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Minstrel Shows

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wysiwyg 01 Jun 02 - 12:21 PM
wysiwyg 01 Jun 02 - 12:25 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 01 Jun 02 - 12:29 PM
Lonesome EJ 01 Jun 02 - 12:48 PM
wysiwyg 01 Jun 02 - 01:00 PM
Lonesome EJ 01 Jun 02 - 02:07 PM
GUEST 01 Jun 02 - 03:58 PM
wysiwyg 01 Jun 02 - 04:22 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 01 Jun 02 - 05:16 PM
DougR 01 Jun 02 - 06:04 PM
Mary in Kentucky 01 Jun 02 - 06:13 PM
greg stephens 01 Jun 02 - 06:13 PM
Mary in Kentucky 01 Jun 02 - 06:25 PM
Butch 01 Jun 02 - 08:52 PM
wysiwyg 01 Jun 02 - 09:32 PM
Butch 02 Jun 02 - 07:56 AM
masato sakurai 02 Jun 02 - 08:16 AM
Malcolm Douglas 02 Jun 02 - 09:07 AM
wysiwyg 02 Jun 02 - 09:19 AM
wysiwyg 02 Jun 02 - 10:08 AM
Malcolm Douglas 02 Jun 02 - 10:23 AM
Malcolm Douglas 02 Jun 02 - 10:25 AM
Rincon Roy 02 Jun 02 - 10:58 AM
Butch 02 Jun 02 - 02:28 PM
Uncle Jaque 02 Jun 02 - 03:27 PM
wysiwyg 02 Jun 02 - 04:14 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 02 Jun 02 - 04:17 PM
Lonesome EJ 02 Jun 02 - 04:26 PM
wysiwyg 02 Jun 02 - 04:58 PM
Butch 02 Jun 02 - 05:15 PM
wysiwyg 02 Jun 02 - 05:59 PM
Lonesome EJ 02 Jun 02 - 06:11 PM
wysiwyg 02 Jun 02 - 06:29 PM
Butch 02 Jun 02 - 07:29 PM
wysiwyg 02 Jun 02 - 07:43 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 02 Jun 02 - 08:35 PM
M.Ted 03 Jun 02 - 01:05 AM
Lonesome EJ 03 Jun 02 - 12:20 PM
GUEST,Butch at work 04 Jun 02 - 09:48 AM
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Lonesome EJ 04 Jun 02 - 01:01 PM
M.Ted 04 Jun 02 - 01:16 PM
GUEST,Les B. 04 Jun 02 - 03:35 PM
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GUEST,Eileen Smith 05 Jun 02 - 02:09 AM
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Subject: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 12:21 PM

THE MINSTREL SHOW'S CONTRIBUTION TO FOLK MUSIC
By Tom Faigin
Source: http://www.jsfmusic.com/Uncle_Tom/Tom_Article6.html

Although Americans like William Billings wrote revolutionary war songs and hymns, most Americans during the early 1800's tended to copy British and European styles in music as well as clothing and literature. However, after the War of 1812, the American frontier acted as a magnet to Americans seeking land and freedom. This, in turn, helped create a new culture based on new experiences and problems. For example, religious restrictions against dancing helped develop the play party song. When the dancers sang the songs as they danced, they were not considered sinful, and as a result, hundreds of new songs such as "Skip to My Lou" and "Buffalo Gals" were created on the frontier as young people flirted and courted each other to the music.

New itinerant songwriters appeared between 1830—1850, composing new tunes based on existing folk melodies. Stephen Foster, Henry Clay Work, Daniel Emmett and Thomas Daddy Rice, all professional songwriters, traveled throughout the South by steamship and river boat, observing and notating song ideas from plantation slaves. The slaves, having learned many of their songs and dances from traveling Irish musicians, modified and played jigs and reels on homemade fiddles and banjos. The banjo itself was a slave invention, but the music became more rhythmic and syncopated as the slaves added African musical techniques. Plantation lore also made rich use of farm and wild animals that the slaves observed and imitated in their daily lives. The juba dance, the cakewalk, the turkey trot and the buzzard lope all had their origin in plantation life.

Thomas Daddy Rice was the first to create the idea of the comical plantation Negro when he observed a black stable groom in Louisville, Kentucky. He was old and bent over as he sang and danced a little song:

Wheel about and turn about and do just so,
Every time I wheeled about I jump Jim Crow.

Rice blackened his face with burnt cork, sang songs in a Southern Negro dialect and became a star overnight. In 1843 the Virginia Minstrels created a sensation at the Bowery Amphitheatre in New York with their snappy songs, dances and comedy routines. This group was followed by many others, all attempting to cash in on a perfect formula for the new art form.

