Can members here provide, or direct me to, external source references for the earliest use of the term 'Classic banjo'? I've looked at the Grimshaw, Van Eps, Parker Hunter and Morley et al, publications in the tutor book and song/journal section of the website but these do not appear to include contemporary use of the term. Is it a relatively modern, retrospective descriptive term? If so when does this accepted usage date from? Thank you.

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Maybe you're referring to the US where the cultural associations of the banjo can make it a highly charged subject? Highly charged is the natural home of agenda.

It's hard to overstate that here in the UK the words 'highly charged' and 'banjo' would be extremely unlikely to be found in the same sentence. There is rightly a modern stigma attached to the banjo in the context of blackface minstrelsy, as there is toward any past or present manifestation of racism. But the likelihood of blackface minstrelsy and banjo being a topic of general conversation here in 2022 is somewhere on the scale of zero to surreal.

Research into the history of the early English banjo context is about as uncontentious as social history gets. Akin to the careful archaeology of the site of a 17th century pottery where examples of some of the pots survive and are known, but where the full range, distribution and use in their contemporary community are not fully understood. 

I can humorously add that the likelihood of the word 'banjo' on it's own being a topic of general conversation here is also pretty much zero to surreal.

Most English people don't give the banjo a thought. But many English people are typically interested in evidence that reveals a relationship to their heritage.

Yeah, just kidding around, not targeted at anyone in particular but sort of a shot at American academia and their version of banjo history which ignores huge swaths of stuff. 

Not many people in the UK know what a banjo actually is.  They usually do a George Formby impression if I say I play the banjo.  I don't mind.  If I was to attempt to explain different banjos and playing approaches, I will see eyes glaze over!  

Mike Bostock said:

I can humorously add that the likelihood of the word 'banjo' on it's own being a topic of general conversation here is also pretty much zero to surreal.

Most English people don't give the banjo a thought. But many English people are typically interested in evidence that reveals a relationship to their heritage.

Lol! What is it about George Formby? He died and went to leaning on a lamp post heaven before most people today were even born. Did he (and the instinct to badly impersonate him) enter English DNA by some freak of biology in c.1938? Will English people be impersonating him in centuries to come and not even vaguely knowing why or who he is?

"It's turned out nice again"

Yes they probably will be impersonating him. 

He lived not far from where I was born and played many times in Blackpool. My mother always told the tale that she was walking around Blackpool looking in shops and people were pointing and laughing... she turned round and George Formby had been walking in her footsteps for ages waving to the other shoppers! He was a gentleman and it was all good fun at the time but I guess he would be locked up today ;-)

Ian, ex-member of the George Formby Society.

Lovely story from your mum, Ian.

I think George Formby must be deeply imbedded within the national psyche.  If the word 'banjo' is mentioned (a rare occurrence in conversation, admittedly) then it produces immediate miming of playing the banjolele and a rendition of 'When I'm Cleaning Windows'.  It will probably fade-out eventually but it is a phenomenon I have witnessed on numerous occasions!  So really we are starting from a low-base of banjo knowledge here in the UK :)

Is that worse than the crossing of eyes, miming of buck teeth, and the most nasal “dinging” of Dueling Banjos that one can muster, followed by “squeal like a pig”?  Because that is what I get.

Joel, that is worse!  There is that connection with the banjo here in the UK too as 'Deliverance' was a popular film - I think 'special requests' would still be 'sing us some George Formby', 'can you play that tune' - cue above impression ('Duelling Banjos') or 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown' - sigh.  

6 years on and I'm still being regularly reminded of the 'request' when me and a few friends were playing our regular spot to raise money for charity at the local farmers market. This chap made a beeline for me, watched me intently until the tune ended and then said with no hint of irony: "I haven't got a musical bone in my body but I'd love to play a banjo".

Our fiddle player nearly went into cardiac arrest he was laughing so hard. Unfortunately it's still among his favourite anecdotes. ;-)

Oh Gosh, that is funny Mike - what a compliment!! We banjo players have to have a thick skin (or at least a healthy sense of humour) don't we...:)

Mike Bostock said:

6 years on and I'm still being regularly reminded of the 'request' when me and a few friends were playing our regular spot to raise money for charity at the local farmers market. This chap made a beeline for me, watched me intently until the tune ended and then said with no hint of irony: "I haven't got a musical bone in my body but I'd love to play a banjo".

Our fiddle player nearly went into cardiac arrest he was laughing so hard. Unfortunately it's still among his favourite anecdotes. ;-)

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