View Full Version : "I remember only 3 banjoists who read notes..."

10-11-2008, 01:27 PM
Excerpt from the writings of Fred Mather, a contemporary of Joe and Sam Sweeney (JEB Stewart's banjo player). A Minstrel banjoist himself, he comments on Civil War era banjo players:

“ I do not read music but can spell it out painfully, note by note. In the long ago, when I was a fair manipulator of the ‘gourd shell,’ I remember only three banjoists who read notes. They were Dan Emmett, G. Swayne Buckley and Frank B. Converse, who, by the way, was on the stage but a short time. Joe Sweeney didn’t know a note, nor did most of the banjoists of 40 or 50 years ago. In fact, when I was a boy, I often heard it said: ‘There are no notes to banjo, you just play it.”

Dan Wykes

(reference: “Joel Sweeney and The First Banjo”, Arthur Woodward, in Los Angeles County Museum Quarterly Spring 1949, vols. 3, 7, 8)
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10-11-2008, 09:50 PM
A very good quote Dan. It seems to me all the great banjo players never played the same song the same way. That's what makes the banjo so much fun to play.