At first there was no set pattern to the minstrel show, but gradually it developed into four sections, consisting of solos as well as ensemble performances. Solos were sung in Negro dialect and they usually poked fun of the ragged, black plantation slave. Sometimes the slave was portrayed as a trickster who outsmarted authority or else he became the butt of other peoples' jokes. He was usually poorly dressed, but often he appeared on stage as a highly—spirited city dandy in Long—tailed blue dress coat and was variously called Old Zip Coon, Dandy Jim or just Jim Crow. Although many minstrel songs derided the Negro, other songs poked inn of the arty, the pretentious and even opera and classical music. The following minstrel verse pokes fun of the great violinists Ole Bull and Paganini:

Loud de banjo talked away
And Ole Bull from Norway
We'll take the shine from Paganini;
We're the boys from Ole Virginny.

Some minstrel performers were active in political and social causes around the time of the Civil War. The Fighting Hutchinson Family, the most famous minstrel family, performed during the 1840's and '50's, sang against slavery and supported women in their struggle to vote. Also against the use of alcohol, they sang songs like "Temperance and Liberty," "Young Man Shun That Cup" and "Father's a Drunkard and Mother's Dead."

Oddly enough, the Southern anthem "Dixie" was written by Dan Emmett, a Northern minstrel composer. He wrote it over a weekend in 1859 for a new show he was putting together, but it became an enormous hit and Southerners began singing it as a patriotic hymn. When the tune became a Confederate marching song, Emmett was attacked by abolitionist newspapers and his group, Bryant's Minstrels, was banned from performing in Northern cities during the Civil War.

Although the minstrel show perpetuated Negro stereotypes, it also helped blacks enter the field of show business after the Civil War. Early black minstrel troupes such as Mahara's Minstrels and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels corked their faces as custom demanded and performed in a self—mocking manner that degraded their race. However, this was the beginning of their entry into professional show business and blacks continued to call themselves minstrels up to the start of World War I. James Bland (1854—1911), a black composer, was the only notable minstrel song writer of the late nineteenth century. Of the 200 songs he wrote, his most famous were "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers" and "In the Evening by the Moonlight."

Although the minstrel show became extremely popular in Northern cities, its vitality and folk quality came from its humble Southern folk origins —— the plantations, the frontier and the rivers used for navigation and transportation. Early hillbilly music is filled with many examples of early minstrel songs and even the five—string banjo remained popular in the white rural South long after its demise in the black community.

Uncle Dave Macon, a great banjo player and entertainer, served as a link between nineteenth century minstrel music and modern country music. Born in McMinnville, Tennessee in 1870, Uncle Dave was very early influenced by minstrel entertainers when his parents opened a theatrical boarding house in Nashville. He picked up banjo techniques and comedy routines from the minstrel men, as well as many songs that he later performed on his recordings and personal appearances. The early hillbilly string bands of the 1920's such as the Skillet Lickers and Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers often featured fiddle and banjo versions of old minstrel songs.

All in all, even though the minstrel show created racial stereotypes, it gave professional composers a vehicle for their new material and fed newly—composed songs into an ever—expanding folk tradition. While it gave blacks their first crack at professional show business, it also enriched the repertory of Southern country music. Like the Negro spiritual, the minstrel show was a uniquely American art form.

Tom Faigin is a guitar and banjo teacher in the San Fernando Valley since 1960 and is on staff at many schools, colleges and music organizations. He lectured on American Folk Music from 1982-1985 at Cal. State Los Angeles.

=======================================================

MORE INFORMATION:

THE MINSTREL SHOW extensive discussion and examples online, written by Jochen Scheytt. Includes links to much more.

BLACKFACE MINSTRELSY (from "Mark Twain and His Times" at the University of Virginia)

Two-Minute Wax Cylinder Phonograph Recordings: Vaudeville and Minstrelsy at THE CYLINDER SHOP/TINFOIL Explore out into the site from the sound clip and short discussion at this page.

Daniel Decatur Emmet & the American Minstrel (PBS: I Hear America Singing)

====================================================

~S~


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 12:25 PM

The Development of an African-American Musical Theatre 1865-1910 at American Memory; explore from this page to find much more.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 12:29 PM

Good brief article, Susan. One point that should be added, however, is that beginning with Daddy Rice and his "Jump Jim Crow," minstrel tours went to England. This helped spread American songs throughout the English-speaking world.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 12:48 PM

Wizzy, we have discussed the evolution of Blues from earlier sources, and I think the Minstrel tradition is an essential link. It formalized many slave songs, often mixing them with current popular music forms and appalachian-style traditional music. In formalizing these older musics, it also popularized them and became a form in itself to be imitated. Frankie and Johnny is an example of a song that likely pre-existed the minstrel tradition, was used in it, and contains many of the elements of the subsequent Blues genre.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 01:00 PM

Yup, it brings the spirituals forward and hooks them up with everything else!

