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Dec 8, 2021 - 4:32:59 AM
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banjoy

USA

10004 posts since 7/1/2006

This is just another YouTube channel I stumbled into, so if this has been posted in the past my apologies in advance. I have no idea whose channel this is, and the 17 film clips on that channel were all posted 14 years ago. Nothing has been posted since. But those 17 clips are pretty unique. Here's a sample with FDR enjoying "Soldier's Joy" (and it's not every day you see a harp guitar at a jam session):

Cool, historical stuff.

Edited by - banjoy on 12/08/2021 04:36:36

Dec 8, 2021 - 6:48:06 AM
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YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

612 posts since 5/11/2021

Holy cow he's got a video of the giant bass banjo. I've only ever seen photos. Kangaroo gut strings!

youtube.com/watch?v=YzN5K6rX2to

Dec 8, 2021 - 7:18:53 AM
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phb

Germany

3113 posts since 11/8/2010

Not from the same channel but recommended to me when I clicked on the link with the bass banjo:

youtube.com/watch?v=KJ2CWpIsAeA

The first song (apparently a variation of Cumberland Gap), recorded in 1929, has a banjo player playing in a three-finger style. It seems this is a performance by the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Band recorded in Asheville, NC. This should be interesting to anyone looking for the roots of the Scruggs style.

Dec 8, 2021 - 7:31:13 AM
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6657 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by phb

Not from the same channel but recommended to me when I clicked on the link with the bass banjo:

youtube.com/watch?v=KJ2CWpIsAeA

The first song (apparently a variation of Cumberland Gap), recorded in 1929, has a banjo player playing in a three-finger style. It seems this is a performance by the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Band recorded in Asheville, NC. This should be interesting to anyone looking for the roots of the Scruggs style.


Not "Scruggs Style" but rather pretty standard "classic banjo" or the period correct "guitar style" banjo.  One of them is playing a Vega Regent or similar level banjo- not cheap.  And if you watch until the end of the "outtakes" it is clear that he is playing on thin gut or silk strings used at the time.

Here is the rest of this film...

https://digital.tcl.sc.edu/digital/collection/MVTN/id/353/rec/19

Dec 8, 2021 - 7:34:58 AM

6657 posts since 9/21/2007

Looking a little closer, the banjoist at the end has a D. E. Hartnett wire armrest and his bridge is "hand finished" which means that the edges were rounded off, a feature of slightly more expensive bridges.

Dec 8, 2021 - 7:41:54 AM

452 posts since 3/26/2009

quote:
Originally posted by YellowSkyBlueSun

Holy cow he's got a video of the giant bass banjo. I've only ever seen photos. Kangaroo gut strings!

youtube.com/watch?v=YzN5K6rX2to


I've seen pictures too.  I never noticed that T shaped bridge before.... like an external bass bar.    I wonder if that would help my Ugly Bass-Jo?

 

Dec 8, 2021 - 7:45:03 AM

phb

Germany

3113 posts since 11/8/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by phb

Not from the same channel but recommended to me when I clicked on the link with the bass banjo:

youtube.com/watch?v=KJ2CWpIsAeA

The first song (apparently a variation of Cumberland Gap), recorded in 1929, has a banjo player playing in a three-finger style. It seems this is a performance by the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Band recorded in Asheville, NC. This should be interesting to anyone looking for the roots of the Scruggs style.


Not "Scruggs Style" but rather pretty standard "classic banjo" or the period correct "guitar style" banjo.  One of them is playing a Vega Regent or similar level banjo- not cheap.  And if you watch until the end of the "outtakes" it is clear that he is playing on thin gut or silk strings used at the time.

Here is the rest of this film...

https://digital.tcl.sc.edu/digital/collection/MVTN/id/353/rec/19


I admittedly know very little about the classic banjo style so all this may be well known to the more educated banjo players (and/or I may be plain wrong) but the banjo playing on "Doggett's Gap" doesn't sound very different from Earl Scruggs's version of "Cumberland Gap" to me (disregarding the up-the-neck parts of the latter). It was recorded four or five years before Earl eventually succeeded in using his third picking finger and less than a hundred miles away from where he lived and had seen other three-finger banjo players. I believe gut vs. steel strings is more of a stylistic choice today than it was back then when steel strings were more of a novelty thing not as strictly associated with a style of playing. Anyway, I can easily imagine how Scruggs and the players Scruggs himself named as his major influences based their styles on the style we hear in that video. Again, this may only be news to me or I may be entirely wrong.

