A Site Dedicated to all enthusiasts of Classic Style Banjo
Ten years ago I made a video of Rag Pickings. I got my names mixed up (I've never been good with names) and said it was a Vess Ossman arrangement. Well, I was just listening to it now, and saw this comment from four months ago. I imagine some of you will be interested in it:
From Jesse Crain:
Not sure if you'll see this comment, Mr. MacKillop, as it's been years since the video was posted, but I'm throwing this out there, anyway. I'd be interested in what year Vess Ossman recorded this piece. Fred Van Eps recorded it 1-31-1911 for Victor (#16934), and many years later, he told my father (his last student) that he'd been given the piece by an unnamed guitar player in NYC. My dad just told me the story today while we were discussing your fine work, and he pointed out that in the "A" theme, 5th measure, the "F" note at the chord should actually be an "F#", and that Fred had used a pencil to correct it in my Dad's book. Thought you might find that intriguing!
Nice to hear from you again, Rob.
Coincidentally, I just saw this this weekend myself and was wondering about the person who was Fred's student. Really incredible.
One concept that recurrs is that as Ossman faded from his active recording career, as well as the Victor touring troupe he was in, Victor had Fred take his place in the troupe as well as do all of the song/tune remakes when masters and stampers wore out from so many pressings.
What is interesting is that the titles and catalog numbers for each title never changed, only listing Fred instead of Ossman on the labels.
There are likely different matrix numbered releases of the same title/catalog number tune that are actually different performances as well...this is very common in the brown wax cylinder era when most of the issues were actually masters themselves, or sometimes, limited copies of a performance that would be reapeated for more copies to sell.
One very good known example of this is Ossmans "Turkey in the Straw Medley" on Victor 10". Mr. Walsh who used to write for Hobbies Magazine on Edison things and loved writting about Ossman and Van Eps in the 50's had an article on this particular title, noting that one cut was with Orchestra acc. and one with piano, but the catalog number on the records were all the same, and I may be mis remembering, but I think the point of his article was that these two cuts of the same song with the same catalog number, many times the label denoting which acc. was used was mislabelled.
I'd have to go back and look to see if Ossman actually recorded Rag Pickings for Victor and if Fred re-did it or if this was one that Ossman never did on Victor....I can't remember off hand. Most of the copies I see of this (actually all that I remember at the moment) were by Fred.
This also happened on Columbia 78's, but the Van Eps re-do's of Ossman's catalog numbered titles on Columbia seem to be rarer than Fred's remakes on Victor for some reason.
The arrangement some of us learned "Ossman's" St. Louis Tickle from, like your Rag Pickings (I think) is actually from Fred's own transcription from his "blue" book, so they are not the same exactly as what Vess played. Of course, Vess cut this many times with different acc's as well, I'd have to go back and listen to all of them to see if he played the same arr. each time.
I'd have to go back and listen, but I think Fred's St. Louis Tickle is his arr. from his "Plantation Trio" remake of it to take the place of the previous Ossman-Dudley Trio cut after the masters wore out at Victor.
Sorry to ramble, but I think some of these remakes are interesting and also am thankful Fred transcribed his arr.'s of them for us all.
It would be neat if this student's son/daughter would be able to share more or anything they remember of their father's interactions with Fred.
Wow, thanks for that, Chris. Reading through it, I might expect to forgiven for getting the names mixed up. But that would give me too much respect - I think I just screwed up, as I often do with names.
I haven't played banjo for about seven years or so, and only picked one up again two weeks ago, so I'm struggling to get back into it. Hence catching up on some of my old videos - quite a few of which are embarrassing - and catching up on some of the old debates. This website has grown exponentially, which is fantastic.
So, thanks for your very interesting reply. I've now left my email address in a reply to Jesse's comment, and hopefully she'll get in touch. Actually, I'll now copy the URL for this forum thread, in the hope that she will see that as well. I'm sure a few of us would have questions for her dad.
Her father is Howard Weilmuenster, a heck of a nice guy.
Well, it is indeed a small world! Thanks for that, Joel. I hope he's still playing.
Hey, Rob, no problem....I have and often continue to get confused with remembering things like this. With a pending moving house and shop situation, I cannot get to any files/books/records right now, so I was a bit sheepish in posting, but since I had seen this from Jesse a few hours before you did, it was on my mind, and serendipitous you caught it within a few hours of my seeing it.
Just thought I'd comment with what I THOUGHT I knew or could remember.
In some surface dabbling here this morning, I think Jesse's recounting of Howard's account is great, as I don't think Ossman ever recorded this, and her story stands with learning it from another guitar player.
With Fred's cut being 1911, most of the Oss remakes Fred did seem to have started around '16 or '17 as Oss tapered off from recording, so Rag Pickings is a bit early for that, which further supports what Jessie said in how Fred learned it....or at least the chronology/timing
VERY fun and interesting story I think.....as well as getting that pesky F natural taken care of!
Thanks for that too, Joel.
I hope you'll get back to banjo, Rob, and get back on here with us again and give the whole thing another go.
