I'm interested in what were the most popular classic banjo tunes during the golden age of classic banjo (1880s to 1920).  I am particularly interested in tunes written specifically for the banjo.  I am thinking we could establish most popular by: most played in banjo orchestras/BMG clubs; most frequently recorded; most copies of sheet music sold; anecdotal evidence.  From what I have read this might include:

Lansing's Dream

Banjotown 

Sunflower Dance

In a nerdy fashion, I would quite like to make a TOP TEN in chronological order.  Just for fun. 

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Dang right! 

Jody Stecher said:

Spanish Flang Dang. I play that!  Yeah, Smiler and Foot are definitely difficult. For me anyway. But really good pieces. The Smiler was one of the tunes that first attracted me to Classic banjo. I think it also makes a great brass band tune.

Joel Hooks said:

... and don't forget Spanish Fandango.

Of the list I would say "Smiler" and "Footlight Favorite" are the most difficult. 

Spanish Flang Dang: I couldn't get that one to pop out of my memory. I think I blocked it because it was my first encounter with "Classic Banjo" (I got it from a 1977 or 78 copy of Banjo Newsletter). I had a terrible time getting that four-note figure out of three fingers. Eventually I learned a version that was half classic and half Norman Blake...and played fingerstyle on a 4-string (tenor banjo, mandolin...sounds best on the mandola).

The "Brooks and Denton #1" book is chock full of good tunes circa 1893. "White Star Line March", "Lobster's Promenade", "Berkeley March", "Tyro Mazurka", etc. You can download a copy off of the Internet Archive courtesy of Mr. Hooks. It has rudimentary tablature too!

One of the first classic tunes that I learned to play was Dashwood Quickstep by Olly Oakley. I was given a collection of banjo music that was owned by a retired banjo and guitar teacher and this tune was top of the pile. It's a good tune and is in the library..Steve.

This is the 3rd page of the complete version with the trio arranged 'a la Vess Ossman' by Joe Morley. 

Jody Stecher said:

This looks complete to me.

The solos in the Essex lists were numbered originally, Whistling Rufus was No.188 and was part of the series 'Famous Ragtime Banjo Solos'

Joel Hooks said:

I'm sure we could track down when it WR published by finding the announcement in the BMG (thanks Ian!).

I also don't dispute that it was popular in England.

Since I am a nerd, when I first joined the ABF and tasked myself with learning the standards I tried to find a "period" banjo arrangement," no luck.

Marc, I have found "Darkie's Dream" more times than I can count in stacks of music.  I have even found it (for banjo) in random junk shop stacks of piano music.  Heck, it was in print for something like 20 or more years.

Wow!  Richard could you share the entire Ossman arrangement? Even just clear photos would work.  I'd love to add some of his bits to my playing of it.

Thanks!

Sadly, 1900 seems to be the turning point for the decline of regular banjo playing in the US.  Past the peak and picking up speed downhill until the 30s when the banjo begins to take a turn to it's current "hillbilly" identity.  CE publications hit the US market too late.

Now that it is lunch time and I can take banjo in hand, this Ossman/Morley is just a variation on the half of the trio that is included in the other CE version and is still missing the modulated repeat of the B part.  This is so strange, it is like they were avoiding it.  Perhaps they only had an old torn copy of the piano score to work off of with no full trio?

Yes thank you for posting the third part Richard.

I've had fun reading the BMG magazines and the banjo is still going strong in the UK by 1920 but the dance-band era has begun - the UK is in the grip of a ragtime craze and the banjo is featured in Ragtime Sextette bands that feature piano, banjo, banjolin and trap drums. 

From reading what was most performed most frequently in banjo performances/recitals, I would say that Emile Grimshaw's compositions are the most popular - in particular, The Kilties.  I had read somewhere that Tattoo was his biggest seller but I have put A Black Cocquette in my list as it keeps cropping up.  Joe Morley pops up with The Mountaineers March, A Banjo Oddity and Darktown Dandies - I was initially puzzled by the absence of Banjotown but I then read it was published in 1919.  In 1917 and 1918 the 'BMG notes' peter out as so many male banjoists were involved in the war effort but I am trusting it was a big hit.  Another composer, SE Turner, pops up: his arrangement of Home Sweet Home was a popular encore piece (he also wrote some other tunes that are played: Goblin Gambols, Carolina Capers...intriguing).  Anyway, here is my list of tunes written for the banjo (rather than arrangements) - I have attempted some kind of a date order:

Banjotown: Morley (1919)

The Kilties: Grimshaw (date?)

