1890s playing instruments from the 1920s and wearing styrofoam hats.

 

Don't forget Shakey's Pizza.

Nov 25, 2021 - 12:39:54 PM

Omeboy

USA

3007 posts since 6/27/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Omeboy

From the mid Sixties to early Seventies: The banjo nightclub entertainment craze (featuring plectrum and tenor banjos) that became well established on the east and west coasts as well as other major cities. Of particular note in this phenomenon was the Red Garter Clubs, Your Father's Mustache club chain and notable pubs like the Red Onion. It was like stepping back into the Roaring Twenty's speak-easys.  For a real historical perspective, see this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEn-GirfYPw


Right you are, Joel!  Much more accurate.

Nov 25, 2021 - 1:02:58 PM

leehar

USA

44 posts since 2/18/2018

How about Doug Dillard as Clem the banjo player in Popeye (1980)?

Nov 25, 2021 - 1:20:49 PM

99 posts since 7/31/2012

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Felix the cat played the banjo in quite a few cartoons, although most of them were pre-sound, so the banjo is only seen and not heard (some people would probably count that as a blessing).

When I have more time, I'll go through my cartoon DVDs and find some of the titles. I'll also check some other period animation for banjos. Cartoons became popular about the same time as jazz and the tenor banjo, so I'm sure ther are other animated characters who played once in a while.

Another possibility you might consider is Broadway musicals of the early 20th century. Also, are you counting such things as banjo-ukes, banjo mandolins, and guitar banjos?


Is 1927's "Uncle Tom's Crabbin" the first to have sound? Looking at the earliest Felix short, 1919's "Feline Follies," he indeed plays the banjo. 

One of the things I've noticed with cartoons (even up through the 60s) is that it's nearly all strummed 4-string banjo, even when the character is a 'hillbilly' type. Like in the 1930 Mickey short "Pioneer Days," there is a hoedown scene where a fiddle/concertina/banjo trio play Liza Jane and Irish Washerwoman, but the banjo is a strummed 4-string both in appearance and sound. Lots of other examples like that.

I'm interested in anything banjo-related, but whatever it is, it should be the center of attention or presented in an iconic way. 

Nov 25, 2021 - 1:22:10 PM

2130 posts since 2/4/2013

This is an almost famous scene in the UK: Ricky Tomlinson playing Jim Royle playing a five string (missing the fifth) as a plectrum. This is the late nineties or a bit later.

dailymotion.com/video/x2zr86i

There's another example from this series - The Royle Family.

Nov 25, 2021 - 1:52:13 PM
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carlb

USA

2324 posts since 12/16/2007

Nov 25, 2021 - 2:02:22 PM
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kwl

USA

578 posts since 3/5/2009

Cat Ballou in 1965 was a western starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin. Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye played a pair of banjo playing minstrels.

Nov 25, 2021 - 3:28:22 PM

2837 posts since 4/7/2010

The end of the movie Harold & Maude has Harold playing (holding?) an English zither banjo.

Bob Smakula

Nov 25, 2021 - 4:11:07 PM

6663 posts since 9/21/2007

Starting just before 1850 and going to WW2 the banjo (in various forms) WAS pop culture.

Nov 25, 2021 - 4:37:51 PM

4891 posts since 5/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by carlb

It's 4- string. Jerry Van Dyke on the Dick Van Dyke show.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3J3MlduTno

and Jerry in some other shows
https://www.metv.com/lists/jerry-van-dyke-shined-in-these-six-memorable-tv-guest-roles


"Burford"!

Nov 25, 2021 - 4:51:28 PM

2801 posts since 3/30/2008

One of the vampire's minions, in the 1932 silent movie, "Vampyr", plays a banjo 1hr 6 minutes into the film for about 15 seconds, (watch a few more minutes for surprise.)

