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Author Topic: Dock Boggs and Banjos  (Read 5633 times)

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Offline whigski3

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Dock Boggs and Banjos
« on: January 31, 2006, 07:14:58 PM »
Recent threads on WeenieCampbell got me thinking about banjos.  Consequently, a few days ago I went searching for blues-banjo mp3s. On my trip, I ended up learning of Dock Boggs.  Well gosh, that guy is pretty darned good!  I noticed a link to a web page about him in the Links section of WeenieCampbell, so I hope that I don't need to be afraid to mention his name here (I realize that he may be regarded as more in the Old Time Music genre--and if this is any sort of problem, then I will happily delete this post).

Anyway, I think that this banjo music (that of Dock Boggs) has the flavor of banjo music that I would aspire to play if I had a banjo. I would not intend to play bluegrass. This leads me to ponder what kind of clawhammer banjo would be most suitable.  The Deering "GoodTime" banjo, while evidently highly recommended for beginners, has a tone which is described as "pure and bright".  This doesn't seem like the right quality, no?

I would appreciate any wisdom on suitable banjos or more guidance in banjo-blues listening!  I am an intermediate fingerstyle-blues player and I have no experience playing banjo. 

Thanks,
Bill
« Last Edit: January 31, 2006, 07:26:48 PM by whigski3 »
I'm sitting here wondering, will a matchbox hold my clothes...

Offline frankie

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2006, 08:10:13 PM »
Deleting a post about Dock Boggs is just a really bad idea, imo.

The nice thing about banjos is that you can set them up just about any way you want.  Loosen the head, damp the head, put on gut or nylon strings, change to a skin head, whatever...  Dock Boggs played a Supertone early on, and later a Gibson Mastertone - I don't think you need to be constrained by those choices, though, and neither do you need to be overly concerned about whether what you buy is a 'bluegrass' or 'old-time' banjo.  The banjos favored by bluegrass musicians tend to be made with heavy tone-rings and resonators.  The banjos favored by old-time musicians may tend toward open backs with lighter tone rings (or none at all), but I've seen old-time banjo players with every imaginable type of banjo.  I've owned a few over the years - some with a resonator, some without, some with tone rings, some without, some with frets, some without...  I could pretty much coax the sound I wanted out of each one with some patience.

I think a Goodtime, Rover, Gold Tone or Saga would suit you fine and not set you back too much money.

There's not a whole lot of 'blues banjo', although plenty of old-time music was influenced by blues.  Blues was developing just as African Americans were moving away from the banjo and taking up guitar for the most part.  Old-time banjo is a joy in and of itself, though.  You could seek put some of Gus Cannon's recordings.  Check out the recordings of Nathan Frazier and Frank Patterson on Altamont:  Black Stringband Music.  Nathan Frazier is a dynamite banjo player and singer - they way they do Po Black Sheep drives me nuts.  It may not be blues, but the spirit that informs the best blues and old-time music is certainly there.

Check out Roscoe Holcomb while you're at it - he's brilliant!

Offline Slack

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2006, 09:07:40 PM »
Quote
Well gosh, that guy is pretty darned good!  I noticed a link to a web page about him in the Links section of WeenieCampbell, so I hope that I don't need to be afraid to mention his name here (I realize that he may be regarded as more in the Old Time Music genre--and if this is any sort of problem, then I will happily delete this post).

Hey Bill, we are not as narrow minded as we seem.  :P  There are lots of Dog Boggs fans amongst us CBer's --- Some big fans too!  We even have a modest selection of blues banjo (and some old time) on Weenie Juke (Dock Boggs 'Country Blues', some banjo by Rev Gary Davis some Black minstrel banjo that frankie mentioned).

I had a Good Time banjo until one of my sons absconded with it.... which gave me an excuse to buy a Chanterelle.  Both open backs which I think is better suited to Doc Boggs sound.  The Good Time is a fine beginners banjo... so I encourage to seek a banjo out - there's a whole world of banjo jokes awaiting.  :D

Orb Mellon

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2006, 06:39:37 AM »
Dock Boggs is awesome. If you can find the Revenant Records CD from the late 90s, it is fantastic.

Offline whigski3

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2006, 02:44:02 PM »
Thank you for your thoughtful replies Frankie, Slack, and Orb Mellon.  I am looking forward to getting to a store where I can examine some banjos in person.  In the meantime, I am following up on the artist leads that you provided.  It appears that Mike Seeger is a very important contributing artist as well.