I think we, in our racism-conscious culture of today, so often fail to realize how "blue-collar" culture so often transcended (or even preceded) barriers that we assume have always been in place in all times and in all situations. From camp-meetings (where white & black meetings would go on side by side and mix somewhat), through minstrelsy, right through all the blues (and its transformation into rock and roll)-- po' folks' music has always wandered across those "lines." And of course, music CAN do that, and when people are enjoying it, they can too....

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 02:07 PM

Good point. And I think that the American musical heritage is extremely rich. We seem to have inherited a shared tradition despite the presence of slavery and segregation. That in itself is a strong argument for the basic unifying power of music. No where, not in the Blues or in the Gospel forms, are there strong and clear delineations between black and white influences. People like the Skillet-Lickers, Jimmie Rodgers, Dave Macon and Blind Blake all influenced one another and learned from many of the same sources.


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Subject: ATTENTION JOE OFFER
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 03:58 PM

Please follow your ground rules and delete the opening post. WYSIWYG is well aware of your Mudcat edict not to post whole articles. The link would have been enough.

Just because she is part of the Mudcat inner clique, there should be no exceptions for WYSIWYG.
The "edict" applies only to non-music articles. Generally, it is expected that music articles should be posted in complete form, with attribution.
This thread is a discussion of minstrel music. Messages posted which attempt to divert the discussion will be deleted or moved.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 04:22 PM

GUEST has mis-stated what is SOP at Mudcat. Since I ran the article, I will say what my understanding of the situation actually might be.

There is no policy not to run whole articles. We often post entire items when it is not certain the source website will be up and running, particularly when they reflect music scholarship. The item in question is not copyrighted, was attributed properly, and was posted as part of the opening of the thread for the purpose of providing a basis for further, informed discussion. Among all the online resources I had seen, it provided the best summary of why one might wish to discuss the topic at a Folk Music site.

What has been objected to, about posting whole articles, has been the anonymous posting of items written and published by others, or items posted as if posted by the author of the piece, frequently with no source named, and with no musical content. It has been suggested that these sorts of posts have been efforts to ignite upsets or further policital, non-musical agendas. It has further been said that if someone wants to discuss a non-music topic based on someone else's published editorial piece, what is more appropriate is to provide a link to the item and then state one's own opinion, when starting the thread... the idea there would be that people speak for themselves on matters of opinion, rather than hiding their identity behind someone else's opinion so they can sit back and watch the fur fly.

If GUEST wishes to make additional suggestions about thread content or site policies governing same, might I respectfully refer GUEST to the Help Forum where the comment might actually be seen by site volunteers. Posting such comments in threads is not effective.

As far my as being a member of an Inner Mudcat Anything, as a matter of fact I am not praticularly well loved, appreciated, or agreed with, on many matters pertaining to the Mudcat, by many of its leaders and active members. I just don't make a very effective straw horse in that regard.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 05:16 PM

The cheaply printed ephemeral collections of songs put out by the minstrel troupes themselves were as important as the performances themselves to the spread of the songs and their entry into the folk process.
As I understand it, your motive in starting this thread and others on different aspects of African-American music and its history and influence is to end up with a series of "mini-essays" that can accompany and explain the songs, both spiritual and secular. Faigin's article is a convenient starting point for one important stage. Comments and suggestions will lead to the "momentarily definitive" essay that can be preserved in Mudcat. At least that is my take on your intent.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: DougR
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 06:04 PM

Interesting post, Susan. Guest appears more interested in stirring the pot than anything else.

dougR


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 06:13 PM

In The Stephen Foster Story, a play presented here in Bardstown, the story goes that Stephen wrote Old Folks at Home intending it to be a slow, mournful plantation song. It was used in the minstrel shows as a song-and-dance, fast snappy tune, causing Stephen much grief. (Then of course, or so the story presented here goes, he went on to write THE great plantation song, My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight!)

;-)


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 06:13 PM

Interesting little snippet popped into the original article about black musicians learning their material from itinerant Irish musicians.It would be interesting to see some evidence for this assertion, as opposed to say English or Scottish,or indeed American, jigs and reels. This looks to me like a slice of wannabee Celtic fantasy rather than history, but give me chapter and verse and I'll be very interested...the spread of fiddle music is my favourite area of research. I am not of course denying the enormous influence of Irish music on the American tradition, just querying why the author singled it out in this context.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 06:25 PM

Oh yes, I neglected to mention that The Stephen Foster Story was rewritten several years ago. They took out the minstrel show which was an integral part of the long drama. I personally thought it made the entire play too long, but there are people these days in the interest of being PC that sanitize everything in sight. I'm also firmly on the fence here, one friend refused to see the show because it "glorified" plantation life, etc. dunno.....The music sure is pretty though, even if the story is a bit manipulated.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Butch
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 08:52 PM

What suprises me is the small number of people who know any of these early tunes.