Lancashire Clogs: Grimshaw (1911)

A Black Cocquette: Grimshaw (Date? Olly Oakley recorded this with Lancashire Clogs in 1913)

Sunflower Dance: Ossman (recorded by Ossman in 1906)

Darktown Dandies: Morley (1903) 

Rugby Parade: Oakley (recorded by Oakley 1901)

The Park Crescent March: Burnard (arr Ellis 1890.  It's in the Thorough School for 5string Banjo but my copy isn't dated)

Darkies Dream: Lansing (1889?)

Queen of the Burlesque: Tilley (1885)

Joel  : Ossman's 1890's recordings, with no modulated strain, set the standard for WR in the banjo community. Of the several WR recordings by other period banjoists,  I'm not aware of one that includes it. The CE score follows Ossman's lead as well. Even the ABF played it that way for about 65 years. It is only in very recent times, perhaps three years prior to your arrival, that the modulated strain was added to the ABF group number score, by an enthusiastic member.  

Carrie, there is a bit about Ossman playing WR in the May 1932 B.M.G. 'Banjo Enthusiasts I have Known' by Clifford Essex.

carrie horgan said:

Yes thank you for posting the third part Richard.

I've had fun reading the BMG magazines and the banjo is still going strong in the UK by 1920 but the dance-band era has begun - the UK is in the grip of a ragtime craze and the banjo is featured in Ragtime Sextette bands that feature piano, banjo, banjolin and trap drums. 

From reading what was most performed most frequently in banjo performances/recitals, I would say that Emile Grimshaw's compositions are the most popular - in particular, The Kilties.  I had read somewhere that Tattoo was his biggest seller but I have put A Black Cocquette in my list as it keeps cropping up.  Joe Morley pops up with The Mountaineers March, A Banjo Oddity and Darktown Dandies - I was initially puzzled by the absence of Banjotown but I then read it was published in 1919.  In 1917 and 1918 the 'BMG notes' peter out as so many male banjoists were involved in the war effort but I am trusting it was a big hit.  Another composer, SE Turner, pops up: his arrangement of Home Sweet Home was a popular encore piece (he also wrote some other tunes that are played: Goblin Gambols, Carolina Capers...intriguing).  Anyway, here is my list of tunes written for the banjo (rather than arrangements) - I have attempted some kind of a date order:

Banjotown: Morley (1919)

The Kilties: Grimshaw (date?)

Lancashire Clogs: Grimshaw (1911)

A Black Cocquette: Grimshaw (Date? Olly Oakley recorded this with Lancashire Clogs in 1913)

Sunflower Dance: Ossman (recorded by Ossman in 1906)

Darktown Dandies: Morley (1903) 

Rugby Parade: Oakley (recorded by Oakley 1901)

The Park Crescent March: Burnard (arr Ellis 1890.  It's in the Thorough School for 5string Banjo but my copy isn't dated)

Darkies Dream: Lansing (1889?)

Queen of the Burlesque: Tilley (1885)

Shawn :

Were there more recordings than this one?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rW0fmFjyI8

It includes the second part of the trio.

What you write about the ABF version seems accurate.  I should check the library to see if any other manuscript exists from various members and see what they had.



Shawn McSweeny said:

Joel  : Ossman's 1890's recordings, with no modulated strain, set the standard for WR in the banjo community. Of the several WR recordings by other period banjoists,  I'm not aware of one that includes it. The CE score follows Ossman's lead as well. Even the ABF played it that way for about 65 years. It is only in very recent times, perhaps three years prior to your arrival, that the modulated strain was added to the ABF group number score, by an enthusiastic member.  

I wrote a moment ago about Ray Andrews.  Scratch that, Ray Andrews does not play the full trio.

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