The Banjo Entertainers
Roots to Ragtime
A Banjo History
By Lowell H. Schreyer
The African-descended musical instrument, the banjo, has had more than one history in America. Excellent books have been written on the banjo as a folk instrument and on the banjo's evolution from a primitive to a highly sophisticated musical instrument through the construction process. This work is intended to tell the story of the many entertainers who played banjo, popularizing it to the extent that it has come to be regarded as America's unofficial national musical instrument.
The entertainment areas covered include the performing venues of minstrel shows, vaudeville theaters, concert halls, showboats, medicine shows, and ragtime phonograph recordings. This project was originally aimed at spanning the time period from the banjo's entry into professional entertainment to the present, but the amount of information uncovered in research made it obvious that this goal was impractical without deleting vital elements of interest. Instead, the time period covered by this book will conclude with the ragtime era at the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th Century, leaving the later period, which includes development of the four-string tenor and plectrum banjos, for another book.
Emphasis will be on the professionals, both famous and little known, who worked as banjo entertainers popularizing the five-string instrument in this country and beyond. Sidelights of related banjo history will also be examined. An earlier work, Edw. Le Roy Rice's Monarchs of Minstrelsy, 1911, identified many of the banjo entertainers in that branch of show business. This current research provides additional details on the minstrel period, biographical information on banjoists in all areas of entertainment, and documentation. As an old-school newspaperman who also plays the banjo, I have attempted to dig out the facts as accurately as possible and, without much social commentary, let the facts tell the story.
Lowell H. Schreyer
Softcover - 237 pages