Edited to add: ok, now that I listened to the outtakes (I did wonder how they filmed the whole thing with the close-ups when I watched the edited result) I have to admit it's not really that close in style and sounds more like simple bluegrass backup. I guess my ear was fooled by the fiddle playing the melody at the same time. 

Edited by - phb on 12/08/2021 07:52:20

Dec 8, 2021 - 7:49:03 AM
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4015 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by phb

Not from the same channel but recommended to me when I clicked on the link with the bass banjo:

youtube.com/watch?v=KJ2CWpIsAeA

The first song (apparently a variation of Cumberland Gap), recorded in 1929, has a banjo player playing in a three-finger style. It seems this is a performance by the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Band recorded in Asheville, NC. This should be interesting to anyone looking for the roots of the Scruggs style.


Not "Scruggs Style" but rather pretty standard "classic banjo" or the period correct "guitar style" banjo.  One of them is playing a Vega Regent or similar level banjo- not cheap.  And if you watch until the end of the "outtakes" it is clear that he is playing on thin gut or silk strings used at the time.

Here is the rest of this film...

https://digital.tcl.sc.edu/digital/collection/MVTN/id/353/rec/19

 


Well, he did say "the roots of the Scruggs style" (my emphasis). We know there was plenty of three-finger playing going on in the Carolina Piedmont before Snuffy Jenkins, Earl Scruggs, et al. transformed it in the 1930s and '40s. Especially interesting to me as a member of the bluegrass intelligentsia is this recording, featuring a player Scruggs remembered hearing as a child, playing a song he remembered hearing him play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27VbHEfjcPs.

The left-hand positions are almost identical with those that Scruggs used in his own recording 33 (?) years later, but the right-hand picking is very different. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, Joel, about how Woolbright's playing on this old recording compares to classic playing. Are any of his right-hand moves recognizably similar? Or is the only link to classic banjo the fact that he was using three fingers (and also C tuning, on a tune that I understand was an overdone warhorse in the late 19th century)?

Dec 8, 2021 - 8:32:01 AM
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6657 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by phb

Not from the same channel but recommended to me when I clicked on the link with the bass banjo:

youtube.com/watch?v=KJ2CWpIsAeA

The first song (apparently a variation of Cumberland Gap), recorded in 1929, has a banjo player playing in a three-finger style. It seems this is a performance by the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Band recorded in Asheville, NC. This should be interesting to anyone looking for the roots of the Scruggs style.


Not "Scruggs Style" but rather pretty standard "classic banjo" or the period correct "guitar style" banjo.  One of them is playing a Vega Regent or similar level banjo- not cheap.  And if you watch until the end of the "outtakes" it is clear that he is playing on thin gut or silk strings used at the time.

Here is the rest of this film...

https://digital.tcl.sc.edu/digital/collection/MVTN/id/353/rec/19

 


Well, he did say "the roots of the Scruggs style" (my emphasis). We know there was plenty of three-finger playing going on in the Carolina Piedmont before Snuffy Jenkins, Earl Scruggs, et al. transformed it in the 1930s and '40s. Especially interesting to me as a member of the bluegrass intelligentsia is this recording, featuring a player Scruggs remembered hearing as a child, playing a song he remembered hearing him play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27VbHEfjcPs.

The left-hand positions are almost identical with those that Scruggs used in his own recording 33 (?) years later, but the right-hand picking is very different. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, Joel, about how Woolbright's playing on this old recording compares to classic playing. Are any of his right-hand moves recognizably similar? Or is the only link to classic banjo the fact that he was using three fingers (and also C tuning, on a tune that I understand was an overdone warhorse in the late 19th century)?


It is my personal theory, based on nothing but speculation, that the missing factor that lead to Scruggs style is the Hawaiian Guitar.

The picks for wire strings were developed for Hawaiian Guitar and adapted to other instruments such as regular guitar and regular banjo shortly thereafter.  I am finding in period magazine articles, when picks are mentioned or recommended to be used on banjo, it is almost always in connection with them being from the HG.

Scruggs would have heard a lot of Hawaiian music growing up, as did the other people we know using picks, arpeggiated accompaniments, and steel strings. They could not escape it.

Scruggs developed his cam pegs to simulate the sound of the Hawaiian Guitar.  Slide guitar blues players were influenced by the same.

We forget just how popular and widespread Hawaiian music was.  But it does not sound "old timey" or fit the "mountain music" narrative. 

As far as Home Sweet Home with variations,  it is true that this was a warhorse of the classic era (it was even #1 in S. S. Stewart's catalog, E. M. Hall's variations), but it was also common across any instrument as a solo.  "Drop C", or rather, standard tuning would be known by anyone going to a music store to buy a banjo as all of the instruction material would tell you to tune that way.