Thanks, Bill

Quote
so I encourage to seek a banjo out - there's a whole world of banjo jokes awaiting.  :D

Today, at the top of the WeenieCampbell page, the following quote appeared:

Ability to play the banjo soon places one in a social position to pick and choose from scores of social invitations. Everywhere, the banjoist is assured of a hearty welcome - Anon., from THE BANJO, a 1927 pamphlet published by Gibson Inc


IS THIS NO LONGER TRUE???
I'm sitting here wondering, will a matchbox hold my clothes...

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2006, 02:57:40 PM »
Now just a gol' darn minute  >:D

No one has mentioned Papa Charie Jackson. Or the rhythm banjo on Stove Pipe Stomp.

Now what was on that T-shirt about banjo's that
Steve James was wearing at last PT?

Alex

Offline waxwing

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2006, 05:57:54 PM »
Banjo Mute T-shirt

There ya go. [Edit] Select colors to see the actual image on the T-shirt. -G-

And didn't Papa Charlie play a 6 string banjo, i.e. banjo body with a long guitar neck/tuning. That'd be the quick way to get there.

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2006, 06:40:12 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
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http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline frankie

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2006, 09:37:58 PM »
It appears that Mike Seeger is a very important contributing artist as well.

Absolutely - his command of different right-hand styles is just amazing.  You'd probably like Dan Gellert as well if you found that you liked Mike Seeger.  From guys like that it's a short step to the real core of old-time banjo:  Wade Ward, Hobart Smith, Pete Steele, Fred Cockerham, Charlie Poole, Frank Jenkins, Tommy Jarrell, Sidna Myers, Frank Proffitt, Gaither Carlton, Kyle Creed, Samantha Bumgarner - and plenty more.  It's a deep well.

No one has mentioned Papa Charie Jackson.

And didn't Papa Charlie play a 6 string banjo, i.e. banjo body with a long guitar neck/tuning. That'd be the quick way to get there.

PCJ did play a guitar-banjo on most of his recordings.  There are a couple of songs where he's accompanied by a tenor banjo player as well.  I don't really consider the guitar banjo to be a banjo in quite the same way that Bill was asking about banjos.  They do produce some 'banjoid' noises, but it's still basically a guitar - maybe slightly more annoying sounding.  Same with a banjo-mandolin, except they're still basically a mandolin (rather than a guitar - heh) and a *lot* more annoying sounding (can't wait to get one, myself).

The 5-string demands a little more personal re-adjustment if you're coming to it from the guitar.  All worth doing, imo.  The banjo is a wonderful instrument with a really particular voice.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2006, 09:53:16 PM by frankie »

Offline frankie

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2006, 11:28:04 AM »
I'd be remiss if I didn't point out these tunes on the Back Porch, all offered by banjochris and excellently played and sung:

Georgia Blues
Two Dock Boggs Tunes
« Last Edit: February 02, 2006, 11:29:05 AM by frankie »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2006, 09:47:50 PM »
Frankie--

Thanks for the plug!

Offline whigski3

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2006, 07:43:47 PM »
This is an update on my banjo search.   I drove to 5 guitar stores today, to continue my education, and just one of them had some banjos of the open back variety.  It was suggested to me that a "scooped fretboard" was something that I probably wanted (feel free to comment on this).

The two with scooped fretboards were the Deering GoodTime and Vega Old Tyme Wonder.  The price of the later was almost a grand (with case).  My wife was impressed with its mellow sound and what she considered good tone (she teaches music and gets to play guitar for school kids for a living).  I respect her opinion, but perhaps due to listening to the other banjos I wasn't sure if it didn't sound TOO muted.  It did have the FiberSkyn head which I expect is probably a good one for this style. The environment in the store was poor (typical Saturday at a music store?).

The Saga SS-10 had neither a scooped fretboard nor an armrest, nor a FiberSkyn head I think.  I wasn't sure whether that one would be a good candidate or not.  From print, I had been hoping to like that one.

Any comments are certainly invited.

-Bill
I'm sitting here wondering, will a matchbox hold my clothes...

Offline frankie

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2006, 08:44:46 PM »
It was suggested to me that a "scooped fretboard" was something that I probably wanted (feel free to comment on this).