BTW, thanks for the links. There were two that I had not yet found!

Butch (AKA George)


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Jun 02 - 09:32 PM

Thanks, fellas.

I don't worry about what GUESTs who post like that think... but I do think, sometimes, that the impression they leave new folks with should be corrected when appropriate.

Debby McClatchy gave an excellent workshop on old time music at Clarion Folk College, and she talked about how all the music of the time, and much that we now call "old timey," was affected by the early recording industry. She had an angle on old time music's relationship to vaudeville, minstrelsy, and what she called "parlor music" that I only partially understand... so I am fascinated as this discussion moves forward, and as I read some of the stuff in the links.

NEW LINKS are wanted, so Butch (AKA George), spill it! Whatcha got? Wade right in....

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Butch
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 07:56 AM

I will work on putting up some new links later today.

For the record, this is what I do for a living. I play minstrel tunes on period instruments in the original style. I don't have any recordings yet, I mostly perform and lecture for music gatherings, schools, universities and historical organizations. I have spent the last 10 years researching the music and reproducing the banjos of the era. I do have a museum exhibit on the subject that will come out next fall in New York. When I have the exact dates I will post them here on the Cat.

For reading purposes, I can tell you there are some great books out on the subject right now.

Behind the Minstrel Mask. ( a collection of fine articles)

Demons of Disorder, Dale Cockrell (early minstels in the days before Emmett)

Blacking Up, Robert Toll (Out of print, but still available on the used book market)

For Recordings on the subject the very best are

The Early Minstrel Show on New World Records also Minstrel Banjo Style on Rounder Records and Old Dan Tucker, Tuckahoe Music and Joe Ayers

I hope this is of interest, within the year I hope to have a CD ROM out as an instructor for minstrel style banjo playing and my book will be out with the exhibit next year.

Butch (aka George)


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: masato sakurai
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 08:16 AM

MINSTREL SONGS, OLD AND NEW. A COLLECTION OF MINSTREL AND PLANTATION SONGS, INCLUDING THE MOST POPULAR OF THE CELEBRATED FOSTER MELODIES, ARRANGED WITH PIANO-FORTE ACCOMPANIMENT. [Published by Oliver Ditson & Co., Boston (1883)] is a good collection (with lyrics & MIDI).

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 09:07 AM

The Minstrel Shows also proved quite influential back in Britain and Ireland, as Dicho mentioned. Some of the standard repertoire of Northern English fiddlers in the 19th century derived from popular "Ethiopian" songs, as they were called, as do a number of Morris tunes if I recall correctly. The shows were also probably originally responsible for the introduction of the banjo into English and, later, Irish tradition (though the American-style dance bands of the early 20th century and the growing availability of cheap instruments were more influential in this respect) and for the adoption of the tambourine (usually a larger thing than the Spanish style instrument we see today) as a successor to the tabor in both England and Ireland. When the bodhran began to be used in Irish music, it was played in the same way that the tambourine had been.

Although I am sure that Irish music exercised notable influence at some stages, I am equally sure that it was by no means alone in this, though it is often the habit to single it out nowadays and to underplay the contribution of other traditional cultures in the development of the new American tradition.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 09:19 AM

]]]]DANGGGG[[[[ (sound of head being struck by metal hammer, like a heavy bell)

Butch, well met! Gee, stick around! *G*

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 10:08 AM

So (revealing total ignorance but keen interest)...

Jug band music?

Same?

Related?

English music hall?

... *G* I don't even know enough to ask the right questions. Just start talking, OK....?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 10:23 AM

"Minstrel" material certainly found its way into the music halls, along with a lot of other styles, and broadside copies of many "Ethiopian" songs were issued in both America and Britain, most particularly during the first half of the 19th century. Many can be seen at Bodleian Library Broadsides, though there doesn't seem to be a specific subject category.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 10:25 AM

Ahem. "Many can be seen at Bodleian Library Broadsides, though there doesn't seem to be a specific subject category."


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Rincon Roy
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 10:58 AM

(appreciate the thread!)


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Butch
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 02:28 PM

In the opening article it stated that "Buffalo Gals" came out of a western heritage. This is the only fault I can find in the article. "Buffalo Gals" is actully the song "Lubbly Fan" written by White. On tour, bands would sing the name of the town rather than the Lubbly Fan. So in Charleston it was "Charleston Gals won't you come out tonight". For whatever reason, when it got to Buffalo NY, the name stuck. Buffalo Gals was thus born.