It is possible that HSH of Scruggs is a direct connection to what we call "classic banjo", but I believe it is coincidental, or at the least an exception. 

Dec 8, 2021 - 8:40:13 AM

banjoy

USA

10004 posts since 7/1/2006

Joel Hooks Interesting stuff. That never occurred to me before but it does seem plausible when you explain it like that.

It's interesting to lurk in my own thread and learn and see some new things (to me, anyway).

So let me put my ignorance on display here, regarding influences on Scruggs, but when I hear him picking I hear blues coming through his playing too. It seems to me he would have been heavily influenced by the Piedmont Blues happening at the same time he was refining his thing. This connection to blues is probably already documented and discussed before, which is where my ignorance shines. But I definitely hear some blues come through Earl's picking from time to time...

Edited by - banjoy on 12/08/2021 08:41:52

Dec 8, 2021 - 8:43:11 AM

4015 posts since 3/28/2008

Thanks. I think Snuffy Jenkins may have been the first prominent player to use picks on a metal-strung Gibson Mastertone, and Scruggs probably took that from him. But did you listen to the Parker-Woolbright record I linked? I was really asking you about how Woolbright's playing compares to classic banjo practices. (After all, we know Scruggs is a whole other thing.)

Dec 8, 2021 - 11:14:43 AM
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6657 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin

Thanks. I think Snuffy Jenkins may have been the first prominent player to use picks on a metal-strung Gibson Mastertone, and Scruggs probably took that from him. But did you listen to the Parker-Woolbright record I linked? I was really asking you about how Woolbright's playing compares to classic banjo practices. (After all, we know Scruggs is a whole other thing.)


Yes, I have heard this recording many times.  Nothing about Wollbright's playing stands out to me as specifically from any classic banjo version I have read.  To me it just sounds like he is noodling over chord shapes.

On the other hand, this is 100% from the classic banjo tradition...

https://youtu.be/ecsowQRzwCo

Complete with tremolo and accompaniment, something found in most of the published scores.  I also like that the fiddle does an impression of the banjo tremolo (the joke being that tremolo on the banjo was also called "sostenuto" which was in imitation of the violin or mandolin).

He also uses typically found phrases and ascending arpeggio runs.

As to "the first prominent player to use picks on banjo"-- unless Jenkins was "prominent" in his early teens, he was far from the first to think of this.

Fingerpicks for the banjo had been promoted by some people as soon as the Hawaiian Guitar became popular.  Thomas Carey even published a banjo tutor using them-- I have his music folio but I am still looking for his tutor.  The recommendation comes up throughout the nineteen-teens, esp. in catalog and advertisements for fingerpicks of various patterns. 

I just found an article from the July 1918 BMG (Clifford Essex in England) recommending using them on regular banjo with gut or silk strings.

Dec 8, 2021 - 11:26:15 AM
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4015 posts since 3/28/2008

When I said "first", I was thinking, more narrowly, "within the southern rural vernacular tradition".

But that "Happy Hayseeds" recording is very interesting. Those are clearly NOT "hayseeds". They sound to me like schooled professionals who are trying (at least in part) not to sound like they are--not just the banjo tremolo, but also the violin playing, which sounds less to me like real country fiddling than like deliberately "dumbed down" playing by a trained violinist.

By 1930 it was already clear that there was a market for country music (whatever they were calling it at the time), though exactly what that market was was, and how to cater to it, was still evolving. This recording strikes me as some record executive's attempt to throw something together that might appeal to that as-yet-imperfectly understood market. What do you think?

Dec 9, 2021 - 9:59:59 AM
Players Union Member

janolov

Sweden

41327 posts since 3/7/2006

Regarding Woolbright's version of Home Sweet Home (on the tune The Man Who Wrote Home Sweet Home Never Wast A Married Man) and the connection to classic banjo, I would say that Woolbright absolutely does not play classic banjo or not even was influenced by classic banjoi, but it has more connection to early Bluegrass then Classic banjo. He used rolls, especially the backward roll and plays the melody a little syncopated (as in Bluegrass) and his playing is very chord based, and most melody notes are played on the first string as a part of the rolls. Some years ago I made a transcription of the recording, see the tab archive: https://www.banjohangout.org/tab/browse.asp?m=detail&v=23627. Earl Scruggs was very influenced by Woolbright, but made a lot of changes in his arrangement - for example letting the backward roll go through several measures.

Earl Scruggs seems to have no direct connection to classic banjo. According to his book (I have the first edition from 1968), he started as a two finger player (thumb and index finger), but at very young ages discovered that he also could use the middle finger. 

So three-finger playing can mean several different styles without historical connections.

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