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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Joel : By 1901, Ossman had recorded WR for Columbia, Berliner, Edison, Zonophone, Victor and Edison Bell. 

Just listened to the linked version plus a couple of others, and the restated second strain is consistently modulated at the end. Hadn't registered on my ears before now.

The ABF followed the CE score for decades, but why did CE omit the modulated strain? 

I would if I could but it was just the trio that was arranged in the Ossman style by Joe Morley, presumably just after Ossman's visit to England in 1903. There is an account of Ossman's visit in the May, 1932 B.M.G. 'Banjo Enthusiasts I Have Met' by Clifford Essex.

Joel Hooks said:

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.

Sid Turner was a hairdresser in Cheltenham, I remember his Weaver banjo being sold after his death c1964, he sold  hand written copies of his HSHome arrangement for 5/- (five shillings) old money, 25p now but the real value could be as much as £10.00 I suppose. HSHome goes well with 'The Last Rose of Summer' which you can find in Ellis's tutor.

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)

Thank you Richard.  Yes, I knew I had seen this arrangement somewhere and found it in the Grimshaw book: 'The Banjo and How to Play it' - the section on reading positions is really helpful.  I am going to challenge myself to read direct from score instead of transcribing to tab.  I have downloaded the Cammeyer tunes you recommended also.  I will be busy!

I also found an old post about S.E Turner on this site with a photograph and newspaper cuttings.  I will keep my eyes out for his tunes in the BMG mags.  Some of the music sheets are missing in the BMGs (unfortunately Carolina Capers is one that is missing)

Richard William Ineson said:

Sid Turner was a hairdresser in Cheltenham, I remember his Weaver banjo being sold after his death c1964, he sold  hand written copies of his HSHome arrangement for 5/- (five shillings) old money, 25p now but the real value could be as much as £10.00 I suppose. HSHome goes well with 'The Last Rose of Summer' which you can find in Ellis's tutor.

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)

Carolina Capers

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/t45ufzlfdoyshx7/AADxZXPnGaD5oqTmZ2INmHvu...

Frank Bradbury liked to play his Marche Du Roi.

That's great Joel - thanks very much for posting the score.    

Thanks Joel,

I have added the score, complete with 2nd banjo part, to the MUSIC LIBRARY.

I also spotted SE Turner's 'Koonville Parade' in copy 1925 (05) and a short piece 'Reminiscing' written by him in BMG 1948 (12) where his compositions are listed.

I think that I may have been wrong about the Golden Age of classic banjo as it seems to extend into the 1920s with new tunes being written (e.g. Grimshaw's 'The Banshee' being advertised as a new solo in 1926).  Some of the 'classics' missing from my list are likely because they were written later than 1920.  It would be interesting to see a date order of Grimshaw compositions.  Anyway, it is cheering - the banjo clubs, BMG clubs and Federation Rallies are still going strong in the 1940s.  

A lot of the B.M.G. clubs closed during the war and never got going again, many people, especially women had their horizons widened by being in the armed forces or working in factories etc. it was a time of great change. There were new sources of entertainment TV for instance, and a lot of social activities such as the B.M.G. clubs, the church, etc. went out of fashion. I'm always amazed that anybody, me included, still bothered to play and find amusement in playing this ancient music. I wanted to play the banjo in a jazz band in the early 1960s when traditional jazz was still very popular, and found a banjo teacher in Sheffield. He was in his 60s I suppose, he seemed to be very old to me, he was horrified with the idea of playing the banjo with a plectrum. He played me 'A Banjo Vamp' on his Cammeyer 'Vibrante' and I just had to do it, so I took some lessons from him and it's been downhill all the way ever since.

carrie horgan said:

I also spotted SE Turner's 'Koonville Parade' in copy 1925 (05) and a short piece 'Reminiscing' written by him in BMG 1948 (12) where his compositions are listed.

I think that I may have been wrong about the Golden Age of classic banjo as it seems to extend into the 1920s with new tunes being written (e.g. Grimshaw's 'The Banshee' being advertised as a new solo in 1926).  Some of the 'classics' missing from my list are likely because they were written later than 1920.  It would be interesting to see a date order of Grimshaw compositions.  Anyway, it is cheering - the banjo clubs, BMG clubs and Federation Rallies are still going strong in the 1940s.  

Yes, Richard - well, it's down to the dedicated few that the tradition has survived.  Thank you for being a Banjo Oddity!

So, I think we can say that fingerstyle banjo was still popular in the 1920s, although people were also taking up plectrum and tenor banjo.  I guess at some point it changed from playing the popular music of the day (e.g. the latest Ossman record or Grimshaw solo) to a nostalgic pursuit.  

That seems to be so for some. For me nostalgia plays no part.  I play the repertoire I like because I find it's musically viable.  I don't stop eating food my ancestors ate because it is out of fashion. I'm not going give up tea or coffee because it's not the latest thing. The best of classic banjo music ain't broke so why fix it by playing other music that isn't as good?

carrie horgan said:

I guess at some point it changed from playing the popular music of the day (e.g. the latest Ossman record or Grimshaw solo) to a nostalgic pursuit.  

Yes, maybe nostalgic is not the right choice of world.  It is not nostalgic for me as it is not within living memory but is more about enjoyment of the tunes and learning about the history that goes with it.  I guess I just meant that there is a sense that the banjo is 'the modern instrument' in the earlier BMG editions and is used to play what is 'current'.  It is of it's time whereas Richard's banjo teacher isn't playing the latest Beatles in the 1960s but something from decades ago.  

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