What I find so important to learn about minstrelsy (and this has been pointed out above) is the fact that almost all traditional music in America has it's roots on the minstrel stage, one way or another. Some people see minstelsy as a fad. In fact it was as big as rock and roll and lasted for almost 100 years. This music was a large part of the soundtrack of America and yet many people sing "Buffalo Gals", "O' Susanna" and "Old Dan Tucker" and yet have no idea the roots of the songs or their real importance in American music history.

What I love is to stand before an audience that thinks "old Dan Tucker" is old time music and hit them with the 1843 version, words, style, dress and all. Most a blown away! The interest in this music is growing, with luck it will bring us to a better understanding of the roots of our most popular musical traditions.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Uncle Jaque
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 03:27 PM

Now this thread is a corker, folks; and we've some of the High Priests (and Priestesses) of the Art presiding as well, right out of the gate!

The "Minstrel" genre is one that dosen't get discussed as much as it deserves, IMHO, and that's probably due to our current cultural and racial "sensitivity". Now a little sensitivity is surely a grand thing; don't get me wrong, here... but like most anything it can be overdone, and I think we've seen that sort of thing running seriously amock and going haywire on us over the past several years or so.

Now "Butch" (great to have you aboard, Mate!) and I hang out with people who are known to "black up" and theatrically present, as authentically as possible, a period "Minstrel Show"... to a VERY select audience, with little or no advertizing, and that within a select community... for obvious reasons. I've never seen one that blatantly denigrated anyone's race any more than they apparantly used to, and they are as interesting as they are entertaining... and darn it; it's History!
Let's face it, folks; things were not always as they might better have been; we've come a long way - and pretending that it didn't happen, or coming up with some feel-good fantasy to replace it with (as many of our Government mandated factory indoctrination Centers, AKA "Public Schools" are so wont to do) is doing our Culture no favors. How'd you like to see the Students at your school put on a historically credible Minstrel Show (I can remember our school doing one in the early '60's), then discussing it's artistic, as well as racial implications? I'm not holding my breath here!

Wouldn't the "Minstrel Story" make one heckkuvva controversial motion picture, eh? I'd love to see one if it was competently done.. and anyone dares to do it!

As previously stated, the Minstrel phenomenon gave black and white American Musicians alike a novel oportunity to work creatively together, apparantly as peers in most cases, which I like to speculate opened a lot of doors for mutual respect and appreciation between the races. Who knows; for a white man to "black up" and role-play, even if in jest, it may well have created a new perspective and awareness for him as to the very human issues confronting his black Contrymen.
The stage gave black Artists an opportunity to get off of the plantation and strut his stuff before "de white folk" audiences all over America, England, and probably a few other exotic places as well. Those white folk might have laughed, but they were probably pretty darned impressed by the Performer's skill and artistry as well, regardless of race. Did the Mistrel Show provide the stirrup with which the black entertainer could mount to his well - deserved perch of credibility and acceptance in American Society? Debatable, sure; but I think that the art form probably did more to weaken the walls of racial seperation than to raise them, ultimately.

And This "Old Uncle' would surely love to hear a lot more of the Old Minstrel songs without having to worry about "offending" anyone, or having a hoarde of NAACP and ACLU Lawyers and "Leaders" frothing at the mouth and having conniption fits over it. I'll bet those old Minstrels could teach us all a lot about aquiring and developing a good sense of humor... an' 'dere be a lot o' folk out 'dere could shooore use one! Like dat lil' ol' "Guest" what come down fru' de' hole in de' roof wit' a rope, barkin' orders at ever'body like he own de place. Lawwwd; Hab MERCY, chile!!!


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 04:14 PM

As some of you know, I have been thinking about workshops as a paying music/info gig. The church gigs I have pretty well scoped out, at least as concepts.

For schools, though, one workshop idea I am working on is, "Your Black Heritage." Cuz white folks have a black heritage-- we can claim that music as OUR culture too, because it WAS there to be soaked up! (In the same vein as "black history is EVERYONE's history.")

I think it's time white folks stopped feeling bad for "ripping off" black culture--- and a lot of folks do. Embarrassed, apologetic. But it was there in its purely black form to be gobbled up, and we did, and we also made it our own in a million ways, too. Going from the spirituals up to the present, in gospel music, for example, would take us right through all the music we all know. (The gospel counterparts to the popular music were created in those same time periods.)

So these are all fodder for the mind mill as I mull it.