Vampyr 1932 Carl Theodor Dreyer Sub Eng and Thai HD - YouTube

Edited by - tdennis on 11/25/2021 17:00:38

Nov 25, 2021 - 6:34:08 PM

2669 posts since 5/2/2012

Luke Combs was in the halftime show this afternoon's FB game. You could see the banjo player several times (he switched off and on with guitar I believe). I hear the banjo once in awhile during the kids shows on Iowa Public TV. Back in the day Taylor Swift "played" a six string banjo (actually a banjitar I believe) during one of her songs "Mean".

Nov 26, 2021 - 1:29:05 AM
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7 posts since 1/5/2012

youtu.be/g-IqpuOpUDc This was a UK children's show in the 90s, I did the session and it remains one of the most difficult I've ever done.

Nov 26, 2021 - 6:06:04 AM

9176 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by banjoboyd
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Felix the cat played the banjo in quite a few cartoons, although most of them were pre-sound, so the banjo is only seen and not heard (some people would probably count that as a blessing).

When I have more time, I'll go through my cartoon DVDs and find some of the titles. I'll also check some other period animation for banjos. Cartoons became popular about the same time as jazz and the tenor banjo, so I'm sure ther are other animated characters who played once in a while.

Another possibility you might consider is Broadway musicals of the early 20th century. Also, are you counting such things as banjo-ukes, banjo mandolins, and guitar banjos?


Is 1927's "Uncle Tom's Crabbin" the first to have sound? Looking at the earliest Felix short, 1919's "Feline Follies," he indeed plays the banjo. 

One of the things I've noticed with cartoons (even up through the 60s) is that it's nearly all strummed 4-string banjo, even when the character is a 'hillbilly' type. Like in the 1930 Mickey short "Pioneer Days," there is a hoedown scene where a fiddle/concertina/banjo trio play Liza Jane and Irish Washerwoman, but the banjo is a strummed 4-string both in appearance and sound. Lots of other examples like that.

I'm interested in anything banjo-related, but whatever it is, it should be the center of attention or presented in an iconic way. 


1927 or a little later would be about right for the first sound "Felix."  The Fleischer Studios in New York were making sound cartoons, mostly just music, in the mid-twenties, but most studios weren't set up for sound, and "talkies" didn't really catch on until the feature film "The Jazz Singer," which was in 1927, nor in cartoons until Disney's "Steamboat Willie," which came after 1927. Before those dates, synchronizing the sound with the visual action (particularly speaking) was still extremely difficult.

Given the date(s) of the entrance of sound in films, it would be easy to figure out why most banjo depictions were of strummed banjos. Public interest in the five string was waning, being replaced by the rhythmic pulse of the tenor and plectrum alternatives, and such anomalies as the banjo-uke (also four strings) were popular among the college set. Hollywood has never been much for authenticity if it interfered with profit, so it would also be useful for a "Horse Opera"--a "western"--to use an anachronistic tenor banjo in a saloon scene.  At least audiences would know what the "durned thang" was. (As a side note, by then, there were probably more studio musicians available to strum away for the sound track than to pick away at a five string. "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" was still a number of years in the future.)

Nov 26, 2021 - 6:33:53 AM

RB3

USA

1168 posts since 4/12/2004

I'm curious about the goal and/or purpose of your analysis and your research. I wonder if you would be willing to share that with us?

Nov 26, 2021 - 7:06:53 AM

4016 posts since 3/28/2008

The movie where the Marx Bothers pretended to play banjos was Duck Soup. That happened in the "Freedonia's gone to war" scene, fairly late in the movie. IIRC, all four instruments are five-strings.

There's a great "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" reference in a Simpsons episode. Homer and Abe are trying to outdrive an angry crowd, to the tune of "FMBD" (original 1949 recording), but can't shake their pursuers until Homer turns off the car radio, which is revealed to be the source of the music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tj8Wq9PiXgs

Nov 26, 2021 - 7:44:40 AM
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14439 posts since 10/30/2008

Thanks Ira!

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