I've been asked for information by a friend in regard to her late grandfather's banjo playing. From the photos she has emailed me the banjo the family have is clearly a Windsor Popular 7 zither dating from the late 20's or 30's. Not remarkable or unusual (or valuable) as such, but nice to see that it's in immaculate as-new condition. That suggests that her grandfather (a coal miner) would likely have been playing a classic banjo repertoire.

More of interest to me, though rather off the edge of my own knowledge and banjo map, is the sheet music. 'Cromartie Polka March' and 'Fanfare des Dragons Galop' are two titles. Can someone shed any further light on these tunes?

The family are not looking to sell the banjo, their interest is sentimental and seeking information about their grandfather's playing.

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It seems a little difficult to give/ find any information on their Grandfather's playing as we don't know his name or where he was from. Also a view of the photo would help!

Regarding the music:

What are you specifically interested in about the music?

Both titles are available to download free from the MUSIC LIBRARY if that helps?

"Fanfare Des Dragons" is a plagiarized version of "On The Mill Dam" Galop by A. A. Babb-- and American piece that was very popular.

"Cromartie March" looks, after a quick mental read through, to be an average "A grade" (or easy) march.  Nothing special but would be musical and fun to play in a duet.  These sorts of pieces can be worked up on the spot by two decent sight-readers and plenty of fun had playing them.

What other titles are there?

Here's what "Cromartie" sounds like...assuming the midi file is properly attached.

CROMARTIE MARCH
Attachments:

Context is what interests me. I'd like to give the family an idea of the musical environment their grandfather might have enjoyed in the 1930's and 40's. My conversations with them haven't brought to light any suggestion that he was in one of the many performing bands. He may just have played at home as a hobbyist. Were there clubs and societies where classic players met and played in their local community or workplace? 

Local activity can be highly influenced by the efforts of an individual mentor or teacher. In general was classic banjo in England in decline in the 1930's, stable in numbers or was it undergoing a resurgence of interest? Did interest and involvement vary significantly by region? With the advent of jazz and swing how common was uptake of classic style banjo by young working class men?

What did a Popular 7 cost in 1930? That would give a comparison of the outlay in relation to an average miner's wage.

I believe the grandfather lived in the North of England. I have emailed asking which town.

If we can find out where he lived then we will almost certainly find a BMG Club or Orchestra - very common before WW2 and the advent of telly.

A Windsor Popular No7 would cost you £5 and 15 shillings....that's £5.75 ....A miner's wage in the '30s would be £7/8 a week at a rough guess.

Mike Bostock said:

Context is what interests me. I'd like to give the family an idea of the musical environment their grandfather might have enjoyed in the 1930's and 40's. My conversations with them haven't brought to light any suggestion that he was in one of the many performing bands. He may just have played at home as a hobbyist. Were there clubs and societies where classic players met and played in their local community or workplace? 

Local activity can be highly influenced by the efforts of an individual mentor or teacher. In general was classic banjo in England in decline in the 1930's, stable in numbers or was it undergoing a resurgence of interest? Did interest and involvement vary significantly by region? With the advent of jazz and swing how common was uptake of classic style banjo by young working class men?

What did a Popular 7 cost in 1930? That would give a comparison of the outlay in relation to an average miner's wage.

Thank you David, I appreciate the background information.

That price/wage comparison makes the banjo purchase roughly equivalent of a new low to mid-range banjo today. My grandfather on my dad's side was a coal miner up until the General Strike in 1926 and from hazy memory of stories I was told the miner's weekly wage back then that came to mind was roughly £5, so £7/8 would be a little higher pay than I imagined.

The family have replied to let me know that their grandfather lived in Wigan.

These are the images of the sheet music that I was sent. My friend has more and I'll ask her for a list of titles.

...and the grandfather's Windsor Popular No 7 strung as a 5 not a 6.

Grandfather's banjo was strung as it would have always been strung...as a 5 string. Zither banjos had 6 tuning pegs, but only 5 were ever used!

That would explain the very neat spacing at the bridge then.

I did say I was off the edge of my banjo map here!

... and the five hooks on the tailpiece ;-)

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