Butch, how do you approach talking about all the race issues, in promoting what you do as well as in doing it?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 04:17 PM

Uncle Jaque, I think it will come. We are still close to the upheavels of the 60s, and our response to much that reflects the 19th and early 20th centuries is immature. The political correctness nonsense will gradually disappear, at least I hope it does. One sign is the accumulation of black "memorabilia" by blacks; prices are jumping upward with the competition for interesting items.
I even hope for the revival of the old Amos and Andy radio shows- the characters portrayed were universal, although projected as blackface. The same was true of the old minstrels, and in that lay their appeal. People could laugh at themselves, and their problems through the antics of the performers.

Much later than the minstrel period came the "barn dances," heard on radio across the United States. A long time ago, I heard a program on the performers of the "Grand Old Opry" and other barn dance shows that were popular in the 30s. A significant number were immigrants from eastern and central Europe who had played rural or folk music in the "old country." They quickly learned the American idioms and made their own contributions to what we call "Country." Racial stereotypes sometimes were played for humor on the shows. The Barn Dance period is a subject in itself.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 04:26 PM

I have heard that the minstrel shows followed some standard forms in their presentation. For example, there may have been a certain seating of the actors that corresponded to their sequence of performing. And were there not some common characters in all minstrel shows, like "Mr Bones" and "Mr Interlocutor"?


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 04:58 PM

Yeah, LEJ, I read about it in one of the links, the three usual parts of the show.... but being still such a student and not an expert (much less priestess, sheeshe Jaque!), I would not want to expand upon it myself but rather refer you to the links and ask that you look around and see what you find with which to address that.

I read a lyric this AM that was about a black person doing something bad and tied out to be bird-plucked or something, and the verses go through a succession of near misses that become victories. It ends with the last bird choosing to free him instead, cuz it's the bird of freedom. OK, lousy paraphrase, but the point was-- imagine in the middle of a white audience at a minstrel show, hearing THAT!? But then maybe that one was for the black audience.

And there is the fascination of the dry, cracked sheets of paper so lovingly scanned into our present memories.... just what they heck were they DOING?

It's recent enough we can ALMOST remember it for ourselves, but just out of reach except by passed-along stories about it.

So near, and so very, very far.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Butch
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 05:15 PM

I must now come out of the closet, I am a burnt cork artist myself.

Since we seem to have gone over to the show itself as a subject, let me tell you what I know.

In the early days there were several parts to any show.

Music, with humor Solos Skits or short plays More music or solos Finale or walkaround

This could change depending on the year or the troupe.

The standard players were the musicians themselves with only the two "end men" (bones and tambo) playing a character as it were. These were the men who delivered the punch lines to the jokes or got a new joke started.

Mr. Interlocutor is a post Civil War invention. In later years he was not blacked up but rather stayed as a white performer. It needs to be known that the stage changed very much over the years. This character is not the only change.

In the 1840's, the show was based on 4 men. In the 1850's the numbers grew to as many as 8 or 10. By the 1880's as many as 40 or more! But in the 1860's there was a revival of the "old time" 4 man shows!! Kind of like the 1970's revival of the 1950's.

In later shows the joke segments and skits were interspersed with music and solos. The bones and tambo however, never changed position even into the 1920's.

Racism is another change in the shows. The early shows were not very racist, they were VERY sexist, but that did not change. By the 1920's racism was the mainstay of the stage. This was also the time when the shows went from the professional acts to an almost all community theater/civil club show. As this change slowly took place over the years, racism took over. Most of the racism that minstrel critics point to did not come about until after 1890.

With luck, this shared heritage will come back, not as pure entertainment, but as educationb as to our shared culture.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 05:59 PM

Hm; and did black folk cork up and play stereotype, too?

BTW, can we have a general agreement at least among those who have posted so far that if a hot button gets pushed we will say so, each of us taking responsibility for our own sensitivities, and check in with each other before "letting fly"?

I think we have a pretty unique form of access to try to talk about things that are still pretty hard to talk about. Maybe it's not so weird to think we might not be perfect in the attempt.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 06:11 PM

Somewhere up above, Uncle Jacque said that, by portraying blacks in minstrel shows, white performers may have achieved some insight into what it was to be a black person in 19th century America. Frankly, I can't see how portraying the clownish, ignorant, and child-minded black characters that were typical of these entertainments could give insight into what black people actually experienced as slaves. In turn, the characters could teach nothing to the Northern audiences about slavery or black people, both unfamiliar subjects to them. I don't think these are reasons for boycotting black-face minstrel revivals, but I certainly don't see them as justifications for them either.

I believe that these black-face characters served much of the function that formal masks played in the Greek plays : They disguised the individuality of the performer in favor of portraying universal themes of humor or tragedy through familiar, symbolic characters.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 06:29 PM

I think I can start to see it, LEJ; I think one might feel a hint of the shame of the self being parodized, if one had some imagination. Maybe it's one thing we can't know uless we try it... maybe if someone reports that this is a possible outcome, we need to keep listening and ask some more questions.

