Some of us are of an age where they might have lived thru the "coonskin cap" fad of the 1950's. My elder brother was 10 when this movie came out.

"Davy Crockett and the River Pirates" 1956

Turner Classic Movies has a "From the Disney Vaults" theme about once a month and I recorded this one on a whim. Typical Disney tripe...but there is a few minute scene where a suspicious character sings and plays a banjo...an S.S.Stewart Special Thoroughbred, no less!

Of course, the banjo has no 5th string fitted...though close-ups show 5-strings being strummed. The actor has no clue how to play, of course. The sound is overdubbed (and is probably a tenor being strummed in a Dixieland vocal backup style).

I paused the recording and tried to see what I could on the banjo. From my perspective, it appeared to be a later Stewart, probably from the Bauer period. The back of the neck looks very "red" and it has the longer heel of the later period. Still, it had my favorite headstock inlay (the one with all the wire curly bits inlaid)...and it was a fun thing to see pop up in a movie.

So, we have a 1900's banjo playing a bit part in a 1956 movie set in the 18-teens. Sort of like seeing a wristwatch on a Roman soldier... ;-)

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I was also 10 in 1956. I didn't see that particular film but I sure remember the first Davy Crockett movie with Fess Parker in 1955. I wore my coonskin cap to school every day. Me and 80% of the other boys in the school. The school administration was very accommodating about this. It didn't specifically violate their dress code so they wisely let it be, figuring, quite correctly that This Too Shall Pass, which it did.  In the first film there are no banjos that I remember but there's a scene in Texas where Davy/Fess plays an oddly shaped guitar and sings Green Grow The Lilacs.  It's been said that that song was so popular that the first two words are the origin of the term "gringo" for white non-Mexicans.  Gringo The Lilacs!  

I like the copper inlaid peg heads too. A few years after I stopped wearing a coonskin cap I was playing a Franken-banjo whose neck was from an old 19th century no-name banjo. It had an elaborate fern inlay going up the whole fingerboard. The stems were copper. Beautiful!  I wish I still had it.

Yah, lots of folk 'definitions' of Gringo. One relates to another song "Green Grow The Rushes O" and is supposed to be related to the green pants used by the US Army in the 1840's.

First written usage to indicate a non-spanish-speaking white person is from the 1700s (in Spain). Spaniards refered to Irishmen as 'Gringos' and it is thought that it is related to "Griego" (meaning "Greek" and implying a language impossible to understand). Funnily, I found that Germans say, "It's all Spanish to me!" To indicate the same idiom as we use "Its all Greek to me!".

 

It is curious how the definitions might change across the time and the regions. Actually, in Latin America (might be because the US injerence in some of our countries...sorry about the political lapsus), we usually referred to english-speaking people as "gringos". Of course, the word does not imply an insult in the present day! 

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