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06-02-2009, 12:21 PM
From Confederate Veteran, Vol. 11, #9 (Sept. 1903), p. 391
[excerpt of John Esten Cooke’s recollection of J. E. B. Stuart]...”Stuart’s delight was to have his banjo player, Sweeney, in his tent; and even while busily engaged in his official correspondence he loved to hear the gay rattle of the instrument and the voice of Sweeney singing, ‘Jine the Cavalry’, ‘Sweet Evelina,’ or some other favorite ditty. From time to time he would lay down his pen, throw one knee over the arm of his chair, and call his two dogs, two handsome young setters, which he had brought across the Rappahannock, or, falling back, would utter some jest at the expense of his staff. Frequently he would join in the song, or volunteer one of his own, his favorites being ‘The Bugles Sang Truce,’ ‘The Dew Is on the Blossom,’ and some comic ballads, of which the one beginning ‘My Wife’s in Castle Thunder’ was a fair specimen. These he roared out with immense glee, rising and gesticulating, slapping his officers on the back, throwing back his head while he sang, and generally ending in a burst of laughter.”
I betcha ole' Sweeney even used gut strings.
Piney Flats, TN
06-02-2009, 08:52 PM
From Confederate Veteran, Vol. 11, #9 (Sept. 1903), p. 391...”Stuart’s delight was to have his banjo player, Sweeney, in his tent; and even while busily engaged in his official correspondence he loved to hear the gay rattle of the instrument...
I betcha ole' Sweeney even used gut strings. Mark Campbell Piney Flats, TN
Mark, thanks for the quote, had seen it but didn't have that primary source.
Sam Sweeney (ole' Sweeney was what his more famous brother Joe was called) surely did use gut strings for the trebles, but likely metal-wound silk for the heavies, violin string stock. Sam was a professional stage player who enlisted, so I doubt he was into homemade instruments and horsehair or wire substitutes.
06-03-2009, 07:47 AM
He probably could also alter his playing style to account for the weather and not have to use synthetic options to keep his instrument in tune. I don't mind good music at events, however, a lot of those who decided they are going to entertain everyone with their musical brilliance end up sounding like they are strangling a cat or worse.
This individual sums up the banjo muc better than I could ever hope to:
Pictures of Slavery in Church and State; Including Personal Reminiscences, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, etc. etc. with an Appendix, Containing the Views of John Wesley and Richard Watson on Slavery
John Dixon Long
426 p., ill.
Published by the Author
The plantation slaves often suffer with hunger. Despite the common boasts of the slaveholder, the Allwise only knows how much penury and starvation wear out the lives of the slaves. Dancing is one of their favorite amusements. I have often looked at their dances during their different holidays. The banjo is of all instruments the best adapted to the lowest class of slaves. It is the very symbol of their savage degradation. They talk to it, and a skillful performer can excite the most diverse passions among the dancers. Generally, however, they have no instruments, but dance to the tunes and words of a leader, keeping time by striking their hands against the thighs, and patting the right foot, to the words of
" 'Juber,' 'Cesar boy,'
Ash-cake in de fire,
'Possum up de gum tree,
Raccoon in de holler."
I have seen males and females dancing, rapidly whirling round, whooping and yelling with brutal delight, alike unmindful of the past and future. I have never known, in a single instance, of a colored man of any moral tone who was fond of the banjo or common dance.
Now, a skillful banjo player on stage or on a street corner with his case out collecting change is a different matter. One at an event making exceptions why he is using synthetic materials because that is the only way he can keep the instrument in tune and basically annoying all those around him is another matter. Sweeney was brought in, like you say, as a professional to entertain the general. I wish a lot of the other amatuer musicians who decide they need to entertain would just leave their instruments at home or at least, just break them out only if asked. I didn't notice any Johnny Horton on the play list either.
Piney Flats, TN
06-03-2009, 02:37 PM
I take things and people seriously when they merit it. This still merits a ZOOOOOMMMMMMM!!!!!
Piney Flats, TN
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