So-- Jaque-- can you tell me more about how that is? Do you mean that being treated as ignorant, etc., when one knows one is not, would have a certain effect? I can see that-- one minute, without makeup, one is treated as fully empowered. The next, in makeup, the full weight of the stereotype settles down on the shoulders.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Butch
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 07:29 PM

I would also like a shot at this answer.

Not all of the characters on the blackface stage were ignorant or childlike. Many characters were quite clever and got the better of either white characters of wealth characters. This did not change until after the Civil War

Also, in songs like "Nelly was a Lady", "Lucy Neal" and "My Darling Nelly Grey", the black characters were given the very high minded emotions most closely held by Victorian Society: love, loss and heartbreak. All of these tunes portray the loss of love due to the evil of slavery. This may be the first time in American theater that these emotions were allowed to be portrayed by black characters.

The question must be, did these emotions have an effect on the audience or the players? This is hard to know, but as the Civil War came closer, the songs of this sort stopped being popular because they hit too close to home. I think that it had enough of an effect on the audience to make the minstrels change tunes so that they and the audience did not have to deal with such heavy matters.

As to the question of blacking up, yes black minstrels also blacked up so as to keep the image. It needs to be noted that in the early days, the white around the lips was not used. This, like so many other ills, came later.

I do have to agree with Lonesome to an extent, the cork was part of a minstrel mask in the Greek sense. I have done it, and felt totally liberated on stage by the mask. Dale Cockrell does a very good job of explaining this in his book. That said, there is also a two way exchange of music and images that can not be denied. Images totally forign to white culture does find it's way into minstrel tunes like'"Black Cat, White Cat". These images show us that culture, although shallow, was passed from one group to another. Also, the popularity of " The Blue Tail Fly" on the plantations of Georgia show us that some of this culture flowed in both directions. I think that is may be too easy to miss this exchange.

Minstelsy is complicated. It can not be opened fully here, for that matter, scholarship is just beginning to open this world to us. We can talk for many years (and hopefully will!) but it will be a long time before we truly understand this part of American culture and it's influence on the world.

Butch


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 07:43 PM

I'm just glad we are addressing it and doing so as inquisitive friends trying to understand, value, and appreciate... to look with open eyes at the good, the bad, and the ugly. *G*

I should say that I do expect some ugly trolling to arrive in the topic at some point, not from one of us but probably anonymously. I hope we will just let it go and keep the tone we have started with. If not I am always glad to get PMs moving discussions to e-mail, and I would gladly coordinate such a discussion.

Glad yer here, Butch.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Jun 02 - 08:35 PM

Australia also had touring minstrel shows. The first was organized by Frank Weston, "Weston and La Feuilades Minstrels," in 1869. His show, including both local and American talent, only lasted a short time because Australia was added to the western tour leg of the American shows. There is a book on Australian minstrelsy by Waterhouse (no further data).

Better books on American minstrelsy>
1. Lhamon, W. T., Raising Cain: Blackface Performers from Jim Crow to Hip Hop. Harvard Univ. Press.
2. Lott, Eric, Love and Theft- Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. Oxford Univ. Press.
3. Maher, Wm. J., Behind the Burnt Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture. Univ. Illinois Press (one of their notable series, Music in American Life Series).
4. Nathan, Hans, Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy. Univ. Oklahoma Press.
5. Toll, Robert C., Blacking Up: The Minstrel Show in Nineteenth Century America, Oxford Univ. Press.

Occasionally a book of songs and routines put out by one of the old touring groups in the 19th century appears in rare book auctions. They bring $1000 to much more.

Blackface minstrel shows, as Butch has pointed out, became the property of service clubs and the like. I remember vaguely one in the 1930s (I would have been about 10-12), put on, I believe, by the Shriners in blackface with full stage setup. I remember that we blacked up for a skit in high school (about 1940), but I have no memory of the content of the skit.

My grandfather, who saw touring shows in the west in 1880s-1990s and later, told me that there was usually a more serious recitation at some point in the show- a cultural or religious subject. Butch may know when these interludes appeared.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: M.Ted
Date: 03 Jun 02 - 01:05 AM

By the end of the 19th century, most minstrels were actually black, as were many of the songwriters who created thier material--Bert Williams, who was one of the most successful entertainers of his time, performed for his entire life as a black man in blackface--even still, it was his goal, and the goal of many others, to move away from the coon songs and humor(he and his partner, George Walker, actually billed themselves as "Two Real Coons") and on to a higher form of art--


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 03 Jun 02 - 12:20 PM

Thanks, Butch. Much of what I know about minstrel shows come from literature about them, and I'm not so familiar with the actual content, which is a shame. This is a part of our shared culture that has been excised from history, with only remnants of songs remaining. I appreciate your point of view.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: GUEST,Butch at work
Date: 04 Jun 02 - 09:48 AM

I have a question here. What should we, as musicians, do with the minstrel repitoire? Moreover, how do we do it?

