Hello everybody,

While searching for banjo records on a french radio website I stumbled upon this emission broadcasted in 2013, in which you can listen to two banjo records (which I find really enjoyable), played by Vance Lowry around 1926 : http://www.francemusique.fr/emission/le-fabuleux-monde-des-archives...

While listening to the first one (it starts at 11'53, following a few explanations by the person who curated the program) I thought he was playing a 4-string banjo (wether plectrum or tenor I'm not sure - there are some moments where it also sounds a bit like a 5-string, but I don't know the subject well enough to be sure), but the second (which starts around 12'30) seems to be a 5 string banjo played in the classic way (which would maybe explain that title, "l'harpo-banjo", which can be translated as "the harp-banjo" I think).

I'm quite curious about this player; does anybody knows exactly what kind of banjo he's playing in each of these records? Were his arrangements ever published? Do you have more informations about his life and other pieces or records? There are some informations on his life in France in the programme (where he apparently knew the poet Jean Cocteau), and somebody called Tony Thomas posted some interesting informations on this youtube video in which Lowry's playing can also be heard : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKXzR8a-_DE

Just in case he wouldn't be playing classic banjo and that discussion would be irrelevant to the present website, here is an other broadcast from the same website which features several classic banjo records (and this time I'm sure of it :) ) : http://www.francemusique.fr/emission/le-fabuleux-monde-des-archives...

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what is the source of this photo?

thereallyniceman said:

Looks like 4 strings to me too, and the Banjo is a CE not a Weaver... check the 12th fret MOP.

I cannot figure out how to listen or download the pieces.  Can you write me offlist at blackbanjotony@hotmail.com about this


Can you find me  some way to get the details with Vernhettes, as to where this comes from as my mnain gaol in anything is publishing in documented scholarly publication. 

But this is nice insofar as in my earlier research on this I wound up in contact with a relative who knew Lowry as a child and might appreciate his picture and this info.


 marc dalmasso said:

merci henri d 'avoir lancé cette discussion , tu as mis le doigt sur qq chose d 'intéressant ;

and now say Thx to inspector Dalmasso ; i mailed to Dan Vernhettes , a well knowed  French musician who kindly send me this photo ..............

Vance is standing

I tend to agree with the Very Nice man about the absence of the fifth string insofar as the Cleb clubbers were the leading African American exponents of 4 string banjos and Lowry is known historically as a tenor banjoist, though I have no doubt that he must have played a five string and probably on could obtain a 5 string under the circumstance.  Besides tenors, the Cleb club mob favored a variety of mandolin descended banjos now extinct.  The sort of banjeurine sized instrument with a slotted headstock  the musician in the forefront is carrying is just such an instrument, in fact one that was manufactured in Harlem briefly as a "Clef Club" instrument.

Many people mistakenly think the Clef Club was Europe's Band.  It was not.  It was a large organization for Black musicians that Europe helped to found though he later broke with it.  It functioned as a combination of a booking agency, union, fraternal organization, and music education organization for Black musicians in NYC and Phliadelphia in the years before the Great War.    

In this era the musicians union did not allow African Americans to join.  Black musicians especially players of mandolin, banjo and guitar were often forced to work as waiters or cleaners in restaurants and clubs or at society dances where they might work when not playing music.  

What the Clef Club did is that it functioned like a hiring hall booking agency for musicians to play in restaurants, night clubs, and at society gatherings and dances.  Its aim was to capture employement from the top level of  American's wealthiest  "society" .  It guaranteed a level of dress and deportment and musical performance that equaled the standards require to perfrm in the homes of the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and such.  At the same time the Clef club demanded dignified treatment of its musicians and in particular that the custom of asking black musicians to work as cleaners, waiters, or dish washers when not playing music at such venues was rejected.  The Clef club demanded a set rate for pay and made sure the musicians were paid.   It also encouraged formal musical education for African American youth.  The proceeds from the big concerts held each year by the club went to hire classically trained European music teachers to provide free lessons for Black New York youth,.

 Europe was formally musically trained and worked with leading African American classical and popular music composers of his day.  In fact, he ascended the music business in NYC in the early 20th century because of his abilities to rearrange scores for musical shows for both singers and orchestras.  He would often be brought in as a fixer/conductor at the beginning of a show and then hand the baton over to others once he hand things going.

At the same time he developed  creative approaches to involve both reading and non reading musicians in the sae

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