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Dec 4, 2021 - 4:07:19 PM
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73 posts since 11/10/2021

How was the tenor banjo used when it was first created? Can anybody let me know of some pre-1920 recordings featuring the tenor banjo?

Dec 5, 2021 - 1:19:19 AM
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994 posts since 6/25/2006

BHO member John Huft (‘Beezaboy’) has done a lot of research into the origins of the tenor banjo.  He might know what the earliest recordings are with tenor banjo.  I associate it more with the 1920s dance bands.

In the teens, there were bands/orchestras playing ragtime and tin-pan alley popular songs of the day – they often featured a variety of different instruments like 5string banjo, banjolin, ‘tango’ banjo which was a four-string banjo tuned like a mandolin, violin, saxophone, trap drums. Here is an example of the type of music being played:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cbruaGEL-w  The Versatile Four (probably using tango banjo or banjolin).

Then tenor banjo (alongside plectrum and guitar banjo) became very popular as a rhythm instrument in the 1920s dance bands playing the dances and pop hits of the day – check out Paul Whiteman, McKinneys Cotton Pickers, Duke Ellington etc.  This is when virtuoso players like Harry Reser and Len Fillis were putting out their solo recordings.  Here is Len Fillis playing in 1920s jazz band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpmFHiR78Jo  and as a soloist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aJ2l2BlJ78  There were also some amazing Italian tenor banjoists (also mandolinists) like Mario di Pietro, Frank Fazio and Giovanni Gioviale:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dFLUqe69Xk (Frank Fazio).  

Edited by - hobogal on 12/05/2021 01:26:00

Dec 5, 2021 - 11:45:04 PM
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434 posts since 10/8/2018

There’s a lot of interesting stuff about the “tango banjo” in this old thread…

banjohangout.org/archive/236752

Dec 6, 2021 - 6:31:09 AM
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889 posts since 5/31/2004

Here are two links to recordings by the Frisco Jass Band. These are very significant in that they are, to my knowledge, the earliest recordings of a 4-string banjo being used as a rhythm instrument. Both were recorded in May, 1917:

Johnson Jass Blues: youtube.com/watch?v=l_5suCOd2_Y

Canary Cottage: youtube.com/watch?v=Mf-EK_oSV4Q

I will add that, based on the only photo I have seen of this band, the banjoist seems to be holding a plectrum, not a tenor.

Dec 6, 2021 - 10:05:14 AM

994 posts since 6/25/2006

vintagetenor very interesting!

Edited by - hobogal on 12/06/2021 10:18:58

Dec 6, 2021 - 10:45:28 AM
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889 posts since 5/31/2004

Yes, Carrie, thanks. Both were recorded on May 10, 1917.

Canary Cottage is matrix 5552 and Johnson Jass is 5553. Apparently, three takes of each were issued.

Now, if the Edison studio personnel assigned a matrix number immediately upon the recording of a title (as opposed to doing so at a later time), then we can say that Canary Cottage is the first recording of the two and that Johnson Jass was recorded later that day.

Edited by - vintagetenor on 12/06/2021 10:46:28

Dec 6, 2021 - 10:55:14 AM
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73 posts since 11/10/2021

quote:
Originally posted by guitarbanjoman

There’s a lot of interesting stuff about the “tango banjo” in this old thread…

banjohangout.org/archive/236752


Thank you!

Dec 6, 2021 - 10:55:32 AM
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73 posts since 11/10/2021

quote:
Originally posted by vintagetenor

Here are two links to recordings by the Frisco Jass Band. These are very significant in that they are, to my knowledge, the earliest recordings of a 4-string banjo being used as a rhythm instrument. Both were recorded in May, 1917:

Johnson Jass Blues: youtube.com/watch?v=l_5suCOd2_Y

Canary Cottage: youtube.com/watch?v=Mf-EK_oSV4Q

I will add that, based on the only photo I have seen of this band, the banjoist seems to be holding a plectrum, not a tenor.


Thats great! Thank you!

Dec 6, 2021 - 4:52:33 PM
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300 posts since 1/1/2016

The Smithsonian museums have quite a collection of vintage audio recordings that have been taken from old Edison cylinders and other brands of cylinders and discs.

I don't know if the library is online or not.

One of the earliest that I've heard was a recording of Jelly Roll Morton playing "Maple Leaf Rag" that was recorded on an Edison cylinder.

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