Feh.  Scooped fretboards are, in my opinion, more of a stylistic flourish than a necessity on a banjo.  They're designed specifically for players who play clawhammer and strike the strings in the area where the pot meets the body.  Yes, the scoop does give you a little more clearance under the strings, but at the expense of a few frets (I'd miss 'em, anyway) and normally, you need to pay extra for it.  Unless I was wholeheartedly committed to a 'Round Peak' style of playing, I wouldn't buy a banjo with a scooped fingerboard unless I was so taken with other aspects of the instrument that I'd overlook it.  I'd certainly never order an instrument with one.

As an aside, the players whose playing drove the revivalist preference for playing in that way (Kyle Creed, Fred Cockerham, Tommy Jarrell) got along just fine without a scooped fingerboard.

Another aside - if you're mainly interested in fingerpicking banjo styles, a scooped fingerboard will be of no use whatsoever to you.

Deering GoodTime and Vega Old Tyme Wonder. 

Both fine banjos - the Vega I would consider to be too expensive for a first banjo, unless your means or level of commitment dictate otherwise.

The price of the later was almost a grand (with case).  It did have the FiberSkyn head which I expect is probably a good one for this style.

Don't buy a banjo because of the head.  Nearly everything about a banjo can be changed, usually just by loosening a few screws.  Heads are easy to change.  Bridges are even easier and both can have a marked effect on the tone of the instrument.  Fiberskyn is fine for old-time music, but some still cleave to the old frosted heads while others (ahem) will put up with all the sensitivity of a skin head because they really do result in the best tone.  Walt Koken likes to say "My personal vision of the banjo starts with a .22 and a groundhog!"

The Saga SS-10 had neither a scooped fretboard nor an armrest, nor a FiberSkyn head I think.  I wasn't sure whether that one would be a good candidate or not.  From print, I had been hoping to like that one.

I think you have good instincts - they're good banjos for the money.  They come with good tuners and hardware (that's the rim, tailpiece, shoes, brackets and tension hoop).  In fact, the hardware on the Saga is probably better than that on the Goodtime, if a shade less nice than the hardware of the Vega.  Two styles of banjo armrest can be had for between $US9 and $US12...  Get one if you like the Saga and feel it lacks one.  If the tone is too bright on the Saga, you can try getting a fiberskyn head to put on it (maybe $US20), or real skin if you get adventurous ($US16 - $US30), or a new bridge ($US3 - $US30), or put a sponge or sock between the head and dowel stick/coordinator rod...  there are lots of ways to change the tone - you're only limited by your patience and willingness to experiment.

Offline Slack

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2006, 10:01:03 PM »
Can't add anything to what frankie says --- he knows banjos. 

Quote
My wife was impressed with its mellow sound and what she considered good tone (she teaches music and gets to play guitar for school kids for a living).  I respect her opinion, but perhaps due to listening to the other banjos I wasn't sure if it didn't sound TOO muted.

However, to me, this is a good indicator and I think I'd buy this one or a similar sounding banjo :D  mellow tones are good... especially to those who have to listen to the learning curve.  ;)

Offline whigski3

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2006, 10:15:47 PM »
As I started this thread inquiring about banjos, I wish to provide it with an element of completeness.

I recently did get a banjo.  Before that I spent many hours in just a few weeks reading about banjos and listening to what I could find.  Frankie gave me a lot of good advice.  My short journey so far has taken me places I never knew even existed (much like acoustic blues has).

The suggestion I feel obligated to make (to you, my friends) is: if you ever find yourself contemplating whether to get a banjo, do it!   ;D

If you are still reading, and haven't been there, you might enjoy www.banjoaddiction.com.

Regards,
Bill
I'm sitting here wondering, will a matchbox hold my clothes...

Wayne

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Re: Dock Boggs and Banjos
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2006, 07:31:56 AM »
Dock Boggs is wonderful......so too is B.F Shelton..his 'Prett Polly' from late 20's is pretty near perfection.

I just bought a cheap banjo (inspired by Boggs, shelton, Clarence Ashley)...it's called an Ozark, cheap and cheerful from China.....brought it home. happily trying to 'claw'......my daughter (20) came to stay,  went 'Wow, a banjo, how cool!'.....and next thing I knew, I was stumping up for one for her....my 'banjo supplier' had no more of my 'entry level' Ozarks...so I had to get her the next model up....much much nicer instrument......I was  tempted to say. "Here, Darling, you have Daddy's" .....but did the right thing and gave her the upmarket model.......

BTW..there's mountains of free banjo tuition info/mp3's out there

checkout   http://www.banjohangout.org/

and   http://www.banjonews.com/

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