The heirs of ancient pastoral traditions, cowboys have worked as mounted herders on the cattle ranges of the American West for more than three centuries. They First rose to national prominence as an occupational group, however, with the rapid expansion of the western range cattle industry during the second half of the nineteenth century.
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The 5-string banjo is our American Heritage. We all associate the 5-string banjo with songs from Oh! The natural sound of the banjo is happy, joyous and exciting, but how did the banjo evolve?
The banjo has had a big part in performing the popular music of the American people for two hundred years. It has developed from the simple round stick attached through a turtle shell with a groundhog hide and three horsehair strings into the "bluegrass powerhouse" that, as Little Roy Lewis says, " Almost all ancient societies have had some sort of instrument with a vellum stretched over a hollow chamber with string vibrations creating tones, but most research indicates that our American banjo was developed from an instrument the Africans played here which they called banzas, banjars, banias, bangoes.
Africans, brought to the new world in bondage and not allowed to play drums, started making their banjars and banzas from a calabash gourd. With the top one third of the gourd cut off, they would cover the hole with a ground hog hide, a goat skin, or sometimes a cat skin.
These skins were usually secured with copper tacks or nails. The attached wooden neck was fretless and usually held three or four strings. Some of the first strings used were made of horsehair from the tail, twisted and waxed like a bowstring.
Other strings used were made of gut, twine, a hemp fiber, or whatever else was available. To Americans of European descent, the banjo was a creation of the Africans. The instrument was an oddity and was denied respectability.
It was, in fact, a musical outcast, lowlier than the fiddle which many "righteous people" knew was from the devil.
He also learned to play the fiddle, sing, dance, and imitate animal sounds. Until this time, all performances on the banjo seem to have been from black players.
Joel started traveling through central Virginia in the early 's, playing his five-string banjo, singing, reciting, and imitating animals during county court sessions. At this time he also started blackening his face with the ash of burnt cork as was popular for performers to do.
As he played his homemade banjo, which was probably made of a gourd, his popularity and fame grew, so he enlarged his territory, playing in halls, taverns, schools and churches.
These performances seem to be the first time that the banjo had been performed in a show, and the novelty of his act charmed both Negro and white spectators. He soon became a star in a circus which toured Virginia and North Carolina for several years.
Sweeney's introduction of the 5-string banjo to England led to the rise in popularity of the banjo there which has continued to the present. Facts are few and fables are many about Sweeney. One such story has him playing the banjo with his toes, the violin with his hands, and blowing a mouth harp simultaneously.
Later, students of Sweeney showed that he had taught them to strike the string with the back of their fingernail and their thumb.
This is still the African way of playing. Today, a simplified version of this style of playing is called "clawhammer" or "frailing", as well as many other regional names such as "knocking down", "old Kentucky knock", "thumb cockin", "rappin", "whammin", "flammin", etc.
It is thought by some, that at an early age Sweeney added the short thumb string to create the five-string banjo. Other evidence seems to indicate that Sweeney did not add the thumb string, but rather added the bass string to create the five-string banjo.
The entire time that Joel Sweeney was touring and popularizing the five-string banjo, he was also teaching people to play it, among them, his brother Sam.
Around Joe Sweeney organized a minstrel troupe called "Old Joes Minstrels", using his younger brothers Sam on the banjo and Dick on the bass. He also used his cousin Bob Sweeney, a left handed fiddler, and some Negro dancers he knew from his area.
Playing to thousands of people in their minstrel shows they became an overnight sensation. Joel Sweeney died of "dropsy" at Appomattox on October 29,at the age of Sam Sweeney became the famous banjo player with General J. Stuart's headquarters staff in the Army of Northern Virginia.
Sam died January 13,of smallpox. Billy Whitlock, another famous banjoist who learned from Joel in while traveling through Lynchburg, VA in a circus. Whitlock was the banjo player who, with Dan Emmett, formed the Virginia Minstrels in to start the minstrel craze.
Whitlock also taught Tom Briggs to play Banjo. Briggs went on to be one of the leading banjoist of the day and wrote the now famous, "Briggs Banjo Instructor".Native American Facts for Kids Resources on American Indians for Children and Teachers Welcome to Native Languages of the Americas!We are a non-profit organization working to preserve and promote American Indian languages.
Cowboys played an important role during the era of U.S. westward expansion. Though they originated in Mexico, American cowboys created a style and reputation all their own. Get the facts on cowboy life on timberdesignmag.com "Mayo brings the West alive. Cowboys, Mountain Men, and Grizzly Bears puts the reader right in the middle of the action, making history not only accessible, but fun, scary, and most importantly, real.
Mayo is a writer to keep a lookout for."--Larry D. Sweazy, Spur Award-winner and author of The Rattlesnake Season I can't recommend it highly enough.
Kids learn about the cowboys of the old west. Fun facts like the cattle drive, round up, the clothes they wore, and the cowboy code.
History: Cowboys of the Old West. The American West is an evocative term that conjures up images of cowboys and Indians, covered wagons, sheriffs and outlaws, and endless prairies as well as contemporary images ranging from national parks to the oil, aerospace, and film industries.
An introduction to my revised NFL history using Front Office Football 7. My NFL historical let’s play is going to have a different feel than what I am doing or plan to do with MLB, NBA or NHL.