Popular UK instrumental banjo...1910-1940


Friend of Leo's
Feb 23, 2018
Sauth Carolina
I guess you could file this one under "History of popular music, fretted instruments". Certainly not for everyone...but these guys laid the foundations for popular concerts (outdoor and indoor) and touring, etc. This stuff is what I like to play on my front porch on lazy evenings.

A collection of privately-made cylinder recordings of famous UK banjo players has been posted to Youtube. If you can get past the scratchy/noisy aspect of ancient cylinders, this is a wonderful window into what were the rock-stars of the stage back in the first golden era of the banjo. These guys were playing the Strat/Tele/LP equivalent of the period (1880-1930), essentially open-back, 5-string banjos, gut strung and played fingerstyle.

Back story: Tarrant Bailey Sr. was a professional player throughout the early period. He had a cylinder recorder and when his professional banjo friends would come over, they'd have a recording session. Some of these feature his son (Jr.) and daughter (Mouse). His son eventually became a famous player and teacher in the 1950s, appearing on UK TV. You can, on Youtube, find several videos of him playing.

Many cuts on this recording are the only ones extant from greats like Joe Morley (arguably the most prolific composer for the banjo and best player of the period...who made only a couple commercial recordings).

Of course, these were non-commercial home recordings. The cylinders of the period were only good for 2min, so many of the pieces are truncated. In some you can hear the player rushing to "get it all in" before the cylinder ran out. The early brown wax cylinders were soft and didn't hold up well to repeated playing...and didn't age well either. Sometimes the music is drowned out in noise...but the bits you can hear are amazing!