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Thread: Banjo or banjolin?

  1. #1
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Banjo or banjolin?

    I visited the Rock Hall of Fame last week and snapped this shot because, well, mandolin. And i saw it was labeled as a 'banjo' and just said to myself, uh, no.

    Unless I'm wrong?

    Anyway, thought it would be entertaining to post this. And i hope it doesn't come in sideways, but i can't promise.
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    1920 Lyon & Healy bowlback
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    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    Be it a banjo or banjolin, Pig Pen played neither.
    "The paths of experimentation twist and turn through mountains of miscalculations, and often lose themselves in error and darkness!"
    --Leslie Daniel, "The Brain That Wouldn't Die."

    Some tunes: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa1...SV2qtug/videos

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    100% banjo-mandolin.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by jaycat View Post
    Be it a banjo or banjolin, Pig Pen played neither.
    Are you sure? Over the years, I've seen many pictures of musicians playing instruments that they weren't famous for playing. For instance, we've had a lot of surprising photos posted here of famous guitar players or other instrumentalists playing mandolins, which often leaving us wondering: did they really play mandolin or were they just experimenting with someone else's?

    And I agree, it's a banjolin, mandolin-banjo, banjo-mandolin, or manjo.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    You can call that instrument anything you’d like. The most compelling thing for me in the photo is seeing the handwritten lyrics for Operator. Looks like there were some alternative last verse endings. Good stuff!

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    I visited St. Louis a year ago and while there went to the Blue Museum. This display caught my eye. As I recall, these were presented in the context of instruments that would have been played on riverboats.

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    As to whether or not Pigpen played banjolin, it seems impossible to definitively state that he never played one. I think it's pretty well verifiable that he never did onstage with Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia did play banjo, but not onstage with Grateful Dead, AFAIK. He may well have played it live in Mother Macree's Uptown Jug Stompers, before it morphed into The Dead. He did play it in the studio, at least once - on the acoustic version of "Dark Star" that was released as a single in 1968, there's a wee bit of it right at the ending fade. And he even played mandolin, during the early days, in a duo with his first wife, Sara Ruppenthal, as reported in these very pages.



    Also, some of you may remember that a mandolin supposedly given by Janis Joplin to Jimi Hendrix sold at auction recently. Did either of them play it? Who knows? It hardly matters; the key consideration is ownership.

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    Just because a musician is known for this or that in his or her perfomances, there's no way of knowing what he or she may play or own the rest of the time.
    Last edited by journeybear; Oct-26-2022 at 9:53pm. Reason: just one more thing ...
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    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    I will concede the point that Pig Pen may, at one time, have been in the same room with a banjolin. But if that's the best they can do at the Hall of Fame, I think I'll pass.
    "The paths of experimentation twist and turn through mountains of miscalculations, and often lose themselves in error and darkness!"
    --Leslie Daniel, "The Brain That Wouldn't Die."

    Some tunes: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa1...SV2qtug/videos

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    It could have been a family heirloom or it could have been something he picked up at a yard sale or a gift from a friend. It doesn't mean he played it but apparently he did own it. Kind of like the cello I have sitting on my instrument rack. I've never played it but it was a gift so it's there.

    I would also note that the Dead evolved from several other bands that Garcia and McKernan had formed, one being a jug band.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by jaycat View Post
    I will concede the point that Pig Pen may, at one time, have been in the same room with a banjolin. But if that's the best they can do at the Hall of Fame, I think I'll pass.
    I take your point. It's like going to the Great Artists Hall of Fame, and seeing Picasso's hammer and chisel from the week he tried sculpting.*


    * I made that up; I'm not saying that Picasso actually tried sculpting.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    Nuts. If the hammer and chisel belonged to Picasso, if the banjolin belonged to Pigpen, that's something. And for the item under discussion to have been selected for exhibit in the HOF, I think it's a fair assumption that due diligence was done to determine it was, in fact, owned by Pigpen. If anyone actually, factually, knows it is not his, please provide proof. Otherwise, I think it's best to leave such considerations to those qualified and charged to do so. And I think it's really cool he owned one.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  19. #11

    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    I don't know if Pig ever played a banjolin, much less this particular one, but he did own a play a variety of instruments that he did not (usually) play on stage. Mostly guitar, which he loved playing, and did actually play a few times in public, including a 1970 show where he played six songs. He also owned and played a banjo, a fiddle, and a dobro. So a banjolin doesn't seem out of the question to me.

    I would love to see the museum's provenance for this instrument.

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  21. #12
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    I own n play a very excellent 1927 Vega banjo mandolin ( and also several mandos and ukes and about 40 harmonicas. ) the banjo mando is very loud and holds its own in a swing banjo band playing 30 s music. there are you tubes of a guy playing his banjo mando and it does bring the roof down and compete with all those loud banjos in a blue grass jam. You can find interesting ones which are fairly inexpensive , because hardly anyone knows what they are ( or likes them. ) same is true for banjo ukes — loud noise in a uke band even strung w nylon uke strings. so much music, so little time.

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    Problem is most people have heard these instruments indoors, and often inside a small room cramped up with a whole load of other instruments. No breathing space.

    These beauties, when tuned in fifths are best played outside - up in the hills, in a forest on a warm, sunny but windy day. Oh yeah!
    Last edited by Simon DS; Nov-05-2022 at 8:45am.

  23. #14
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    I reached out to the Hall of Fame and let them know they had mislabeled the "banjo" and I got a very nice response from one of the archivists confirming the information with a note that they'll change the tag when they can. Kudos to them!
    --------------------------------
    1920 Lyon & Healy bowlback
    1923 Gibson A-1 snakehead
    1952 Strad-o-lin
    1983 Giannini ABSM1 bandolim
    2009 Giannini GBSM3 bandolim
    2011 Eastman MD305

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo or banjolin?

    Yay!!! Score one, a victory for truth, justice, and order in the midst of a chaotic universe!
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

    Blues Mando Social Group
    Gibson Mandolins Social Group
    North Florida Mandolin Players Social Group

    Celebrating her birthday 10/1 and her surviving Hurricane Ian: The lovely Miss Dagmar in her prime, captivating all in attendance - muse, inspiration, friend - a true avatar

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