Your videos from the beginning have helped me immensely, especially with the Grimshaw excersices to know what they are suppossed to sound like, as well as much else.
Having HEARD what something is suppossed to sound like speeds up my score reading/understanding quite a bit....
I know you have other musical interests, but you are too talented to let the banjo languish, in my humble opinion.
I also love your early guitar and lute work.
You deserve and get a lot of respect from me, anyway!
Oh, and Rob....
TEN YEARS ago.....
Maybe I'm not alone in reading that and thinking..."really? how did THAT happen????!!!!"
Haha, it surprised me too, but there it is in b&w: September 26th, 2010. Hold on, that's only 9 and a half years! Just a blink of the eye.
Jesse has now been in touch, and will talk to her dad about it. He's now in his 90s.
I'm pleased my Grimshaw videos were of use to you. Ian thereallyniceman had a thread here saying I was doing it all wrong :-) Remember that, Ian? I laugh about it now. Wrong tone. Wrong attack. Wrong technique. I got that from a few folk, and it affected me negatively. But now I don't worry about such things. I was just interpreting the stuff my way, not trying to recreate the style of a lost era, or pretending that I was part of that particular carrying stream. Just doing my own thing, with my own voice. I get the feeling more people liked it rather than hated it, so no great harm was done. Ian is championing that cause brilliantly, and long may he do so. But if no one objects too forcefully, I'll keep walking my own path. It's the only path I know.
You play it the way you want to Rob, it is your music as much as it is mine.
Now, I am off to mark my dang FVE book!
Ok, you got me..ONLY 9 1/2 years....THAT makes me feel MUCH better and YOUNGER, too....LOL.
Rob, I joined on here after you left, and after I had digested most of your videos and after you and I had had a few quick email interactions directly (pleasant of course and mostly about classic banjo music and lutherie). I realize there was a ....ah....unpleasant (?) sort of situation/discussion about this stuff you mention before i got here, and have read most of the threads in hindsight since....and also come to admire and respect Ian more than I can say.
We all have our own way of looking at propriety, playing music, music in general, and social conversation/interaction.
I have been in very uncomfy situations on forums....from....being myself....and I'm not a pushy guy (unless pushed first, usually).
I understand Ian's point of view, which is that, the original guys...from the cylinder days on, generally did play with a certain amount of force, and as in bluegrass, a certain affect/style cannot be attained without a certain attack. Well, not just bluegrass, anything I think. And I am one of the fans of this right hand attack for a certain result in traditional classic banjo...
BUT, an individual musician/stylist is entitled to his/her way of doing it as all of our differing physiologies and ways of interpreting and re-creating/creating music, as well as our tastes and creative ways in general are all different.
Eddie Adcock had a great quote about this, and I never can remember it verbatim, so paraphrasing, it goes something like this:
"Never judge another musician....for what are you judging? Art or technique? Art is to be perceived/appreciated/interpreted by the beholder, not judged."
My English Lit teacher in college always said "Art is supposed to make you FEEL".
These things are best left to not be judged or argued over, and of course we all have our beliefs about certain styles of music.
I hope there is room here for anyone that takes classic style banjo seriously enough to pursue it and that this will be a good place for folks of differing abilities, and right hand tones/attacks to be welcomed.
MUSIC I think we can debate to some extent....Art always prompts discussion through the ages based on differing interpretations.
I hope we can all stay away from critical judgement that does not involve the interest of helping improve someone's technique or repertoire.
Rob, I'd really like to see you back here regularly, and I'd really like to know you are back playing banjo and that you will continue with the videos and not take down any of your old ones....add new revised editions, sure if you like, but I for one would love you to leave your old ones up as well.
There is nothing embarrassing about any of your early videos. My best playing is not near as good as your self felt embarrassing playing....LOL
Personally, I thought your attack was lighter than the old guys...but your videos show you solo without accompianment, and also, you got to have a microphone instead of an acoustic recorder head fed by a horn you had to play loud enough through to actually cut wax....so...of course it was lighter....but I also always admired your right hand feel, timing, and accentuation. I thought your tone was great....you just weren't a close to bridge kind of player. Big deal. I thought your left hand technique was great, too, no doubt from all the guitar discipline you've worked at.
I hope you'll continue as I enjoy your playing quite a bit, and I'd enjoy you back here.
Sorry to go on,
You sneak, you, you said you just got a banjo....not THREE!!!! LOL
I REALLY VERY MUCH enjoy your studies of the ...what I call...."transitional" period you mention....the Bauer/Converse late/combination stroke/finger guitar style things you do....that is one area that needs more study and representation, and there is no one better than that than you, in my opinion, from watching your vids on these.....those vids of that stuff really opened my eyes to the pre-Ossman sort of things, which surely is the repertoire that influenced Ossman/Brooks, etc....
The videos you did of Twisted Rope, Electric Light Reel, etc...I agree as you say, that is some extremely expressive banjo music.
I'm really looking forward to more of your pursuit of the guitar style you are so good at.....