Banjos on the Brain

A Banjo Soundtrack In October's issue, I'll have a review of The Banjo: America’s African Instrument by Laurent Dubois. He traces the prehistory in Africa, the coalescence, earlier than you might think, of a relatively standardized form for the instrument in the Caribbean, and then meanders through the cultural interactions and playing styles, all that is knowable, as the banjo grows to become the representative instrument of America. Preparation for this review has given me banjomania and I'd like to share something to give you Banjo on the Brain as well. Today I made a recording of one of my favorite banjo records. I have a few Vess L. Ossman and Fred Van Eps banjo records but this one, from a less known Fred really gets me. Rather than upload my own copy here is one of the two versions on Youtube. Uploaded by our own R. S. Baker, when she was barely a teenager. What good taste! Francis (Fred) J. Bacon:  Westlawn Polka, Banjo Solo with Piano. Victor 17129-A Matrix 11781=4 (4/15/1912 in New York City) Fred Bachman is on the Piano, he seems to have been a studio musician. He plays piano on dozens of recordings with musicians and singers of all persuasions. New York was of course just about the only place to record in 1912. Francis (Fred)  Bacon began his professional career on banjo in 1888 at the age of 16. He married a fellow performer at 18 an
You've read three articles this month! That makes you one of a rare breed, the true jazz fan!

The Syncopated Times is a monthly publication covering traditional jazz, ragtime and swing. Our writers are paid to bring you the best coverage of the scene possible. Advertising will never be enough to keep these stories coming, we need your SUBSCRIPTION. Get unlimited access for as little as $3 a month or $30 a year.

Not ready yet? Register a Free Account to view five articles a month without nags or pop ups.

Already Registered? Log In

If you shouldn't be seeing this because you already logged in try refreshing the page.

Joe Bebco is the Associate Editor of The Syncopated Times and Webmaster of

Or look at our Subscription Options.