Do we interpret this music like historians, of simply play it like musicians? How do we break the race barrier?

Mr. Bob Kilham played "old Zip Coon" (now known as Turkey in the Straw" and "My Darling Nelly Gray" in New York at a famous museum. His audience was mixed race. His performance was well recieved be all. Does this mean that there is a real problem of sensabilities... or is it a fear on our part of the vocal PC police?

I ask these questions because I feel that the quicker we can come to terms with our mutual musical cultures in America, the sooner racism may begin to go down to defeat. Am I a nut? Please give me your comments.

Butch


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 04 Jun 02 - 10:38 AM

I think those are, precisely, the questions. I think the answers need some thought. *G* And I think the answers vary with the circumstances in which one finds oneself.

I do have some experience helping people deal with their internalized (and often unconscious) racism and all the feelings locked up in that simple little word.

I'm gonna chew this one for a bit and then I'll share what I think. (Be patient-- it's a busy couple of days I'm looking at.)

Can't wait to see what everyone thinks.... *G* maybe, together, we can "solve" this puzzle. ;~}

~S~


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 04 Jun 02 - 01:01 PM

Tough one, Butch. As a revival, say a broadway musical that re-created a minstrel show, I think it could be successful under certain conditions. You could have white actors or black actors, but I think that "blacking-up" would be perceived as racist step-n'-fetchit activity. From what I can see of the humor used in the original minstrel shows, I think that is pretty naive for a contemporary audience, unless viewed in a historical context by students of the genre. I also think that the melodramatic plays that were presented as part of the show are generally too broad and have too many allusions to contemporary events, sayings, etc.

So I see two methods : Honest re-creations in small formats presented for those with a serious interest in the form OR up-dated versions that could serve the purpose of interesting larger numbers of people in the form.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: M.Ted
Date: 04 Jun 02 - 01:16 PM

A number of years ago, Ben Vereen starred in a show based on the work of Bert Williams--it didn't go over--minstrel stuff was revived quite a lot in the movies, sans cork, and well received--there is a very old short subject that TMC has been playing which features routines from on of the extant minstrel shows, and it is really amazing--I'll have to look up the name of it--so the acceptance is there--also seems to me that there is a black fringe theater group that does minstrel stuff--I guess you guys don't get out much;-)


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 04 Jun 02 - 03:35 PM

Didn't actor Ted Danson ("Cheers") do a roast of his then lover, Whoopi Goldberg, in black face ? Seems to me it went over like a turd in a punch bowl.

Some of the songs and jokes, however, are classics and deserve to be done.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: GUEST,Bill Kennedy
Date: 04 Jun 02 - 04:45 PM

very interesting and important thread, but not a mention yet of Spike Lee's film 'Bamboozled'. Have you not seen it?


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 04 Jun 02 - 04:58 PM

I haven't-- spill it, Bill!

~S~


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: GUEST,Eileen Smith
Date: 05 Jun 02 - 02:09 AM

I can only point out from five years of experience buying and selling sheet music on eBay that the early Black caricature and minstrel music sells very well (second only to the classic rags) and purchased by the most serious collectors. And so I think there is an appreciation for the genre as American popular song history, and would expect that most collectors will never hear the music performed in its intended style.

One venue for performers might be exhibitions at the prolific ragtime or trad jazz festivals around the U.S. Trad jazz isn't that far removed from its roots that musicians and fans wouldn't appreciate and honor a recreation.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Butch
Date: 05 Jun 02 - 11:42 PM

Bump N/T ( so I can find it in the morning!)


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 06 Jun 02 - 12:53 AM

Butch, if you look between the last post of the thread, and the empty box for making a new post, you will see an underlined link, "Add Thread To Tracer." If you click that, a bookmark of the thread (a "tracer") lands on your Mudcat personal page, so you can easily find it and see if there are new posts. Have you found your personal page yet? CLICK HERE and see if that takes you to your Personal Page.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: Butch
Date: 06 Jun 02 - 07:57 AM

I forgot which forum I was on! My brain quits at 11:30pm no matter what the body is doing. On my other forum (a Civil War history group) we use the bump n/t for all kinds of reasons. Sorry about that.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel Shows
From: wysiwyg
Date: 06 Jun 02 - 09:19 AM

Butch, we often bump ("refresh") just to bring a thread up on the 24-hour list so others will see it. Never bad to refresh-- I just was concerned you might not know about that feature of Mudcat.

~Susan


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